2 weeks is a critical point. Within 2 weeks of moving to a new place, you finally stop using your overseas mobile number, change the ‘city’ on your facebook profile, join a gym, find the local bagel store, develop a routine. After 2 weeks, I am no longer a Londoner living in Mumbai. I am a Mumbaikar. To change your geographical definition of home takes just 2 weeks. Mumbai is now home. Saying it is strangely difficult but acting it comes naturally.
Having spent 4 years in New York and 6 in London, I thought I knew how big cities work. But nothing can prepare you for the reality of Mumbai. It is simply overwhelming. The ‘energy’ that people talk about is not a myth – this city simply does not go to sleep – you go from work to dinner to party to bar to night club to after-party to watching the sun rise on Juhu Beach. If you dont pace yourself, you will burn out.
Mumbai is a lot more global than I had imagined. By the end of my first weekend in the city, I had met a British diplomat, an American private-jet pilot, a Swedish software executive, a Lithuanian photographer, a Danish trade developer, a Dutch bar manager, the list goes on and on. Mumbai, at least what I saw of it last weekend, was just as international as London.
Mumbai may be global, but it is also undeniably Indian. The world, viewed through saffron tinted glasses. My cleaning lady will sweep the house each day for a month for less than it would cost me to eat a meal at my local Pizzeria – but she wont clean the bathroom – she’s a Bhahmin – and her caste places her above having to engage in such work. Even if she is pretty close to the bottom of the ladder economically, her caste seems to give her the perception of moral superiority. It is not my place to judge – so I merely observe, and adjust, and clean my own bathroom.
Mumbai can be frustrating – the traffic is definitely the worst in the world, the air is polluted and the real estate is punitively expensive. But it is also amazing – within days of arriving, I have found a south Indian restaurant that will deliver to my desk, a perfectly brewed cup of filter coffee (made extra strong and without sugar, the way I like it) exactly at 9am. At 9:30, another restaurant brings me an egg-white omelet, made without oil or butter with brown bread toast. At 10:00, the office boy takes my shoes out to the street and gets them brilliantly shined – in exchange for a 10 rupee note. Some things about life here can be so awesome.