A philosophy I developed before coming to India and which has really taken hold here is to see whatever happens as the best possible circumstance. Sometimes, of course, things just suck and it’s healthier to admit it than to shove those feelings under the rug. Other times, however, things may not be as bad as you think. By being open to new possibilities that arise in what initially look like crummy circumstances, I have had some wonderful experiences.
Last night I had to work pretty late to get some marketing materials out the door for our new MBA Social Entrepreneurship Journey. This normally wouldn’t have been that big of a deal except that our office sits in the middle of the Mount Mary Fair that has been happening this week and it was going to be nearly impossible to find a rickshaw, let alone an affordable one.
Initially I decided to take the bus from our office to Bandra station where my chances of getting a rickshaw would be much greater. When I got to the bus stop, however, a guy who was also waiting for a bus informed me that the last bus going to Bandra station had left ten minutes prior. I started walking, only to have him run up to me a few minutes later and let me know that there actually was another bus going to the station and that I should try to hop on as it drove by (the busses have to drive pretty slowly through the fair crowds). Unfortunately, however, as the bus drove by, its door was crammed with people that there was no way I would be able to get on. So, I started walking.
I didn’t know how far I would have to walk before I would be able to find a rickshaw and so kept walking through the entire fair (past some lovely pears and some adolescent boys listening to a robot yell at them in Hindi). After passing the last little stand selling flashing light-up birds, I continued to flow with the huge crowd walking down the street—they had to know something I didn’t.
Something funny happened after about ten minutes of following everyone—they suddenly veered left down a tiny alley between two dimly lit shops. After hesitating a minute (it looked like they were all just heading to their homes), I decided the number of people was too great to ignore, and darted in after them.
Left, right, around corners, under low hanging clotheslines we walked, I felt like a was being swished back and forth down a winding waterslide. The narrow streets were lined with homes and small businesses. Each new turn brought a new discovery—mourners in all black crammed into a doctor’s waiting room, piping hot stacks of naan (bread) at a streetside restaurant, a closet sized electrician’s office filled to the brim with circuit boards and wires. Left, right, left right, like exploring Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
Suddenly I saw it, “Bandra Station,” scrawled on the wall with an arrow. You could easily miss it. Pretty soon, I saw it again, and again. As soon as I would begin to doubt whether I was going the right direction, I saw it again. Bandra station was a ways from my office, but I figured if I just kept walking…
All too soon, it was over. The magical alley spit me out in a wide corridor that was bloated with music to echo the festival. Straight ahead I saw busses, and stretching diagonally above me, a bridge. Soon I had my bearings and directed my feet toward the auto stand.
En route, I met a gorgeous little girl named Anisa, whose father made her kiss my cheek (sure, why not). I taught her a few words in English and her father taught me a few words in Hindi. Shortly after they left, I saw a stray auto and asked him to take me. His offer was too high. I couldn’t believe my luck when, three minutes later, another auto drove up and agreed to take me home for the price on the meter—just as it started to rain!
When I left the office, exhausted and ready to zip away from the obnoxious fair horns as soon as possible, the last thing I would have wanted to hear would be that I would walk most of the way and it would take me over an hour get home. After experiencing that journey, however, I feel like I’ve seen a new side of Mumbai. I also feel more confident in my ability to navigate the city and literally, to go with the flow. Hopefully the next time I’m forced into a circumstance I don’t expect, I will remember this experience and be open to the new possibilities that that circumstance presents.