First impressions of India: days spent staring

21 Apr

India has me stunned.

Driving around in Mumbai these past two days, my eyes have been glued to the window. Next to each our respective window, my boyfriend and I have remained largely silent.

Stunned, staring, fascinated. The sights and smells. I have never experienced anything like this.

The moment I have been about to make a comment, there's a new impression demanding my attention. Or I should actually say people, people everywhere.

This is the world's second most populous country. We're in its biggest city. 20 million people. Every second of those lives in the slum. But this city also has more millionaires than any other Indian city. Home to the poorest and home to the richest.

It is fascinating, beautiful, repulsive, noisy. All at once. Red dots on the forehead. A cow eating a bag of plastic along the road. Black rickshaws honking. Shacks, palace-like apartment blocks, beggars and women in colourful saris. It smells. Of butter chicken, garlic nan and dosas. Of heaps of garbage where black crows scramble around with children for the best bits. It is amazingly green. There are hills. The sea.

Mumbai, they say, is all of India tossed into one.

So, give me a few days to gather my thoughts. I don't yet have the words to describe what I see.

In the meanwhile, I stare at people. But as I stare around wide-eyed, there are eyes staring back. Just as fascinated.

So there we are, people staring.

At the Gateway of India – posing with some children who asked for a photo.

Testing the glam Mumbai life – at the Waterstones country club today.


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