It’s amazing how quickly you fall into routines in a new place. I guess that is part of the thrill of traveling – going someplace where you know nothing and then slowly things begin to fall into place.
I’ve been to Mumbai before, but this time we’re staying about an hour’s train ride away from what I would consider the heart of the city. I wanted to be close to Vacha so I found an apartment in the Juhu neighborhood, which is a nice area right along the beach.
Our first night here was rough, but that was because we had no idea where we wanted to go, and we didn’t realize at that time that rickshaws will just tell you no. They are not as eager as the drivers in Varanasi who will take you anywhere.
Even though we’re getting more famiiar with the city, it’s never easy. Often I have to give directions or point the direction I want to go. Two days ago a driver didn’t take us to the closest train station but to a station two stops north, in the opposite direction that we were wanting to go. You learn to just go with things. You advocate what you want as best you can and then you just go with the flow. My phone’s GPS has been a great resource. It tracks your location even when it’s not on a cellular network, so I have been using that to help give directions. So many of the drivers are from other parts of India, so they don’t really know where you’re wanting to go. It’s not like you give them an address, and they drive you to that destination. You have to pick a major road that is near where you want to go, then tell them when to turn or stop.
Yesterday, when we set out to go to Starbucks, Emma noticed that the meter wasn’t turned on. So, I said ‘Meter. The meter is not on.’ The driver made some motion to indicate that it was broken. Turns out that we were going to Starbucks, so I knew that the ride costs between 20-22 rupees (about $.30). When I said that I knew the cost and it should be 22 rupees, the meter suddenly worked again, and the driver turned it on. It was never broken; he was planning to overcharge us.
It’s moments like that where I feel a sense of pride, like I’m starting to understand this place. But then in the same day, I end up taking an air conditioned cab not knowing that it’s 3-4 times the fare of a non-ac cab, and I realize that I don’t really know much at all.
We took our final train ride into the city two days ago. It was the same ride that was extended two stops because our driver didn’t know where to go (or that I don’t speak the language to properly communicate where we want to go). We bought our ticket for 20 rupees, which is so cheap and made our way to the platform. Train stations in India are busy. There are so many people that you move in a large mass; it’s overwhelming how many people are at each station.
We found where the women were standing on the platform, which always helps me find where the women’s car will stop. We joined them and waited. The first train was so full that we decided to wait for another train. The next train came, and it was just as crowded. There were so many women wanting on and almost as many wanting off, so it was a mess of people going in opposite directions. We managed to push our way on. Onto a hot, crowded train. There was standing room only, and we were packed in like sardines. Sweating. Bodies bumping into each other. It was miserable. When we arrived at our stop, and we had to struggle to get off the train, I decided that we would not be taking the train again.