I'm not in Kansas (or any part of the Midwest) anymore. Given the frenetic pace of life on these streets and in the office, I am not sure how frequent these posts will be or how descriptive, for that matter. But while I've got the writing bug we'll begin with my first 12 hours in Mumbai.
The flight into town had us gliding in over slums. Lots of slums. Slums that looked like they would soon take over the airport runways if someone didn't go out every morning and clear the tarmacs. That was sobering, particularly from my business class seat where not one hour earlier I thought running out of new-ish movies to watch made life tough.
Our drive to the hotel took approximately an hour and a half. I have no idea what the true distance is and how long it should take by US standards but it was an entertaining 90 minutes nonetheless. People often speak of the traffic in India as something not to be believed until you see/feel it yourself. Um, yes. I could have held hands with the people in the cars next to us. It almost gives me the same feeling as when I'm flying - you have to trust that the person at the wheel doesn't want to die just as much as you don't want to, despite logic telling you that what you're currently doing is nuts, in the grand scheme of things.
Six people work at one toll booth. One person motions for you to slow the car (by the way, cars hardly ever fully stop here), one person tells you how much to pay, one person takes the toll from you, one person puts the toll in the cash box, one person waves you along, and the last person just stands there. All 10 booths were staffed this way.
We drive along the Mumbai equivalent of Lake Shore Drive. There are people everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. You would think it was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but no, it's 5 o'clock on a Sunday.
We reach our hotel and our vehicle is inspected. Then we get out of the car and go through metal detectors. I won't elaborate so as not to freak the parents out but it's apparent that this place faces the same issues as any big city elsewhere on the planet.
My coworker Carson and I have dinner then turn in to our respective rooms for the inevitable fight with jet lag.
4:30 am rolls around and I am wide awake, ready to go. Unsurprisingly, so is Carson. We meet downstairs at the more civilized hour of 5:45 am and go for a stroll along the promenade outside our hotel. You would think all is quiet at 5:45 but you would be wrong, or in some place other than Mumbai.
At 5:45 am along a bay just off the Arabian Sea there are street cleaners. The street cleaners have better job security than perhaps any of us. Trash accumulates all day long and while I'm appaled by how casually people litter (give a hoot, don't pollute!), Carson astutely points out that "carelessness" provides employment in a country that truly has more people than it knows what to do with. I learn this is the same reason why we don't have green recycling bins in our office full of printed paper - trash gets sorted, just further down the waste stream.
We walk along the water's edge - at 5:45 on a Monday - and see droves of people. People are exercising. Children are exercising. There is yoga taking place. Women in saris sport tennis shoes. Vendors are already setting up shop. We walk about 45 minutes and return to our rooms to prepare for the day.
The sun is rising and out my window I get a look at southern Mumbai. Suddenly it dawns on me (hahaha) that this is what weather.com meant when it gave "smoke" as the forecast. You can't see it from this picture but I technically have a waterfront view. Los Angeles suddenly seems crisp, clean, and compact. How about that.
Next up - Cannon Design Mumbai.