Arriving in Mumbai was like returning to a past dimension, to a well known planet. Like Hong Kong, Mumbai has been my recurring destination for the past … many years. And not for vacations. One of the wonders of my previous profession was finding people so far from my culture and so close to my heart. Gobind is one of those people. We met more than ten years ago in the professional world and we became very good friends. To that precious friendship his wife and children joined us very soon. Gobind and his family are my family in India. And that has been one of the great gifts of my time in the textile world.
At the airport his driver was waiting for me. It was the first time I was in India for pleasure and at the beginning I felt almost like in my work trips, except for the backpack. Sitting in the back of the car, I looked through the window at the city that so many times had welcomed me. Its highway, its streets and alleys flooded with bright colors, smiling people and the millions of honking cars. India is indescribable, when you arrive you feel that smell that defines it and that I find it impossible to explain. Smell of humidity, spices, humanity and the dust of its roads. Sitting there, I had the impression that at any moment the car would stop at an office building and the “business” Maria loaded with her laptop, her two cell phones and her technical files would enter ready to spend the next 7 days negotiating, seeing collections , solving production problems and explaining the new designs to the infinity of factories visit after visit. Maria in “official” mode was coming with a head full of results, prices, margins, sales, budgets, patterns, fabrics, buttons, washes, zippers, shrinkages, lengths, widths, consumptions, formulas … and with a very clear idea about what everyone should do. Effectiveness and demand in its pure state.
On the other hand, the Maria who came to Mumbai this time was wearing humility and mental openness of a trip that discovered her what is true and important. She opened the door of his Indian family’s house and received tons of love, smiles, care, conversations, walks, meals and select wines, a thousand and one stories about travel adventures, new discoveries about the culture of an India that after so many years she only managed to scratch with her fingers.
Both Marias so far and so close. And there the change is experienced. The updated version of a previous operating system. Maria 2.0.
Walk through the streets of Mumbai, mingle with people, soak up their culture in the National Museum, understand the Freedom Fighting in the house of Gandhi. I never had the time or the opportunity to experience it until now. Mumbai is full of secrets that I did not know. For example the Dabbawala, a very special food collection and delivery system. It works like this: pick up the container with your lunch and deliver it to you at noon anywhere in Mumbai. They move by bicycle through the traffic of such a huge and chaotic city. In the more than 100 years of service they have never mistaken a container serving the whole city. Prince Charles of England even maintains contact with the boss and invited him to the last wedding, how awsome is that? The city has made them even a statue. This is Mumbai. There you can find the largest slum in the world, an area of shacks where millions of people live. A local artist decided to make the lives of these people more pleasant and painted their houses with vibrant colors full of joy.
The days staying in Mumbai I experienced an Asian luxury that I enjoyed as a child. Gobind and his family treated me like a queen. All the comforts I could imagine. In the morning, breakfast with the richest mangos in the world (Alfonso mangoes) and Iberian ham (I was in tears), nights sleeping in a XXL bed with latex mattress, a bathroom just for me, hot water, air conditioning, meals in the best restaurants … I could not believe what I lived. Coming from a reduced budget trip all these conditions were far from occurring in most places. My trip has been the most basic in that sense: shared dorms in hostels, simple diet, tropical heats without air conditioning, hard beds, cold showers … they matter so little when you understand what you live. In Mumbai I enjoyed each of the luxuries with delight … and without attachment. Enjoy without needing. I am happy to need less, less and less, to feel satisfied.
And from Mumbai I flew to the unknown north of India, in the Himalayas. Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, awaited me for two weeks of yoga, meditation and ayurveda. Such a promising experience. I see you there, in the mountains where the Ganges river is born.
Karuna and Gobind
The most amazing room in my entire trip
Breakfast of a Queen
Prince of Wales Museum
Mani Bhavan, Gandhi Museum (his room)
Slums in color