Eli is from a Greek-Norwegian family and in 2012, her family of four with a suitcase each in hand, moved from Europe to bustling city of Mumbai, India! She writes about life living as an expat; ‘living, loving, exploring in a Greek-Norwegian-Indian world’ on expatliv. Eli now has time to do things she never dreamed of doing in her busy life in Europe. Eli now works with charity, she explores her new city, she cooks, socialises and has taken up yoga, meditation and even Bollywood dancing! This is a guest post of Eli’s ‘hymn to Mumbai’, which she says is her ‘maximum city’.
My Maximum City
I press my nose against the small airplane window, anxious to get the first glimpse of our new home city. There she is. Bathed in lights. Enormous, I think to myself. As we are proceeding to land I can feel the butterflies in my stomach
Coming out from the airport building, the heat and the smell overwhelms us. Bumpy dusty roads – stuffed with “honk-the-horn” cars, busy-bee-rickshaws and people – lead us to our new home. And we are talking people. Lots of people. Everywhere! And what was that? Goats and cows, and – an elephant? An elephant! In the middle of the road! With a suitcase each we stood there, slightly shocked. We all just absorbed the surroundings and thought that This was going to be interesting!
Mumbai. Or Bombay. Home for over 20 million people, some of them insanely rich and too many just sooo really poor. A melting pot of people, cultures and religions. The commercial capital of India, the home of Bollywood, the city of dreams and hopes. Mumbai is dirty and dusty and green and vibrant. She has a rhythm of her own, and it beats fast. Mumbai is the maximum city. My city.
In Mumbai you will see modern skyscrapers side by side with a shabby huts and old colonial villas. Here you can indulge in champagne brunches and go for tours in the slum. You can have dosas on Juhu beach while you admire the sunset with millions of others. Never expect to be alone anywhere here! You can enjoy the flowery glory of the Hanging gardens, rest your mind at Banganga tank or get inspired at Mahatma Gandhi’s home. You can stroll at Queens necklace, visit the colorful kolis or the fascinating parsis. You can search for peace in a Jain temple, chant with the Hare Krishna’s, dance the night away or do yoga in the park at sunrise. This city truly never sleeps.
I enjoy the intense pulse of the markets of Mumbai: crowds, bargaining, hustle and bustle. I love the smiling faces of the children in my NGO, the colorful Ganesha festival, my thali and Diwali. Here I have learned the rules of cricket, how to make pakoras and how to put on a sari. I have cried with homeless children, fought with rigid rules and physically removed a lady who tried to cheat in queue. Here I have ended up as a statist in a film shoot, seen elephants and had chai with people whom I will remember for the rest of my life. Here I have become immune to traffic jam, I have learned to dress like a Diva, indulge in spices and I have seen crocodiles, monkeys and rats. I have watched senior citizen doing yoga in the parks and I have seen babies deserted on the streets. Yet, I have never seen a brighter sunset than here.
People told me that I would either hate it or love India. I do both, in a flash of a Mumbai moment! I have shouted in anger, cried of despair, but I have never laughed as loud and long as here. It is crazy, lovely, terrible and fantastic at the same time. Mumbai is everything I though India would be, and so much more. Here I will leave a part of my heart. So, I guess it is true: you can leave India, but India will never leave you. My maximum city.