Just after a train whistle blows on a mid summer morning, a voice from the station platform is heard over the crowd, “Chai Chai Chai”. The voice of a middle aged Chai Walla pours up a cup of delicious scented chai tea from a steel kettle as the midday Train pulls into Mumbai central.
This city beats to its own drum, a rhythm unlike any other city on earth. Bombay/Mumbai is alive and uncanny. The bustling city of old and new boasts endless horizons of worn down buildings and new steel skyscrapers, grand bazaars, and pushcarts accompanied by women in decadent and colorful saris as they sell the morning’s fresh picked fruits and merchandise.
Taxis and bicycle rickshaws weave the long stretch of ocean on Marine Drive—the road that separates the Mumbai skyline and the slender beach front known as Chowpatty. Head over to the Gateway to India, a monument built during the British Raj in Mumbai. The monument is a good starting point for all your adventures. Highly recommended is a boat to the Unesco World heritage Elephanta Caves Island for breathtaking artifacts and sights. Back on the mainland the occasional western backpacker can be seen negotiating a fair price for hostels and ‘Tuk-Tuks’ (taxis). Tourists come and go snapping photos like it is A Whole New World. The city buzzes and twirls.
I like to take different paths and routes to get to the slum area of where I volunteer, as there are many walk ways alleys and streets that all intertwine. I have grown to see that a few cows, buffaloes, and bulls have specific neighborhoods that they like, perhaps because they get fed from the people. This one in particular I see almost every day that I volunteer. He is big, slow, and desensitized to almost everything. In this photo I was astonished to see the small children dancing around and behind this big beast as if it were the family pet. But this bull doesn’t belong to anyone, it just roams freely where he wants, when he wants, perhaps all its life, born on the streets and will die on the streets.
It may not seem like much but sharing positive energy with someone is amazing. I felt drawn to speak to this man even though the language barrier was high and thick, we exchanged small talk and smiles that will forever leave a lasting impression on me.
The Census of India defines a slum as “a compact area of at least 300 in population or about 60-70 households of poorly built, congested tenements in an unhygienic environment usually with inadequate infrastructure and lacking proper sanitary and drinking water facilities… But trust me it is much worse here and around the world.
I realize that I can’t save the world but I do BELIEVE that we all can do a little to balance our world regardless of how much time or money we have. I’m not a rich man, many have asked how I afford my travels. To be honest I’m spending my life savings traveling seeing, feeling, touching, smelling and living things that you can’t type into Google search. I figure we all have something to give back.