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Mumbai - An Experience

I came to Mumbai in May 2023, for my internship, and I was super excited. A new city, independent living, managing finances, my first corporate stint - it was a lot to take in. As the flight was about to land at the renowned Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Airport, I glimpsed a beautiful view of the Mumbai Skyline, the Sea Links, and the breathtaking yet overwhelmingly aggregated commercial and residential complexes.

An aerial view of the Mumbai Skyline and Sea Link Bridge
Captured by Yours Truly

I landed and immediately exited the airport - kudos to Adani for hassle-free planning of the domestic terminus! Traveling around in a very comfortable vintage taxi, I was drinking in every detail I saw.


The roads were a smooth intertwining maze, wide and well-managed. The skyscrapers were doing their job pretty well - scraping all the clouds that deigned to pass their tops. The signature flocks of pigeons fluttered around in droves, sometimes settling on the conveniently designed street lights.

A flock of birds sitting on a Mumbai street light in the afternoon

The cute, vintage double-decker buses, local trains, the modern metro and monorail, the ferries carrying passengers over the sea, the black-and-yellow taxis, the share autos, the corporate shuttle buses, the electric Yulus - damn this city does have some form of transportation for every kind of traveler! (Cue Mani Ratnam aesthetic 2-minute montage)


The hustle and bustle of the corporate areas soon transitioned to the more peaceful suburbs, having haphazard slums and temporary settlements with asbestos roofs, curtains for doors, and lots of children playing in and around happily, blissfully unaware that just a few kilometers away lay utterly different ways of living. Some huts were even placed precariously on the sides of hills, with little or no barriers protecting them from the rushing vehicles on the highways beneath.


Finally, I reached our apartment near Chembur - a quaint, peaceful, community-oriented locality. The first thing I noticed here was an uncanny similarity to the residential areas of Chennai - was it the fruit sellers, the tender coconut stalls, the familiar-looking elderly folk spiritually meandering through their days? It felt warm and heartening to stay in a familiar feeling area - but it also hit me hard how much of Chennai I had in my heart. I shook myself out of the nostalgia (already? YES!) and got ready to start my internship.


The Corporate Life

It has been overall a great experience so far. Getting to see all those management concepts play out in real time was very heartening. Applying those concepts in my project, having technical terms in all my communications, and working on tasks in a domain I love - Can't ask for anything more.

I got to experience the corporate culture, understand why the weekend is the weekend for those who work, and on the whole immerse myself in a new environment. Every single input I give to my project should ideally build towards boosting turnover or enhancing customer engagement - the goal is very clear. This is a new way of thinking for me.


As much as I love it here, the work is at times mentally taxing and demands all my focus. I was able to relate with my working parents a lot better and my respect for them grew in bounds when I imagined them taking care of work, home as well as us kids! Truly humbling.


Adulting

My roommate & I settled in soon enough and breezed through the first week of our internship together, enjoying the first high tide of living as young adults. The honeymoon phase lasted for the week, by the end of which I was beginning to dread ordering out for dinner.


Sure it felt amazing to have any cuisine we fancied for the night but I craved a good home-cooked meal which I wasn't getting because (a) Our apartment had a gas connection but no proper cooking utensils, (b) we felt too tired to cook anything that took more than 10 minutes & (c) the cost-benefit of investing in utensils, making our own meals but not knowing what to do with the said utensils at the end of 8 weeks (since both of us wouldn't have enough space to carry it back) concluded at not buying the said vessels. We had a set of pots with which we can boil milk, and cook noodles, pasta, and soup at best.


We had to keep track of our expenses, remember to split them as and when required, keep our space organized (A Mumbai 1BHK does not have s p a c e - either sit in the clutter or clean up!), give each other due privacy, decide what to wear for office, do our quickly accumulating laundry on a regular basis (and give the front loading door a gentle slam at times, to make it start), remember to buy snacks, soap, detergent, even tissue paper! - keeping track of all this was and is a huge mental load (homemakers - you have my renewed respect and empathy).

I understood I wasn't doing even 25% of what my parents do in running a household, yet I was feeling frustrated and mentally taxed.


Language hasn't been that big of a barrier since I know spoken Hindi fairly well enough to survive (& I've learned to recognize some Hindi letters and numbers) but it isn't my comfort zone!


Shenanigans - Cooking, Transportation & More!

