Salaam Bombay (or what I’ve learned from Mumbai)

I hate goodbyes. Even when I want to leave somewhere, saying goodbye to friends and familiarity is not pleasant.

And I absolutely, definitely, do NOT want to leave Mumbai.

But needs must, and a global recession can be used as justification for just about anything these days, n’est-ce pas? It is a shame the internet is not truly anonymous so that I could indulge in a good old-fashioned rant about having to leave this fair city. Ah the tales I could tell as an outraged expat wife right now.

I digress.

Being enrolled in the Bombay section of Wife School for the last year has taught me some valuable lessons which I thought I might share:

  • Patience – part one –  looking back at how frustrated I got during my first few months is almost like watching someone else. I don’t know at which point I finally understood and accepted that getting anything done here is a never-ending process rather than an endgame but thank God that happened. I’m much calmer and less teary/hysterical now when Mr B gets home from work. He is much relieved too. Of course, having the indomitable M around to help out is no small part of this.
  • How to say no – mostly to beggars and hawkers. Again, there is a point at which you learn the correct head and hand gestures to show disinterest. And off they go to bother someone else. Mumbai hawkers can spot a tourist from 10 miles out, I’m sure of it. I only hope this does not mean I am less compassionate for the destitute….
  • Indian head waggle – I fear it is going to stick around for a while. It is just so damn catchy. Mr B is a regular addict of the head waggle. Especially on the phone.
  • Hinglish – I now catch myself regularly saying things like, “Mr B is liking butter chicken too much,” or “I’m here only”. Mr B has taken to saying “aacha” (OK, fine, good) A LOT.
  • How to cross the road in under 20 minutes – Japanese expats are offered lessons in this by moving companies upon arrival in Mumbai. Seriously. Driving in the city has helped a lot with mastering this skill. And there is a method in the apparent chaos and madness, I promise.
  • Staring – for the first month or so it freaked me out. The stare seemed so threatening. Then I realised it was just sheer curiousity. Indians are unabashedly curious (Accident? Must stop and have a look. Big machine digging hole in road? Cue for crowd to gather expectantly). Next, I realised that I stared at people just as much as they were staring at me. And a lot of the time I’m taking pictures which is actually pretty rude. Next time you’re in the supermarket or walking down the street minding your own business,imagine some foreign idiot snapping away. That’s me here. I’m not going to stop, but I try to be more sensitive and discreet about it now. Ahem.
  • Patience – part two – if you can wait it out, a solution will present itself. If it doesn’t, send Mr B in to get shouty. It is a role he has come to relish.
  • Patience part three – the realisation that, as M says, “this is India madam, all things are possible”

Amen to that.

Thank you Mumbai. I love you!

PS Of course the driving license saga is not yet over. I’ve now passed 2 tests and due to a screw up by the driving school who did not pay the proper fees on time, I apparently now have to come back on 7th May to process the license. And probably do another test. I’m resigned to this. At least nice 3-star officer has promised to process my paperwork personally upon return. Only small problem with this is I will be in Beijing by then…what to do? Start all over again in China? Is this a sign that I am just not meant to drive (legally) ever???????

2 responses

  1. Arslan – I am jealous that you have just arrived in Mumbai! I am sure you will have a lot of fun there. Enjoy it!

  2. Stumbled onto this blog while searching for interesting stuff to see/do in Mumbai. Hilarious perspective of a foreigner. Really glad to know you’ve learnt how to get along here, and like it. I’m new to Mumbai (though I’m Indian) and I’m writing a bit on my experiences on my blog.

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