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Mumbai through an expat's eyes

Sunday, 17 August 2014 - 6:20am IST | Agency: dna

Most of them are from First World countries, where the streets are clean and pothole-free, where people abide by rules and there is no dearth of creature comforts. For expats, you'd think that Mumbai, with all its chaos, its cramped houses and dirty streets, would be more of a nightmare than a home. Yet, despite its countless drawbacks, the cosmopolitan city continues to attract lakhs of migrants every year, of which the expat community forms a considerable chunk. Each has his/her own story, vision and interpretation of life in Mumbai. A peek at the city through their eyes:

Name: Danielle F.
: Deputy manager at a multi-national corporation
Nationality: American
In Mumbai since: July 2013

What I like about Mumbai
People are incredibly hospitable. When I ask random women for directions they always stop to help me. It is very possible to have a comfortable life here and without much money. You can hire help for almost anything, which can be quite a luxury, though it can come with some disadvantages as well.

What I don't like
Taxi/auto drivers don't want to take you where you want to go. Its difficult to watch beggar children and maimed beggars on the streets. They are just as human as I am and they haven't been dealt a great deck of cards. However, I still choose not to give them money as this usually goes towards a racket rather than helping them. Repairmen come at their own sweet time. Dealing with banks is complicated. For example, why can't I just change my email address online instead of having someone from the bank come to me have me sign something?

Name: Martin Wright
: Director with a non-profit advisory based in Colaba
Nationality: British
In Mumbai since: October 2013

What I like
I like the friendliness of the city, everyone is quite easy-going and open-minded. Despite it being so overcrowded, I like the way people here manage to find their way on roads, stations and other public places. I have never witnessed any road rage and I am saying so because I ride a bicycle around the city. Even though people drive all over they are still in control, there is no aggression. In London I see much more pent up aggression in people while on the road. I also enjoy the tourist attractions. People love waving at me and I don't mind being amusing to them.

What I don't like
It's a very noisy city. Taxi drivers are incapable of driving without burping horns every few minutes. Once I was going to the airport through Peddar road at 4 am. There was no traffic on the road, yet the driver was honking right under a no honking sign. I feel sorry when I pass through such wonderful old buildings in south Mumbai which are lying in utter neglect. I wish something is done to restore them. I also feel it's a shame that Mumbai has such a huge water front but most of it is not maintained. The city does not have enough gardens and open spaces.

Name: Heather Gupta
: Chief talent officer at the 120 Media Collective and author of 'Becoming Mrs Kumar' — A work of fiction inspired from her experience of being married to an Indian and living in Mumbai.
Nationality: British
In Mumbai since: October 2003

What I like
I moved to Mumbai just in time for Diwali which was an exciting, loud, and thoroughly energising time to arrive. I initially came here after being offered a job by a large advertising agency, and immediately felt a very strong connection with the city. There is something about its energy which is very appealing. It is fast paced, exhilarating and there's a real sense that 'anything is possible', which I love.
I never intended to stay here for so long, its been almost 11 years since I first arrived here, but a combination of factors kept me here. People are incredibly warm and hospitable, and I found myself constantly being invited to social gatherings. Life here as a single girl was a lot of fun. I met my husband Vivek in 2007 and we decided to get married a year later, so that was another good reason to stay in Mumbai!

What I don't like
When something as simple as the air conditioner in my house needed fixing, I would often struggle to find someone who could do it, explain to them what I needed, and arrange a time for them to come. When I opened my first Indian bank account, I pulled my hair out trying to submit all the necessary documents required to undertake what seemed like a very straightforward process. Trying to ensure I paid people fairly was also a challenge, I often got vastly overcharged for things at the beginning. Taxi drivers would double their fares, I'd get charged extra by the vegetable wallah etc, even the police would hike up their fines when they saw me in the car. It was really difficult to know whether I should accept it as part and parcel of being a foreigner, or fight for what was fair, i.e. the same treatment as the locals.
I do wish I could make it a cleaner place, the pollution really gets to me and the state of the beaches and the filthy ocean are really depressing. But one day, maybe that will all change. I absolutely love living in Mumbai, but I do think, as an expat, that it is important to take a break from the city every couple of months or so, whether its a short trip to Goa, or a longer trip back to the UK, it is critical to get a breather and a perspective on the city which literally never sleeps.

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