Sunday 3 February 2013

Half a year expat-ing in Mumbai

Dear reader,
When we were kids, the half years were very important - do you remember? I was not at all six years old, no, no. I was six-and-a-half! And just closing eight, I started the countdown to the day I could proudly announce: No-I-am-not-eight! -I-am-eight-and-a-half.  Something completely different. Not to mention closing up to eighteen! Then it seemed a bit childish to brag about being seventeen-and-a half, so I remember, just turned seventeen, I answered questions on my age with a vaguely: Ahh, I am basically eighteen! Not quite sure when it started to go the other way round if you now what I mean - when you start to turn twentynine every year- magically enough..

Well, I guess I am back to basic, because I just realized the other day that  we can now celebrate half a year as expats in Mumbai. Hurray! And some months it has been! Before we came here I was told about the different phases I should be prepared to go through.

From a honeymoon phase, when you see everything through those rose-tinted glasses, and enthusiastically embrace the food, culture, people and city.

Then to a rejection/negotiation phase, when the differences in culture starts to annoy you, and you are thinking: Oh-my-God, do-I-actually-have-to-live-here! 

After that you may move towards integration/assimilation/adjustment (you learn to live with the differences, and find a good balance). Some may find it too difficult, and instead withdraw from the new culture, feeling homesick and lonely. You can google new expat phases and read more if you like.

Here in Mumbai, I was so lucky to know a lot of open, friendly and helpful people, something that made the transition to Mumbai easier than it could have been. So, I would love to say that I am in the Honeymoon phase - because it just seems like the nicest phase to be - right? - but I think from day 1, I was in a kind of a mixed phase- and I still am. For me, it is all about the moments. I can still bubble over by the giggling crowd of school-kids, happily waiving to The Foreigners. I laugh of the ridgid security rules, and I get annoyed by the plumber who said he would be here last week. I get angry with the men driving motorbikes with helmet while the women and kids are with no helmet. I get happy to see vibrant flowers, the green parrots and a colorful sari.

And I think all theese feelings and ups-and-downs are intensified now, because we have visitors. My in-laws are staying with us, and they have never been in India before. Showing them around in Mumbai is renewing my views as well. Strangely enough- I suddely feel like a veteran. Because to see their enthusiasm for Taj Mahal hotel, the spices at the market, the colourful clothing, but also their reaction to the humpty roads, the dirt, the dust, the beggars, the slums- all of this makes me more aware as well, and takes me back to when we first arrived. It is quite amusing to drive them around in the car and listen to their annoyed and shocked outburst one moment, to cry of disbelief the next and then to enthusiastic and loud laughter. (And they are Greek you know- so no hiding of emotions!) And for me that is my Mumbai in a nutshell - half year down the road!

So, let me share with you a few of my In-laws' Mumbai highlights so far.

1. On top of their list is the visit we made to Gandhi's home here in Mumbai. It made a huge impression on them to see the room where he worked and lived. They have been talking about it every since, on how small and peaceful and nice it was.

2. My in-laws have a passion for plants and flowers, and often comment on how green it is around Mumbai, and how plants they have like small bushes in Greece are large trees over here. We must often stop the car so they can get out and examine some of the plants we drive by. The stops were more hasty after our driver told us of the frequent visits of leopards in the area. On the way north, they laughed long and long of this toll- booth in the middle of the green-ness:

3. Ok, maybe not a highlight, but they reacted to the dirty and bad roads in Mumbai. And the great contrast between the grey-brown colour of the houses and roads and then the colour - explosion of the saris and clothings made quite an impression. Also how the belly is worn with pride was a quite new thing to them:-)

4. And last but not least. Dear reader, you know what is coming now. ..Well, for my in-laws it was a great moment to visit the Gateway of India, and the Taj Mahal hotel. They enjoyed looking at the pictures inside the hotel, showing all the celebrities who has visited. John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Roger Moore, Bill Clinton - and here we were! 

Well, we have more Mumbai to explore with my in-laws! And today maybe we'll have a small celebration of half-a-year-in-Mumbai! Like when we were kids: the half-year matters too!
Stay tuned dear reader, and have a lovely Sunday!  

1 comment:

  1. Oh, this is a great post! I've been an expat, too, and remember showing relatives around. It can be so eye-opening to re-experience a country through new eyes. You did a great job of describing life in Mumbai. I hope we can get there someday.
    Donna On Palawan @ Quintessential San Diego From A to Z


Dear reader, I love comments! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave one:-)