As a tourist (or traveler, a term Calvin prefers), we enter each city, see its sights, eat at the restaurants, and try to form a impression.
This view, while vast geographically, is inherently shallow. Furthermore, up to this point in my travels, it has somewhat unavoidable. I have spent only up to 3 days in each city and I have known very few of the locals prior to being there.
Which is what makes Mumbai so different.
Avanti and I met the summer before junior year of college. I was assigned to her (until then empty) double room. I barged in with “Hi. Please don’t hate me. I’m your new roommate.” and she said, “Here. Let me help you with your bags”. Junior year we lived in the same dorm and senior year we were roommates. I count her as the best roommate I’ve ever had (sorry rob, mel and tom) but I always knew she had this other existence she went back to every holiday.
These past few days have been a blur in terms of the city. I haven’t quite seen the sights or walked through it end to end. What I have seen though, with much clarity, are the places that hold meaning to Avanti. I’ve stayed in her room, read on her couch, had meals with her family. I’ve seen her interactions with the maids she grew up with and been driven around by the drivers she’s known for years. Yesterday, I got the same Kohlapuri sandals she has in a million colors while Calvin got his hair cut by her hairdresser. That night we went to one of her favorite clubs (China House) and this morning, we had breakfast at the same place where she lunchs after her GMAT class every day. (Suzette by the way has the best crepes I’ve ever had)
Absorbing Mumbai through her habits, I have gain, what I feel is a rare experience for a tourist/traveler- another person’s singular view of a city.