Gabe Weinstein is a senior at Ohio University, majoring in Journalism. Gabe is currently studying business at a local college in Mumbai, India.
After three months in Mumbai, there are some moments when I say to myself, “Man, that was a Mumbai moment.” Every day is full of vintage Mumbai moments. Some examples include: seeing a bookseller on the street selling Mein Kamf, being offered hash or marijuana in touristy South Mumbai or being told by a cab driver that he will not take you to your desired destination. Below are some of the classic Mumbai moments.
Moment 1: You see people sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk during the afternoon.
People sleep on the sidewalk for many reasons. Some, unfortunately, are homeless and the pavement is their bed. Others are just taking an afternoon siesta. I’ve seen some pretty amazing sleepers on the sidewalks of Mumbai. A few weeks ago, I spotted a women sound asleep as hundreds of trucks trudged by filled with 10 foot high speakers blasting Indian pop music and drum lines tapped out bone thumping beats.
Moment 2: You see stray dogs everywhere.
Every country, city or state seems to have some sort of an animal overpopulation problem. Cities in suburban Cleveland have problems with too many deer. Israel has way too many stray cats. Mumbai has way too many stray dogs. You’ll find these vagabond canines everywhere. Some are well built, and sturdy creatures. They patrol their adopted neighborhoods with zealous barks and chase encroaching foreigners (me) out of their sacred territory. Others look like they have seen better days. Their fur is frizzy and unkempt. Sometimes, it’s flayed. The ones in the worst condition limp from dumpster to dumpster, scavenging for a fresh piece of disposed food.
Moment 3: You see a sandlot cricket match.
Cricket is not just a game in India. It’s a religion. If you walk past a school yard during the day or a civic park on the weekend, you’re bound to see aspiring cricketers and nostalgic corporate hacks clenching a cricket bat or bowling a ball like they were playing in the Cricket World Cup. The country was pretty disappointed with India’s performance in the recent T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. Even though the Men in Blue, the cricket team has blue uniforms, beat arch-rival Pakistan in T20, they failed to advance to the semifinals. The loss to Pakistan did not deter the passion for cricket. Scores of people were still playing the next day.
Moment 4: You see a festival!!!!
Watching festival celebrations has been one of the most entertaining parts of my experience here. I’ve gotten to see Janmashtami, the celebration of Lord Krishna and Ganpatty, the celebration of Lord Ganesh. During Janmashtami people filled the streets to smash pots raised about 30 feet above the ground. For over a month before the one day festival, local teams practiced making human pyramids in order to successfully smash the pot. Almost every night during the 10 days of Ganpatty, the streets were filled with gigantic trucks blasting music, escorting huge statues of Lord Ganesh. On the final night, hundreds of thousands of people filled the main streets to watch the statues being escorted to the ocean for their final send off, as firecrackers and fireworks were launched, drum lines played and people danced in the streets. Diwali, the festival of lights and the biggest festival in India, is in about a month. It’s supposed to be even crazier than Ganpatty.
Moment 5: You get spoken to in Hindi or Marathi.
How much Hindi do I know? Toda toda. The Hindi words for a little bit. The bit of Hindi I know that I used to communicate with cab drivers, shopkeepers and other locals is enough that they feel comfortable enough to have prolonged conversations with me in Hindi, or Marathi, the local language. I know neither language well enough to distinguish between the two. Indians love it when foreigners learn their language. I take it as a sign of respect when I someone starts firing away in Hindi.