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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Never Seen Before

We were hanging out with some of our fellow teachers here in Mumbai, talking about the good and the bad of living in this enormous city. Amidst all the complaints that were raised, one of them made an interesting comment. She said that, no matter what else was going on in her daily life, she could always count on one constant: she would get up each day secure in the knowledge that she would ALWAYS see something that she had never encountered before in her entire life.

As I reflect on our time here, I realize that she is absolutely correct. One of the most fantastic things about living in India is the visual avalanche that we are confronted with every single day. That got me thinking about some of the sights that have already become part of our daily routine, and decided to start noting the incredible variety we see around us. While this will not be a daily updated list, it will be something that I add to from time to time.

Things I’ve never seen before coming to India

  • People drinking from puddles on the side of the road
  • 6 people riding on one motorcycle (kid on handlebars, dad driving, kid behind dad, mom with baby, kid behind mom)
  • Donkeys eating trash in the street
  • Trucks driving down the road loaded with rebar (iron poles) that are twice as long as the trucks themselves
  • Piles of husked coconuts for sale
  • Black rats scurrying along the sidewalk
  • Policemen walking their beats with 4 foot long “crowd control” wooden sticks
  • Green parrots singing in our window wells
  • Two men balancing a mattress on their heads walking down the road
  • Whole families sleeping on mats along the road
  • Crowds of people standing along the side of the road, looking up at an apartment balcony, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite Bollywood movie star
  • Water buffalo being herded past the gleaming buildings of the financial district and diamond trading center by barefoot teenaged shepherds
  • Baby chicks being sold from wire cages along the side of the road
  • People sorting garbage by hand along the side of the road, in dumpsters, even in the back of the garbage trucks themselves
  • People burning small piles of garbage to keep warm
  • People urinating and defecating along the side of the road, in fields, on the beach shoreline during low tides, etc. In fact, coming home from school we passed two kids squatting in the street, and I had a full front on view of the feces being squeezed out in a nice, yellow/brown pile. I’d never seen them actually coming out before.
  • Shave and a haircut, in open air barbershops, alongside the main roads. Sometimes the ‘professional’ is a 10 year old kid, merrily shaving away with a straight edge razor!
  • A boy tied an old rope under a street sign, sat in it, and used it as a swing
  • Water buffalo swimming in salt water, ducking their heads below the waves, and eating seaweed
  • An old hippie playing a saxophone on the beach, as men stripped down to their underwear for swimming and women went in with their full sari wrapped around them
  • Giant fruit bats, obnoxious ravens, and white egrets all sleeping in the same trees outside our apartment
  • Goats trimming the grass in the raised median between traffic lanes
  • Funeral processions behind hearses that have glass sides, providing a clear view of the open casket inside (and other processions behind hand-pulled carts, with the body on top wrapped in a blanket)
  • Swastikas decorating buildings vehicles, shrines, temples: even used on advertisements
  • Men with bright red henna-dyed beards and hair
  • Miniature statues of Hindu gods and saints stuck on vehicle dashboards, stickers of them on the sides of cars, and paintings of them all over commercial trucks
  • Kids playing cricket in a field full of goats
  • People carrying bundles of wood (or anything else) on their heads
  • A bright orange statue of an elephant god, carved into a slab of oceanside volcanic rock, that is visible only when the tide is out
  • Men carrying full-sized refrigerators on their backs across crowded streets
  • A woman washing herself in a mud puddle
  • Two ceramic urinal bowls being carried on a man’s head
  • People playing a ring toss game to win bars of soap
  • An outdoor pool being cleaned by someone taking a deep breath, diving to the bottom, and scrubbing off the algae until his air runs out
  • Cows with painted horns, colorful necklaces, and tinsel wrapped around their ears
  • Good luck statues made out of animal dung
  • A woman walking (nay, dancing) with 13 clay pots of water balanced on hear head
  • A flat screen TV being carried down the road in an ox-drawn cart
  • A shoeless, shirtless, pantsless man (no goggles or gloves either) – with basically just a towel around his waist – operating a jackhammer in the middle of the street
  • Men selling handmade wooden stools at stoplights to people in cars (an impulse purchase?)
  • Crowds of people beating up drivers that (they think) caused an accident
  • An old woman swinging a nine-pound hammer, breaking concrete at the side of the road