It was about 10:30am on Wednesday 13 April when we arrived in Mumbai international airport. We stepped out of the plane and walked through the never-ending blue and orange passageway. There were eleven of us, we each dragged our baggage and our tired bodies unto the arrivals desk. After the rituals of custom checks and baggage collection, I noticed the interior of the airport which looked more like an eclectic art gallery.
As we got out of the airport, the wave of hot air stretched its’ arms and said welcome to India! Thirty minutes into the journey from Mumbai to Pune and it hits me. I am actually in India. As we drove through the traffic, I started to realize the India they never showed me in the hundreds of Bollywood movies I had seen since I was eight.
I saw the hundreds of marble stores which were lined up along the expressways. A graffiti was written on a pavement that read ‘Jesus loves you, when all fails he still loves you’. The three hour drive of men, mountains and marbles filled a little part of my palette of India. I saw children in worn out clothes as they blissfully played in the grease from car parts in auto mechanics. Young men who stood outside their wooden travel agency sheds as they looked hauntingly at our coach.
Middle aged women in their red and black patterned saris who walked gracefully in the scorching sun. Advertising boards of Priyanka Chopra with her blinding smile selling ‘sparkling marbles’. Right beneath Priyanka Chopra, there was a silky grey haired lady in an orange sari selling fruits from a cart. Bricklayers in casual clothes, cementing and reconstructing roads and houses.
I noticed motorcycle drivers with their apple branded helmets and their passengers on mobile phones. Rickshaws, buses and private hired car drivers who spoke to each other with their beeps and honks. The long queues formed by men for what seemed like enrollments into some sort of academy. The grey rivers or what used to the rivers filled with plastics and sweet wrappers. White horses which fed on plants beside the roadside while a man waited in a silver plaited carriage.
Despite the weariness from the twelve hours of travelling I could not close my eyes because I did not want to miss the hustling and bustling of the streets and the people. Our journey from Mumbai to Pune gave me a miniscule insight on ‘the real India’.
I got the rural and the urban India, globalization amidst the traditional India, the contrast between the old, the new and everyone else in-between. Three hours in India and I could her voice. It was one that was saying we are still building, stay with us.
This was just the beginning of Destination India and I could not wait for the other fourteen more days!