Sunday, August 24, 2008

Passing Through Mumbai

I am posting from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, as I wait for the announcement to board my flight to Pune. I'm a few hours short of sleep, since going by Dammam time I am still safely in my bed right now.

The flight coming here was uneventful, the only excitement I got was that my buddy missed the turn going to departures at the Dammam airport and we had to take the scenic route. Travel to Bahrain was a bit light, so I didn't have to jostle other people like I did when I traveled to Chennai. The flight to Mumbai was even less crowded, and I even had the pleasure of chatting it up with one of the cabin crew who was a Filipina. We would have probably chatted longer but her co-workers noticed her noticing me. It's really nice to chat with someone from back home on these travels. She even gave me a 1.5 liter bottle of water as her parting gift since she knew I had a four-hour layover in Mumbai.

Such is the kindness of strangers. I didn't even get her name. Maybe I'll meet her again on the flight back. One can only wish.

Seeing Mumbai from the top, as she awakens in the sunrise ,one is oddly reminded of Manila. While India is an emerging economic powerhouse and Mumbai transforming itself into a global metropolis, the signs are all there of the struggle these people have undergone and are undergoing. Going by shuttle from the international terminal (work still ongoing) to the domestic one (work completed), I watched a parade of shanties along the perimeter of the airport complex.

Much like Manila, Mumbai is a study in contrasts --- burgeoning wealth is trumpeted all over but the hardships of poverty, of overcrowding, of past cruelties sound out a dissonant note. Within this metropolis and its environs more people live and work and eat and love and play than in the entirety of Saudi Arabia.

I know it's not right for me to judge --- the Indian people have their own particular challenges to face in the transformation of their society. Even so, the path of this wealth so flagrantly displayed has been paved with so many poor people trodden underfoot.

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