Thursday, September 22, 2005

Mumbai Trains

It has been way too long since our last entry..We have been in India for a month now. It took us a few days to get acclimated to the humidity and heat and are now enjoying the cooler weather brought by the lovely monsoons. We quickly learned (remembered) after visiting relatives in Baroda and family friends in Mumbai that food is the means of showing affection. We ate and ate and over ate until we could barely move. We would have to refuse seconds or thirds even though we wanted more because in the end we would lose the battle and take additional servings. My favorite story is that of Sharvari eating 6 russ gulas, pehda,ice cream, burfee,kaju katree in one day (for those that are not familiar with Indian sweets..just know, it's a huge load).. We stayed in Mumbai for about three weeks to work with a NGO(non-government organization) called Niramaya. It is an off shoot of another NGO called Pratham. Pratham is responsible for setting up small schools in rural and underserved areas in order to improve childhood literacy. This in hopes that the underprivileged will improve their social and economic status. Within these balvadis (schools), they noticed a high amount of absentees due to the health related reasons. Upon further examination, it was noticed that these kids lived and worked in absolutely horrendous environmental conditions, which resulted in constant illnesses and poor nutrition. Our primary objective has been to set up an asthma program primarily targeting the "rag pickers" (children who look through the piles of garbage for recyclable goods). We also have been helping out with a clinic near the dumping grounds where all of Mumbai's garbage is placed...We have included some pictures of the actual dumping grounds (which let us just say are without a doubt the MOST disgusting and appalling site we had ever seen).
On a much lighter note, to get to this clinic was a daily adventure. Traveling by local train in Mumbai is an experience in itself. The trains are the primary means of moving millions of people each day to and from Mumbai proper.. Just try to imagine all these people piling in like sardines (we mean literally sardines) until there is no more physical space with the rest hanging off the edge of cabins. And then getting off the train is a completely different have to be mentally prepared prior to your stop and then since there is no space, you literally are shoved through to the other side of the's kind of like floating amidst a sea of Indian people. And of course, there are those lovely occasions where you have to jump off the moving train otherwise you will be stuck for a few more stops to come.
As if Mumbai isn't populated enough, we happened to be there during one of the most important festivals in the state of Maharashtra..the Ganapati or Ganesh Festival. Basically it's a 10 day festival where we saw incredible numbers and sizes of Ganesh idols that people brought (sometimes via crates and trucks) to their homes and then on the last day, they sent the idols floating into the ocean.
Overall, we had a blast in Mumbai..we were lucky enough to stay at someone's guest flat so felt like we were actually living on our own in Mumbai. It's definitely a great city..there are some great restaurants, bars/clubs and of course non stop Bollywood. Who knows...maybe we'll settle here???
Well, we just got back from Bhutan and are now in Sikkim...we will be hopefully updating soon with some of our cool pics from the north. Stay tuned!!


Chick Pea said...

mumbai is great guys.. you must read "maximum city" by suketu mehta about mumbai..that and 'a fine balance' by rohinton mistry will give you such insight into the politics,workings of a fantastic city

Patrick said...

Hey guys, love the pictures and the stories. So awesome that you are over there helping out. I can't believe some of the conditions people live in. Keep up the good posts! And I'm so glad to hear that sharvari hasn't had a chick pea reaction!

Chick Pea said...

touche ;)