In about 2 hours, I will have been here in Mumbai for a week. It has been an interesting week to say the least, filled with house hunting, rickshaws, cows in the street and hour-long taxi rides. The primary goal of the week was to find housing. I haven’t seen much of the city, but I have found a place to live. I am currently staying with a fantastic family, but my main concern is that it is VERY far north in the city, whereas I am working in Central Mumbai. It isn’t so much a problem for getting to work (I don’t think; tomorrow will be my first rickshaw ride to the train station and first rush-hour train ride), but I am quite concerned about the effect it will have on my social life.
For now, I am staying put. In a few weeks I will reevaluate and see if I need to try and find something closer, not necessarily an easy task. I devoted a week to finding a suitable room that would give me access to a kitchen, was reasonably clean, and was with sane people. I had hoped to be living in Bandra, a neighborhood known for its restaurants, cafes, and its expats. I spent most of the week in that neighborhood, and was incredibly surprised to see so few expats. While there are certainly more there than any other part of the city I’d been in, it is nowhere near the numbers you would see in hip expat neighborhoods in other cities. This may have to do with the low tourism numbers. Face it, monsoon season isn’t really the best time to visit Mumbai.
I am currently living in Andheri West, two neighborhoods to the north of Bandra, and about 4 or 5 train stops. I took what I could find as far as housing in some senses, and ended up in a good situation in the actual flat, room and family I am staying with, but not so good when it comes to everything else I was hoping to do. Anyway, I’ll keep you updated on what I end up doing with housing.
So I’m sure the question will arise: what is Mumbai like? For starters, most locals still call it Bombay. Expats waver, but almost every Indian I’ve talked to talks about Bombay. The traffic is REALLY bad, but I’m not sure I would say that the city itself is as crazy as say, Hanoi. I’m not sure what makes it that way, but I think the combination of denser, taller buildings and massive number of people on every street in Hanoi makes it seem crazier. Mumbai is certainly dirtier, but there seems to be a lot hidden behind shop walls. I haven’t explored shops too much, but I am starting to realize that life here certainly doesn’t take place on the street. Hopefully I can find some of that life over the next three months and begin to understand how this city works.