We’ve all had that experience of waiting in long lines; whether it be at the post office or in line to ride a rollercoaster at our favorite theme park. Some of those lines are ones filled with anticipation and excitement of what is to come while yet other lines are less enjoyable than a root canal (sorry, dentist friends!). As I set out on close to a month of travel, there were no shortages of lines, that’s for sure. After a delayed flight out of Greenville/Spartanburg to Newark, NJ, I was able to sit for a bit and enjoy a meal before the 14+ hour flight to Mumbai, India.
Despite what seemed like complete chaos at the check-in gate, the cultural intermix was a melting pot of joyful faces and pleasant conversations. “Where are you from?” and “Where are you going?” were questions I could hear all around me. Everyone was out on their own adventure. Some were beginning their journey and others were ending, but the friendliness and positive vibes were in abundance. As we boarded the overnight flight, we were all in the next 14 hours together.
Upon arrival in Mumbai, one of India’s largest cities, I was herded through baggage claim and on to customs and immigration. Though we were all exhausted, spirits were still of the friendly nature. I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet an Indian couple who were travelling from Asheville, NC to Mumbai for a family wedding (December is wedding season in India- and they are parties NOT to be missed!) It was evening (10:30pm) here in Mumbai and I was spending the evening at a nearby hotel. As we approached the hotel security, I was quickly reminded that the security here varies greatly from what I was used to in the USA. The hotel security guard used a mirror on a rolling cart to look under the carriage of the vehicle as well as under the hood. We were definitely not in Kansas (or South Carolina) anymore.
The next morning, I was heading to Pune to visit my friend, Nital. As the driver and I embarked on the 3 hour drive to Pune, we needed to get out of Mumbai first. This meant more lines, more waiting, as the traffic in Mumbai is about 100x heavier than the streets of Manhattan during rush hour. Oh! Wait! I forgot! Manahttan does not have to contend with goats, chicken and cattle weaving their way through the streets.
While the addition of these furry friends into the streets of Mumbai added another layer of chaos to the already densely populated thoroughfares, no one seemed to notice. Everyone just kept going about their business as if the goats were people. Rather than get annoyed with this, I took it all in. I loved being able to sit back and observe this culture of inclusion. And while the honking horns of thousands of cars created a symphony of sound, no one was rushing. No one appeared angry or late. They were just being present; in that moment, at that time.
This rush hour traffic scenario was one that would set the tone for the rest of my time during this trip. I wanted to see and observe as much as I could. I wanted to be open to experiencing every single moment that was placed before me. While I fully intend to visit India again in the future, I knew that these particular moments would be ones that I would never have again and I wanted to be fully present for each and every one of them. Not just here, in India, but in every facet of my life.