My first trip to Mumbai, India!
Work commitments took me to Mumbai, where I was visiting an Indian contact centre. A little apprehensive as I’ve never been to India before and I was travelling alone, although I’m used to that these days.
I flew with BA, via Heathrow. Perfect opportunity to take advantage of my BA Silver status, a free lounge! The flight from London to Mumbai was 9.30 hours! I arrived early hours of the morning at 1:30 am, India is 4.5 hours ahead of the UK. I am pleased I had a driver to collect me! Luckily I didn’t have work until the following evening, where I was hosting a client meal.
I was staying at the Westin, I’ve stayed with this chain a few times now and they don’t disappoint! Lovely hotel and only a mile or so from the office! The lobby was lush and the views at dinner were fabulous! I explored a little the following day, tuk-tuk’s everywhere!
I went for a walk but soon hit the slums and was advised to head back, and to explore Mumbai from the safety of a tuk-tuk or cab. I hailed down a cab and we went for a drive, or tried too!! The traffic is absolutely horrendous in India. I will never ever complain about traffic again! The driver said to me:
You need 3 things driving in Mumbai good horn, good brakes and good luck!
He wasn’t wrong, my first trip to the office and I thought I was going to die. The driver overshot the entrance and instead of going back around, which would have taken another hour or so, he spun around and headed straight back into the oncoming traffic!! The drive to work was just over a mile but took hours because of the traffic!
It is monsoon season in September, the rain came from every angle! An umbrella was futile, you just had to run! I got out of the tuk-tuk and ran to the office. The entrance to the contact centre was swimming with filthy water, you had to take your shoes off and wade through! I was absolutely soaked to the bone and then expected to deliver a full days consultancy!! It was certainly an experience!
The Indian contact centre is exactly how you’d imagine it, they were crammed in like battery hens! Amazing people, despite the difficult environment. They were so enthusiastic about my visit and their hospitality was a different league! I felt very overwhelmed and grateful to be given this opportunity!
Mumbai is a hard place to live, the slums broke my heart every single day! Children left to fend for themselves, in no or very little clothing, from as young as 1 or as soon as they can walk! Children so desperate to get to school they were hanging off buses, trucks, tuk-tuks. They risked their lives trying to get to school every day. It would teach the youth of Britain (or the majority) a thing or two that is for sure! Very humbling!
By chance, it was the Ganesh festival whilst I was visiting. Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten-day Hindu festival celebrated to honour the elephant-headed God’s birthday. One of the Hindu God’s, the God of New Beginnings and the most loved, so I was informed. I found it all very inspiring, the togetherness of the Indian people really touched me!
Ganesh is celebrated with great devotion all over India. People bring home idols of Lord Ganesha and celebrate the festival by worshipping the Lord, each in their own special way. On the last day of worship, the idol is taken out in a colourful and musical procession to be immersed, traditionally at a beach. A festival of colours, mesmerising hues of yellows, magentas, greens and more. Homes, streets and people doused in almost every colour imaginable, each colour symbolises something different.
Ganesh is the one who can remove all obstacles to success, he is the giver of fortune. Steeped in culture and tradition, I truly love the Hindu religion.
I was given my very own Ganesh as a leaving present from the amazing team I was working with, which is currently hung in my kitchen. I love it and it reminds me of the struggles people have to cope with everyday!
I had the most amazing experience in Mumbai! Amazing food, smells, sights but incredible people who have so little and yet so happy! I could sit and watch this incredible place for hours on end. These children were playing hockey with sticks and a plastic bottle when the bottle went into the road. They had to wait for a break in the traffic to retrieve it! They waved at me as I passed by!
Inspirational place, I cannot wait to explore more of India in the future.