Today I was up at 7:45…or so I thought. Due to a lack of wifi, I had manually set my phone to Mumbai time, which normally would have been fine. This past night, though, was daylight’s savings time and as a result when I came down for breakfast, the man at the front desk of the YMCA politely informed me that breakfast didn’t start until 8am. “I know” I said, pointing to the clock on the wall….only to realize that it was only 7am because my cell phone clock had automatically “sprung forward.”
I was now wide-awake, though, so I decided to do some exploring around the area. I walked down the road where the YMCA is and eventually wandered into a church. I also walked around a convent school and saw some other beautiful buildings. Soon it was 8am and time for breakfast. I had a delicious egg omelet with some toast and tea. I was eating breakfast by myself, however, since Niamh had gone to Starbucks to use their wifi and no one else was up yet.
I actually found breakfast to be wonderful. Like many Harvard students, I feel as though I have not been able to catch my breath this semester (I was in Seattle about a week ago for an interview, have been having Ghungroo and/or Expressions rehearsals anywhere between 3 and 8 hours per week, am still actively trying to find a job/fellowship, etc.) I realized that this was the first time since January break that I had really been able to take a step back, breathe, and enjoy being alone for a bit.
Eventually the other Harvard delegates did come to breakfast and I decided to go to Starbucks with Niamh and Shao. One thing I’m simultaneously loving and hating about Mumbai is the lack of wifi. On the one hand, it sometimes sucks when you can’t reach your friends/family members, but on the other hand, it’s so liberating to not be constantly checking my cellphone (and I feel very popular when I have a bunch of snapchats, whatsapp messages and emails buzzing on my phone when I turn on wifi after not having used wifi for two days!)
After breakfast, we headed to the train station for a 20-minute train ride to the edge of the second largest slum in Asia – the Dharavi slum. Before going into the Dharavi slum, I thought I knew what I’d be seeing – absolutely terrible conditions, miserable people and lots of disease and unsanitary conditions. I’m a global health secondary and I’ve read case study after case study regarding the slums of India and how healthcare is such a dire issue there.
But here’s where the “magic” of HCAP happens. Instead of reading about another case of malnutrition or malaria in an Indian slum, we were able to take a guided tour through this slum and really see all that goes on inside. It turns out that Dharavi is like a city-within-a-city. There are hospitals, schools, houses, places of worship and work places. People live and work inside the slum, and yes it’s true that the conditions are not ideal, but there is running water and electricity. It’s also ideally located between many train lines and major roads.
Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos, but it was an incredible experience getting to see workers sort plastic and recycle old plastic materials in the industrial quarters and then literally travel single-file through the incredibly narrow passageways in the residential quarter. We were also able to go onto the roof of one of the buildings and see out over the entire slum. It felt good to have some of my misconceptions about slums absolutely shattered as a result of going on this tour.
After the slum tour, we took the train back to Ashuli’s house. We were all pretty exhausted, and it was so nice to just relax with air conditioning (and this amazing view of the sea!) We had a delicious (homemade) lunch and then lounged around some more, listening to music and telling stories.
Once lunch was done, we headed back into cabs to go to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) museum. Many of us Harvard delegates were asking what “type” of museum this was, and the Mumbai delegates were having a tough time answering that question, but after exploring the museum, I can see why. (As SNL’s Stefan would say), this museum has everything – there was an exhibit about prehistoric people living in India, paintings from the colonial period, a room dedicated to glass vases and everything in-between. My two favorite rooms were the history of Indian clothing and the history of medicine in India.
While I was enjoying the history of Indian medicine room, a man approached me with his cellphone. Because he was with his wife and child, I assumed he wanted me to take a photo of the three of them. “No, no, no, you!” he said, pointing at me. And sure enough, he held up the camera and we took a selfie together. Then, for some reason, all three of them had sunglasses on their heads and I just so happened to have my bright yellow sunglasses on my head, so when they put their sunglasses on for selfie #2, I did the same and we all laughed.
After the museum, we went on a guided walking tour of the surrounding area with the Mumbai delegates. The sun was setting and even though it was still pretty humid, the weather was perfect. We walked past the high court of Mumbai, around a central park area and also saw a fountain, library and schools.
After a quick shower, we were off to dinner, this time within walking distance from the YMCA. It was so nice, just sitting, talking and laughing with the Harvard and Mumbai delegates. I was also pleasantly surprised by my ability to eat the food. Some of the sandwiches we ordered were pretty spicy (to me, at least) and Poorva suggested that I try it with ketchup, to ameliorate the spiciness (which, if you know me, worked pretty damn well!) We then headed back to the Y, ready to get some sleep. I cannot remember the last time I was able to get more than 10 hours of sleep!
TGT: 1) Slum tour 2) delicious and beautiful lunch at Ashuli’s place 3) wandering through the museum
Until next time,