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Have you ever given way to an elephant?

30 Settembre 2004

Hi from the incredible India.

Here I am after few days from the beginning of this new adventure in Asia; I?m sure that some of you are missing me, but mainly most of you are lying down under the sun. The only sun I saw in these days was on TV.

India is a Country with 1 billion inhabitants, 1 million cows and many other things.
Everything has began Sunday first of august, after a Saturday night in Hong Kong and a lunch in Bangkok. I landed in Bombay the evening of first of august, as I already wrote; Bombay is now known under the name of Mumbai, the original indu name. The monsoon warmly welcomed me.

Chapter one: the monsoon
At the opposite as we think, this is not the monsoons? season, this is the Monsoon?s season; there are other two seasons, winter (from November to April) and summer (from September to October): there is no spring!
Monsoon mainly means rain, rain and even more rain.
Monsoon timetable: 8 am till 10 pm heavy rain. 10 pm 12 am humidity. 12 am till 8 am windy and heavy rain: in few words, 30C and raining all the time, windy during the night with two hours break in the evening. Roads seem to be rally circuits, traffic jam is simply awful and nobody can imagine what I am talking about; pollution is so bad that you can breathe it also inside shopping malls.
Mumbai is nearby the Arabian Sea.
As I previously wrote, in Mumbai there are 30C and rainy outside, 18C and dry inside, everywhere, including cars and huts.
I cannot understand how this megalopolis, with 20 million inhabitants, can be absorbing such a big amount of rain and water: in Italy two hours of heavy rain are enough to cause a flood.
It?s incredible to see how people living the Monsoon.
They practically don?t use any kind of umbrella, while in China people use it for the sun; people here wears sandals, some of them walk bare foot on every kind of land. Kids play in the rain, girls wore by wonderful saris walk in the rain, people work in the rain, life is normal in the rain.

Chapter two: welcome to Mumbai amusement park
Each professional photographer should become crazy going around here. Every corner, every situation, every face should be shot somehow.
I?ve seen children defecate on the streets and mothers clean them using the water from the puddle.
I?ve seen a girl washing her clothes inside the same puddle used before by those moms: she was on her knees, with a piece of soap, and she took care of that cloth like the most important thing she had; it probably was.
I?ve seen mothers carefully removing louses from their kids. It seemed to be in a Walt Disney movie.
I?ve seen people sleeping everywhere: at the edge of the roads, in the middle of the streets, on bus stop chairs, on bamboo scaffoldings used for building houses and roads, under a tent nearby the caterpillar used during the day? sleeping on working place.
I?ve seen children cross barefoot railroads full of mice.
I?ve seen that traveling by train in first class is not so bad.
I?ve seen women wore beautiful saris carrying on their head vases full of bricks.
I?ve seen huge shantytown fully equipped with satellite TV.
I?ve seen trains full of hundreds people running with the doors open and maybe there were not doors at all.
I?ve seen people hop on and off from the buses like in London.
I?ve seen the city of cinema, in Bombay is so called Bhollywood.
I?ve seen beautiful girls wore with silky clothes and scarves.
I?ve seen little girls working and taking care of their little brothers.
I?ve seen cows stop the traffic and make their own business in the middle of the roads.
I?ve seen the smile of the children.
I?ve seen elephants and camel cross the streets in front of me.
I?ve seen throwing out the train bin and kids asking me if I found India dirty.
I?ve seen no global tourists exit from western style shops with their bags full of very global stuffs three times cheaper than here.
I?ve seen Lacoste polo shirt at 25 Euros: I bought a couple of them.
I?ve seen western tourists with children. Two reflections: You come to India when children are grew up enough to understand what its happening around them or you come here to show them that we live better than here. This is not Gardaland.
I?ve seen that I don?t understand cricket at all and I don?t even understand why so many people is getting crazy for it.
I?ve seen again my little girlriend with her little brother and she recognized me opening her sweet and shining eyes: I usually buy something for her for dinner.
I?ve seen that ordering a tailor made shirt it costs 12 Euros and I bought five shirts.
I?ve seen everything from a car window and the world I’ve seen outside is simply wonderful.
I?ve seen than trying to describe people here it?s not possible.

