It’s my fifth day in Mumbai and I’m basically a local.
Since I know your first question is – “Yo, so how’s the weather?” – I’ll address that first. It’s hot. It’s humid. I feel like a diva, but it is near impossible for me to hang in the daytime without some form of AC/fan situation. Ergo, the amount of time I have spent outdoors, while the sun is out, is minimal. Interestingly, many new moms (i.e. two new moms that I heard about in conversation) in Mumbai have been keeping their babies in air conditioning to maintain the babies’ comfort. Seemingly harmless, HOWEVER the grandmother contingent feels that this action spoils the children as they need to be conditioned to handle Mumbai heat. I’ll start conditioning next week…
The building in this photo is 9-10 stories tall and these painters climbed it’s height on a very precarious bamboo, matrix ladder, structure thing, where they continue to stand as they painted in the Mumbai heat! I’m not sure if you can tell, but it’s holding five people (no harnesses) and their paint buckets are also loosely hung on this structure. As they would finish painting a section of the building, they would climb down and level and continue to paint. I’ve seen these structures attached to multiple buildings, so I guess this is a standard?
Ok sorry, I got distracted. Let me start, somewhat, from the the beginning. After landing last Friday morning, I spent my first weekend at my Faiba’s (dad’s sister) flat in South Mumbai, generally being a jet-lagged zombie, going on early morning Marine Drive walks with my aunt, having joyous family reunions, eating delicious food, reading and watching IPL cricket matches (apparently Shilpa Shetty is a co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals and SRK + Juhi Chawla own the Kolkata Knight Riders – I also learned that, in this league, of the eleven people playing at any given time, only 4 of them can be foreigners. The rest must be Indian nationals. Ok, that’s enough cricket talk.). Fine, I may or may not have also done a little shopping. There happens to be a strike going on in Mumbai indefinitely so I had to go before the stores shut down! Basically restaurants and retail shops are closed this week in protest to a new tax. Family and coworkers have had to stock up on essentials in case fruits and vegetables can’t be purchased fresh daily (drugstores remain open so packaged goods are still possible to get). The stores where I am in Worli don’t seem to be participating in this strike but I understand that parts of Mumbai have been totally inconvenienced. The tax being imposed is a Local Body Tax (LBT) of around 5% for goods imported into the city (it’s really 12% of 40% of the total or something funky). This is on top of whatever taxes already exist so it would significantly impact small shop owners and street vendors and ultimately impact consumers as prices of commodities rise. It sounds like the only resolution protesters will accept is a complete removal of this tax.
Back to me.
Sunday evening I moved into my apartment in Worli. Kind of. Let me just say, everything here is organized chaos. Work had sent a driver to take me to my apartment, but the driver of course didn’t know quite where we were going. After stopping on the side of the road (and enduring one too many honking horns) we figured out where to generally go – with the help of my uncle – and the third-ish location we tried was the winner. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the apartment building, the folks in the management office seemed surprised to see me – two of them went outside of the office to make some related phone calls, which made me a bit nervous – but within 45 minutes I was being escorted to my apt…or so I thought. It turns out, me and my roommate, another girl in the same program as me, were being moved into a temporary spot for three days. My roommate had already unpacked, so that must have been annoying for her to learn…I have been living out of my suitcases. As of this morning, we’re actually moved into our real apartment so I will start making myself comfortable tonight!
As far as work, I’ve mostly been in an orientation phase. I had to return my original laptop in SF, so I had been computer-less for 5 days which was a long enough tech-cleanse for me. I’m happy to have a keyboard again! Two things this laptop does not have: 1. web-cam, so sadly can’t video chat, and 2. SD-card reader, so you’re stuck with iphone 4 photos from me (yes I also had to return my iphone 5) until I get an SD-card USB thing to import photos from my digital camera. Now just waiting for my phone to be activated (this takes 4 days) and for a building badge (this takes 10 days). It’s unclear why these things are taking as long as they are but not a huge inconvenience. Actually not having a local phone is tough. People are all about WhatsApp and SMS-ing so not having a phone is destroying my social life potential.
I’ll save commentary on the actual work I’m doing for in person conversation but I will say that I am excited to learn more about the nuances of business in India and I think my project will be a great aid in getting me there.
My final two comments:
1. The elevators in the Indiabulls Towers, where I am working, have small TV’s where you would usually expect to see news, weather, gossip, etc. Instead, for three days, I have been watching a Saif Ali Khan commercial for the building itself on repeat.
2. The Indiabulls building has in its lobby one of the eleven Starbucks Coffee’s in India – a great source of pride (Sbux is expecting to grow rapidly – but we will always be one of the first!). I happen to think that the free prepared chai in our office is better, but apparently socializing in coffee shops is newly trending in India as the young “acquire more western tastes.”
I should also clarify that my intro comment is 100% false. I’m far from a local. This city is HUGE. I’m enjoying getting to know it better!