By Samantha Butler
This morning I woke to the sounds of 6am traffic in Mumbai.
By this, I am referring to the relentless tooting of horns, implying a sense of urgency at odds with the nature of Mumbai locals. Drawing the curtains in my hotel room I was confronted with ominous grey skies, vision of cars, buses and rickshaws, known as “tuk tuks”, speeding along the highway. Trains passed in the distance, full to capacity forcing men to hang out of the doors to stay aboard. A stark contrast to the immediate vicinity where a solitary figure strolled the sidewalk and crows picked at remnants on the streets glistening with moisture from last night’s rain.
This is my second official day overseas and what a crazy 48 hours it has been. I arrived at the airport, a naïve journalism student eager to immerse myself in this new experience. Flash-forward to the present moment and my mind is buzzing with images of this incredible city, unlike anything I could have prepared myself for.
The cultural nuances became apparent to me before we exited the airport. I find myself locking eyes with people everywhere we go. What is assumedly pure curiosity is enough to make even the most confident feel a little uncomfortable. However, the hospitality and warmth emanating from the locals is refreshing. Their eager smiles, waves and requests for photos immediately diminish any feelings of unease.
The extent of the poverty in Mumbai is worse than I could have imagined. Driving to our hotel from the airport, row upon row of houses made from a combination of tin sheeting, mud and tarps line the streets. It really makes you rethink that double bed you go home to every night.
This is my first overseas trip and I had little idea of what to expect, past the photos and information I had come across while researching. Friends and family all responded with versions of the same tentative reaction upon hearing my first overseas experience would be in Mumbai, “Ohh…that will be a bit of a shock”. Unfortunately I’m unable to say they were wrong; arriving in Mumbai has definitely been a shock, but it is opening my eyes to a brand new way of being and an opportunity I am incredibly grateful to have been given.