Murmeli goes India

An AIESEC traineeship in Hyderabad, India

Mumbai

Phew… I have loads to write about this time. So many things have been happening. I’ll Dinner togetherstart with the weekend in Mumbai. I went there with Tobias and Yusuf. The train ride took about 15 hours. We arrived in Mumbai on Saturday morning at about 5.30. Since there is not much you could do that early we just started walking from the station towards the city. We did a walking tour that is recommended by a famous traveling guide book. The trip should take minimum three hours but we completed it in about two because you could not really go inside any of the sights so early in the morning. Well, fortunately one of the biggest sights in Mumbai is the city and its architecture, which can easily be admired without entering the buildings.

Mumbai is actually an island that is connected to mainland by bridges. It is the economic center of India and also home to Bollywood movies. Actually a Bollywood agent found us after we had had breakfast and asked us to appear as extras in a movie. Since the part would have involved dancing we declined very promptly 🙂 And we would not have had time for it either. And besides you can do the same thing here in Hyderabad for twice the money! (1000 Rupees per day 🙂 The city is full of extremely wealthy people and also hugely poor people. On one hand some office spaces in South Mumbai are more expensive than office space in Manhattan. On the other hand 50% of the population of Mumbai, which totals 16.4 million, lives in the slums.

On our trip we saw more of the wealthy side and less of the other side. The southern part of the city is off-limits to auto rikshaws, which makes it a rather pleasant (?) area compared to, for example, Hyderabad. Instead of auto rikshaws you have taxis which are much faster and much quieter. When we walked from the CST train station towards the sea we walked along nice boulevards with big green trees and nice, wide sidewalks. On the Marine drive by the Arabian Sea we saw people jogging, a groomed dog that was on a leash and even many normal people driving bicycles! We stood between the lanes gazing at these wonders of a progressive Indian city. Usually when you are a tourist in a big city you do not take pictures of dogs, taxis, joggers and bicycles 😀 But to us these things were something really amazing (over four months in India have had an impact…).

After the walking tour we had breakfast in the Colaba area, which is where most of the tourists hang out. We went to the Gateway of India in the harbour to meet our friends Tiina, özlem and Marion. We had already had a great time in Bangalore some weeks ago and now we were meeting again. Together we went to the Elephanta island a one-hour-long boat ride away from Mumbai. On the island there are a lot of monkeys, touts selling cheap merchandise and some Hindu temples. It was nothing spectacular but I am sure it is a huge relief for all the people living in Mumbai to come to this rather green and peaceful island. On the way back we understood why: from the sea we could see the huge smog covering the entire city and the setting sun.

In the evening we indulged ourselves in one of the many culinary treats the city has to Lobster dinneroffer: the lobster. Me, Tobias and Marion paid 800 Rupees each for a medium size lobster. It was the first time I ate it and I must admit it was very, very good. Worth every penny. The waiter even brought one lobster for us to see before they put it in the pot. A great experience. For dessert we had “genuine” Italian ice-cream, gelato. Later in the evening we had a couple of beers in a cheap Indian bar and then we met with some local AIESEC trainees and went to a night club.

After the night club we went to look for another one. Sadly the place we tried to go to was already closed but the trip there was memorable. We got out of the car close to the bar when we saw a flock of photographers gathered around a big car in front of a very nice house, almost in the backyard of the famous Taj hotel. In our minds we calculated 1+1=”something really exciting” and decided to hang around. Soon the rumour had reached everybody: inside the house there are Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt! Cool. We waited and waited and finally they came out. Yusuf had my camera and he took a video of them. Unfortunately Yusuf did not actually know that Mr. Pitt was there as well, so almost immediately after he had witnessed Jolie climbing into the car he stopped filming. Well, on the video you can still see Pitt for a couple of seconds. As far as I am concerned they are just very ordinary people, but many people were still very keen on seeing the video Yusuf shot 🙂 After spotting these famous people and finding out the bar was closed we took a taxi to Andheri, where our friend Marcus is staying with some other trainees. They live in a very good neighborhood, but there are slums right in the backyard. Once I get the pictures online you can see the view from their flat yourselves.

On Sunday we went to South Mumbai again for breakfast. The area outside the Andheri train station was more like the urban India I had gotten used to: crowded with people and rikshaws, beggars, noise and smells. The train to the city was packed with people too. Guess how many people travel by train in Mumbai everyday? No less than 6 million. After the train ride we had breakfast close to the Churchgate train station. Marcus and another trainee Ana-Maria joined us and together we took a train to go see some more sights. First we found (eventually) the old Opera house. Then we went to the house where Mahatma Gandhi used to live for many years. The house is a very interesting museum covering Gandhi’s whole life in the form of letters (including one to Hitler, in which he tried to persuade him not to go to war), pictures etc.