Chapter three: Mumbai vision 2013
There is a vision that involves the spirit of this city and of India, its called progress. Everything must be done and as soon as possible: the Delhi metro, residential areas, new airports, motorways.
Mumbai is a city which is changing its face dramatically: new buildings, shopping malls, roads. Our high velocity is nothing compared to what they are building here.
In this vision everything is included, everything but the primary needs (maybe). Maybe because I think that they also thought about these. I try to explain myself.
Building bridges, new roads, means more than make the connection ways easier, it also means create new residential areas: in fact, under those bridges and flyovers, there is a micro system where thousands people live. The bridge keep you safe from the rain, from the sun, you can sleep over a dry terrain without mud: there are some advantages compared to whose one live in the houses (hovers) made by bricks and metal sheet. It?s incredible how people live and work in such a kind of places. Kids play, cry, fight as every kid in the world. Moms cook, take care of children, sleep. Daddies work 15 hours a day, 6 days a week and earn 50 USD a month (if the job is good), often less than this and they can see the family only at night. But the system is going on, somehow, maybe because it?s protected by more than 500 different types of Gods? who knows it?
They say that India is the land of contradictions: it?s fully true!
They say that if you go to India, when you come back home, you are different: maybe!
India must be seen, for sure.
Back to the vision.
Mumbai is the economic capital city of India, the heart of the Indian economy, the Indian Milan. In fact, like Milan, Mumbai never sleeps. I actually never understood if it?s the city which never sleeps or they are the 4/5 million poor people who can never sleep because of the rain and the hot weather also during the night time. The downtown worths a visit. There are buildings which remind the magnificent of the British Empire, one thousand and a night hotels, places that could easily find also in the trendy London and everything runs fast. Everything but the buses, the motorbikes, the cars always stuck in the traffic.
The city is changing quickly and the vision is not so far from this small world where you can find a dozen of mobile companies; mobiles show you exactly in which street you are in that moment, therefore you can easily find the direction. It?s a strange feeling having the possibility to manage such a kind of high technology, in a so huge Country, among so many people that (probably) even don?t know what a telephone is. Everything stands over an invisible line that makes every small action full of dignity, without being hidden by the modernization. If I had some money I will make some real estate investment.
This is the vision: it seems surrealistic here, but it?s not like you can think at the first sight.

Chapter 4: words blow in a wind
I like to tell what I see. What I’ve seen since last week is that.
A giant world where you can find everything you need and you want. The Ermenegildo Zegna shop and few hundreds meter away a young armless mutilated crippled guy who tries to ask you something you don?t understand.
Young girls that want to be pictured for a chocolate bar in exchange.
People always smile at you, poor?s and riches, managers and workers who live in train station.
I never felt to be in danger walking around, also nearby the shantytown.
People and mostly kids look at me like I’m from another planet.
PS. My hotel is located in a suburb of Mumbai, far away about 30 km from downtown, in an area without tourists.
8th of August, Sunday
I walk in a street behind the hotel; there many guys and boys who are playing cricket on the street. I stopped to take some photos. They began to smile at me, some are coming over me, I try to set a scene for the picture. They invite me to play cricket. I try, maybe they are kidding me, I don?t care, photo with everybody. Touching.
A bit far away, men and women look at the scene. In that moment I understood something about this wonderful Country.
626 law does not exist over there, but there are companies which export everywhere in the world: with Indian you can make good business, with Chinese is not so easy.
Indian are hard workers and serious in business. The business week is 6 days long, the ?father? Boss works harder that everybody else.
There is a sort of respect for the work and for the Boss: he gives you to work, therefore you and your family can eat. He?s got the power.
At the train station the porters get on the train to take your luggage, they carry it on their head; tip is few dozen Rupees. 1 Euro = 56.5 Rupees.
After few days here in India I?m only sure about one thing: girls don?t care about me, but guys like me a lot!!!

Sorry for the length
Sorry if I bothered you
(Delhi, 11th of August 2004)

In the photo:
Monsoon season traineeship in India. Mumbai, India, August 2004

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