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If You Can Make It Here… Mumbai, Mumbai.

MUMBAI—There comes a moment in every journey, in every move to a new place, when the strange becomes normal, when what was overwhelming bizarre becomes mostly unremarkable. It is a shift more sudden than gradual. It only seems gradual because it does take time and because the shift often passes unnoticed. What was outlandish one week becomes quotidian the next and by its very nature what is unusual becomes usual.IMG_3418

My Aunt Martha lived abroad for many years. Before I moved to Sweden, (in a move I thought to be permanent) she advised me to note and photograph anything that caught my interest, that those initial impressions of another land would soon become the everyday. Her advice was one of those good, true things that you are told.

This is not to say that Mumbai has, in less than two months, become yesterday’s news. I have the feeling that Mumbai has the ability to surprise its native sons and daughters on a regular basis, let alone this sojourner. One of my Hindi teachers, a native of Bangalore, told me he is always surprised by how India continues to surprise him. I have the feeling that Mumbai is a city that will give back what you put into it, and it takes effort. Out there, out the door, past the gate is a deeply unfamiliar world. It is hot, the rain empties the clouds in waterfalls that last for days. The smells, the noise, the food, the crowds, the sun and rain, traffic and colors and pace of life are all intense. India lets you know that you are in it. It touches you, stings and bites and burns you. It kisses and caresses you as well.

The joy of the everyday is that when you have braved the chaos you begin to see order. When you have let the unfamiliar wash over you long enough, you start to notice details in the kaleidoscope rush of first contact. You see a man sitting under a tea counter on a busy street corner calmly stringing marigold blossoms. You begin to notice that each banyan tree forms its own urban eco-system , a pool of deep, green shade used to rest or worship or conduct business. You notice that the chaos is made up, not of random actions, but of millions of souls existing together in this one space, somehow part of  the vast entity called Mumbai, still called Bombay, State of Maharashtra, Country of India, the Subcontinent, Asia.

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