Haji AliAfter the museum we went to see the Haji Ali mosque. It is an island to which you walk along a path made of stone. It is filled with people going to the mosque, touts selling stuff and beggars and handicapped people asking for money. The most disgusting thing I saw there were the lepers. They were in small groups, lying on their backs, shaking strongly and chanting a haunting mantra. Not a pretty sight.

After the mosque we went back to Marine drive to have dinner. Marcus and Ann-Maria had other engagements so they did not join us. The rest of us had to wait for a while to get to a crowded, and obviously very popular pizza place, so we went to sit by the Arabian Sea. We sat there together, all six of us, looking at the sea and the city lights and the big billboards on the other side of the bay. In our minds we had all the fantastic things we had seen during the weekend and the feeling of joy for being with such a great group of people. We left the sea side and went to have dinner, we exchanged contact informations, walked together to the station from which the girls would take a train, gave farewell hugs and then us guys started running for our own train. We ran for about 20 meters and got tired and took a taxi. The train departed at 21.50. I had a middle tier bed while Toby had an upper. Yusuf managed to get the other upper berth in our compartment after somebody else had canceled. I spent the evening writing my diary, Having a napthinking about what had happened and what implications it has for the future. All in all, a marvelous, overwhelming and memorable weekend trip. One of the best so far.

Now that the records are straight regarding the Mumbai trip I can turn to other subjects. Firstly, the traineeship. There are really strange things happening at work. I was told today that a man whom I and Toby always considered probably the most important asset the company had, had been fired on Saturday. This was, according to my Indian colleague, due to complaints about the man from the other employees. Me and Toby could not understand this at all, since we thought the person in question was a very nice and helpful, although strict boss and a very smart programmer and project leader. And as if this was not enough drama for the day… I sat at my desk after having a chat with Toby at about five o’clock. Toby was going to leave the office already since he had nothing to do. I was sitting at my desk when I heard a loud rumbling noise from the hallway, the kind of a sound an elevator would make when the wires break and the lift falls down. I could not believe my ears when my colleagues said that was exactly what had happened. One of the elevators had plummeted down, with 13 people inside. I called Toby to check his whereabouts and he soon answered the phone and said he was OK but he had seen the accident.

What amazed me most about the accident were the reactions of the Indians. Nobody was shocked. They were smiling, maybe laughing lightly about it and when I asked if people down there are OK or if help is on the way they shrugged their shoulders and said they do not know. I was feeling really helpless. I started walking down the stairs and met Marcus, a German trainee, whose first words were that nobody got hurt bad. That was nice to hear. He had been climbing up to the office and had reached the third floor when he saw the lift going down really fast, followed by the wires. He was seemingly upset. And… as if this was not enough, he told me that an Indian guy from our company had told him that this was not the first time this had happened! Apparently the maximum number of people in the lift is ten, but this rule is always ignored and the lift is packed. Sometimes the elevator boy does not allow too many people to enter the lift but usually they do nothing. Marcus told me that after the accident somebody had slapped the elevator boy in the face. I am sure he is told not to obey the rule and get as many people as possible in the lift. Sad.

Marcus also told me that he is going to leave a company and try to find a traineeship elsewhere in the city on his own. He has already made some promising enquiries. I can totally understand him. He has not had any real work the whole time he has been here, for two months. He has been given silly tasks like learning a technology and then giving a presentation about what he has learned. That is hardly motivating. I asked if he is absolutely certain that he wants to leave and he said yes. I myself felt really bad about the work after being in the company for three months but I talked to my bosses about it and it got better. Now I am having fun designing the application and teaching Yusuf and Stephie .net, C# and the object oriented way of life. But Marcus seems very convinced that he is going.

Last but not least, a bit of news about my return to Finland. I sent email to STA Travel just now asking them to move my flight to April. If I get the date they suggested to me earlier, my current return date is 15.4. Despite the fact that I kind of like the work at the moment I do not think I will be working here anymore in January. I have been thinking about booking flights to the Andaman Islands in February, spending time in the south in Kerala and in Goa and then go north. I still get burst of homesickness quite often but I think I have realized something essential about traveling and missing home. One needs to get over the stage in which one longs for home and wants to go back there. The target state of mind is to feel happy about being away from the traditional, experiencing new things, however difficult it may sometimes be, at the same time feeling happy about the fact that there is a home to return to some day. It costs me 30 Euros to transfer the flight. If I still like the country next year I will perhaps change the date again. I know, I am playing this really safe, but I think if you were in my shoes you would understand and possibly do the same as me.

Whoa, this might be the longest post I have written so far. Good. I will try to get some pictures online already today but I can not make any promises. It depends on the availability of laptops at the flat and the functionality of the Internet connection. But I will do my best.

Take care.

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November 13, 2006 - Posted by | Being a trainee, Indian life, Traveling in India

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