Mumbai

India is quite the place to visit, and Mumbai of all places. The videos and photos do not do any justice to what it’s actually like here. The best one-word summary of the trip would have to be “humbling”. Stepping off the plane, I was greeted by a wave of warmth and sun, along with a haze surrounding everything. It was 11am Mumbai time, 5:30am London time (Yes, Mumbai is 5 and a half hours off…), and I hadn’t slept a wink on the plane. Not getting off to a good start.

After finally getting through border control and finding my hotel driver, I was on my way. The driver was kind enough to take me to a Pashmina shop as well as a general shop to pick up a couple things along the way. The hotel, a Marriott, is less a hotel than it is a fully enclosed campus on the lake, with hotel rooms, executive apartments, 4 restaurants and 2 bars, shopping, a spa & gym, pool, and walking trails. You could easily go without leaving the property for your entire stay and be just fine. But where’s the fun in that??

The hotel gave free transfers to and from the office, and I decided to make use of that upon arrival, even though it was a Sunday. I headed to the nearby office and walked around for a couple hours, shopping and exploring before heading back to get some much needed sleep. Known as one of the nicer areas of Mumbai, the streets were tree lined and pretty, but the contrast to Western countries was obvious.

The weekend is never a good indication of the true feel of a city, as you miss the daily routine most people face, and Monday-Wednesday proved to be a reality check in that department. Because India tend to align themselves with US and EU working hours, their day begins much later than most of us are used to, around 10:30/11am. Of course, they also work significantly later, and shop hours reflect that with few opening before that time of day. My car was arranged to pick me up at 9:30am, and upon arriving at the office around 10:30, it was still nearly empty.

Monday evening was also my first introduction to Mumbai traffic, and when I say traffic I actually mean free-for-all honking on semi-paved paths that go in the general direction that you need to head. But what actually surprised me more was that it WORKS. It’s organised chaos that keeps the city moving because everyone understands how it operates and go along with it. They have more cars and traffic than just about any city, and they have found a way to cope by using any and all available space on roads. That just so happens to mean that they don’t use road lanes or follow traffic lights, but somehow it seemed a lot better than sitting on I-90 or the M5 trying to get home. They could definitely benefit from some rail lines for more mass-transit, but that also only caters to a specific class of people and would exclude probably 90% of the population. Idea = squashed. So until that changes, the organised chaos of the road ensues.

The trips to and from the office may have been long but they were incredibly eye opening. We drove through every different type of area possible, allowing me to see the stark contrast between the rich, poor, and proper slums. Although pictures and videos can introduce the situation that many of these people live in, you cannot fully understand until you experience it first-hand. Our poorest people in the US and UK are rich in comparison. Many of these people eat, sleep, work, and live all in the space of an average US sedan car, and I’m not talking Toyota Avalon size. I’m talking a cross between the Honda Civic size, and the windowless, doorless jeep wrangler. A tarp over some sticks is living the high life.

But, I digress.

On Thursday, I was based back in the office I had gone to on Sunday, which was much easier to get to. The day was packed with meetings and meeting new people, as well as a long lunch break to have the most amazing new friend help me power shop for everything I needed to bring home as gifts. She managed to help me get everything purchased in 2 hours, that would have taken me 2 days had I gone by myself.

In terms of work, this trip was probably the most productive and worthwhile investment on both the company’s part, as well as in terms of my time. As for personal time, I think another trip(s) to India is a must, with extra time for sightseeing and enjoying all that the country has to offer with the new friends made there.