Saturday 9 July 2011

Goodbye Mumbai

I’m leaving Mumbai for possibly the last time tonight, sitting in the airport lounge and reflecting on my experience here in the last year.  It has been about 13 months since I started my adventure with RIL and I’ve spent half of that time in India.

Like everyone I had quite a sensory shock on arrival in Mumbai, even though I’d been in India three times before.  It’s amusing to look at the same streets, the same traffic, the same chaos now and find it all perfectly normal.

What do I think of Mumbai?  I love it.  I love the chaos, the traffic, the way people drive, the people getting by on nothing, the monsoon, the slums, the noise, the optimism, the vegetarian thali in the work canteen, the restaurant food, the Kingfisher beer (but not India wine), the mis-spelled shop signs, Marine Drive, Chopatty Beach, the Anglican Cathedral, Gandhi’s House, VT Station, Malabar Hill, Banganga Tank, Colaba, Leopold’s Bar, the Culfi Shop at Chowpatty, InOrbit Mall in Vashi, the autorickshaws, Jet Airways (but not Air India), the cricket madness, India winning the World Cup, my driver Abhijit, and my friends at RIL. 

The Mumbai Marathon in January was amazing, and I’ll never again be 3rd in my age category (unless there are less than 5 people in the race).  Sally and I had two wonderful holidays in north India and Kerala to top it all off, and she saw enough of Mumbai to fall in love with it too.

But it’s time to go now. Reliance Industries was an amazing (crazy) place to work, unlike anything I’d seen before, and I think unique even in India.  Maybe I’ll be back at some point if the right opportunity arises.

I would recommend India to anyone who likes new experiences, for a short holiday or a long stay.  It’s a very special place. In some ways it’s the future where Europe is the past.  Soon it will be the most populous country on the planet and there is tremendous growth, obsession with education and optimism for the future.  As well as the future it’s the past with ancient civilisations that make a mockery of the tiny period when the British (sort of) ruled here.

There are deep rooted problems.  Politics is rotten and corruption is rife.  The start of the Commonwealth Games was a fiasco and India’s subsequent athletics triumphs are now proven to be drug tainted – there’s a surprise!  But, hey, being number one in world cricket is much more important.

So I’ll leave with a tear in my eye and determined to return and see more.  Watch this space.