By Liz Summer, I Start Wondering Columnist
“I want to look at life In the available light”
– from the song “Available Light” by Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for the rock band Rush
This Saturday evening finds me waiting at the Newark, NJ airport to catch the evening plane to Mumbai, the Gateway of India.
To say this is the start of an adventure is an understatement. I’ve never been to India, but this is a trip I’ve always dreamed of taking. India – so many expectations and anticipations; so many imaginations of India. Now, on the brink of experiencing Mumbai firsthand, I am reflecting on my imagined Mumbai. Tomorrow at this time, it will be firsthand experience. So tonight, I am documenting my expectations. Really though, there are too many to write about!
Facing Reality as a Temper to Expectations
What I imagine is a city of flickering dichotomies – extreme poverty and the push of crowds, yet an Industrial and modern city. Many of us are old enough to remember when Mumbai went by the name of Bombay. Certainly, few place names evoke a mystique sense of exotic adventure in distant lands — of wild tigers and bejeweled elephants — than do India and Bombay in particular. I will be looking for evidence of the past grandeur, mostly swept away under relentless progress and development.
Is it still a world of colorful clothes, brass and wood idols, incenses, wild monkeys, ornate temples? Or has all that been swept away by Starbucks and global homogenization? I hope to experience all of these.
The music of India, in particular the iconic sitar, is compelling. Admittedly, my knowledge comes mostly from the Beatles’ songs like “Norwegian Wood” as well as “Within You Without You.”
All the fantasy is tempered by the knowledge that the city is interlaced with one of the largest slums in the world. Slum Dharavi alone is estimated to be home to around one million souls. I will probably attract a great many beggars and touters. I know all the money I have would not make the slightest dent in the grinding poverty. I also know I will feel responsible for every child. How will I deal with the wrench of hard realities?
Tomorrow, I will know….