Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Independence in India

I think that one of the hardest adjustments that I have had to make in all my trips to India is the loss of independence. In the US I am used to taking a walk if I want to take a walk, going to a local store when I feel like driving there and being able to take the kids to the local park if the weather is nice and I feel so inclined. Here in India, things are different. Mumbai is a densely packed metropolis of more than 20.5 million people, very few road signs, lots of nooks and corners, and in this area of the city no a lot of pale folk like me, in fact, I think I am the only one for miles! And I don't know Hindi.

Because of my in-laws being very protective of me I would often feel claustrophobic when I would come to visit. Going outside required somebody else to be with me, even if is was just for a walk around the building.

I have slowly been able to emerge from this cocoon and venture out on my own. The breakthrough came on my third visit here. We lived with my in-laws in their 2 bedroom flat for 5 months the beginning of 2009. At that time Josiah was 2 1/2 and Lydia was only 3 months old. During this stay here I would go to the opposite corner from their building and buy diapers by myself. The owner of SK knows my FIL well and I was easily able to communicate my diaper needs to him. This gave me a nice 5 minute walk about 3 times a week as Pampers there were sold 10 to a package. I would also walk Josiah to and from his little preschool that he had for 2 hours every day; this was only 2 buildings down. I also started going for morning walks on the street in front of their building. Basically I would walk one block down, turn around and walk one block back. While it doesn't seem like much, I was grateful for every opportunity to get out without feeling like a burden to others.

Today I had an Indian independence breakthrough. There is a large mall a couple of blocks away that opened up a few years ago. While technically it is within walking distance, walking on the streets of Mumbai is an activity I choose not to undertake. Having to dodge rickshaws, bicycles, scooters and motor bikes, large city buses, people who live on the street, and chickens, donkeys, goats and cows is not my idea of a leisurely walk.

Well, today various circumstances had me with the kids at the mall. They had just gotten there with Jeneson who was going to see a movie with his niece and nephew.  The rest of us had just gotten done doing some shopping and were heading home. Since, the kids don't get out too much, I decided that I would just stay at the mall with the kids for a while walking around. I got many questioning looks wondering if I could handle getting a ride back home.

Catching a rickshaw does require some element of skill and luck. The rickshaw drivers stay in certain areas of the city and if the fare will not be worth it, often turn down requests for rides. I know that the trip from the mall to home is less than lucrative for them as it only costs 11 rupees (as a point of reference it is about 50 rupees to $1 US). The first driver asked must have thought I was stupid, desperate or both as he wanted to charge me 50 rupees. I crossed over the busy street (with three kids in tow) and was able to find a rickshaw in about 5 minutes. I think I was a pity fare. But, hey we got home safe and in one piece. It may not seem like much, but is certainly an accomplishment!


Jen said...

Thanks, Sandy, for writing. Really enjoyed picturing what life is like there!

Cindy said...

i wish i could "see" as you're seeing things. have you taken many pictures?