Well, I can only justify this with Murphy's law - Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong XD! Also, we did our best in trying to ensure whatever was in our control went right, but we had too many variables against us :P


The Milky Way

One tiring weekday evening, we bought milk packets, dropped it in our refrigerator, and dozed off, too tired to notice if we'd placed them properly. The next morning, voila! I wake up to the smell of spoilt milk. The milk had spilled all over the kitchen floor, dripping from the fridge, which was supposed to keep it contained. Further investigation showed that the packet itself had a microscopic hole, which had been exacerbated when I plopped it a little too forcefully inside the fridge, letting loose all of its contents.


Murphy-1, Maitreyi-0


45 minutes for 3 km

Our home is barely 3 km from our office - which is a good thing right? Not!

Spending 15 minutes hailing an auto (30 minutes on a bad day), facing rejection from 20 drivers, and being disgruntledly accepted by the 21st, for a 20-minute ride (30 minutes with traffic), only to reach our desks in a dusty and disoriented fashion (lots of construction sites + the auto driver considers bumps equal to the flat roads and indiscriminately powers through at top speeds).


The metered auto/taxi system here is pretty neat though - no bargaining or overcharging whatsoever! Murphy & Mumbai Rikshaw - 2, Maitreyi - 0


The situation near my office is worse, since no auto wishes to take us back to our locality, and Uber Gos, though highly feasible, isn't good for the pocket on a regular basis. Renting scooters were out of our bandwidth as neither wished to drive amidst well-seasoned racers of Mumbai roads.


That's when we decided to give local buses a shot. Double-decker buses drop us off at the stop that's closest to our home ( 1 km walk ), which I didn't mind. It turned out to be a refreshing evening walk, even with our loaded backpacks. Later on, my roommate's brilliance got us a subscription to shuttle buses, which drop us off near the closest station, where we switch trains and reach home.


Murphy - 2, Maitreyi - 1

A view of Mumbai pedestrian walkways
Mumbai at 7 PM

Butter - Add To Taste

One late evening, my roommate and I decided to cook an actual meal - pasta (don't come at me). Grocery apps showed a long time for delivery, so we went to the store, excitedly bought all the ingredients - Pasta sauce, vegetables, spaghetti, cheese, butter (we were the last customers before they closed) - and went back to the kitchen. Only to find out we didn't have salt or oil.


Essential ingredients are easy to take for granted since you by default stock them but they don't appear special on their own. They come under the bucket of "regular purchases", something that is assumed to be there in the kitchen at all times and hence the reason why it slipped from our minds.

Well, we were very hungry and decided to cook it anyway.

This is our recipe for Salt-Free Pasta:

Ingredients:

  1. Pasta of your choice

  2. 1 medium Onion, 1 medium Tomato

  3. Water (from your bottles or from the RO - whichever is convenient)

  4. Butter

  5. Cheese

  6. Chilly flakes (from Pizza Hut)

Process:

  1. Roughly chop up the tomato (remove the tomato seeds if you don't want them)

  2. Finely slice the onions

  3. Boil the amount of water needed for your pasta (follow package instructions)

  4. Once the water starts bubbling, immerse the pasta (in the case of spaghetti, hold the ends of the sticks till they soften) in the water

  5. In another pan, melt the butter (while praying it doesn't burn), add in the chopped vegetables, and saute till the onion browns.

  6. Add the pasta sauce paste and saute.

  7. By this time your pasta should have cooked just enough (it has to cook a little more in the sauce as well). Drain the excess water into another vessel and add about 4 tablespoons of this starchy water to the pasta sauce - you can add more water if needed, depending on how thick or thin you want your sauce.

  8. Now transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix em up!

  9. Add butter, cheese, and chili flakes to taste - depending on your salt intake.

  10. After a few iterations of taste testing, give it a final whip and serve :)

Murphy - 2, Maitreyi - 2


Concluding points

I have so many more memories to share, which I will in my upcoming posts. As of now, I've understood how adaptable, capable, compassionate & resilient I am. There is so much more I can improve about myself (major character development happening here on an ongoing basis). Although I am not going to be completely in my comfort zone for the duration of this stay, I'm glad that I got to experience some aspects of working for a corporate before I deep dive entirely into my career. The next time I have to live on my own for an extended basis (hopefully later than sooner), I have this memory to bank on.

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