A CEO Mumbai Story
Two Months. Two Suitcases. One Unforgettable Summer. Special thanks to everyone who helped me on my excursion: the staff at the Center for Career Education, the Passport to India Program by the US State Department, Citigroup, the Aditya Birla Group, AZB and Partners, and my fellow interns!
Arrival Week (June 6-9):
It’s hot in India (well, duh). I expected tropical, humid, damp weather, but nothing quite like this. I timidly stepped out of the plane exhausted from a twenty hour flight, quite literally feeling out what the conditions were like on the other side of the world.
The experience walking out of the cramped economy class seat was interesting to say the least. The walk in between the plane and the airport caused my t-shirt to soak in the Mumbai humidity, as well as the smells and flavors of India. There would be plenty more of that in the coming weeks, but the only thing I could think about was moving into what I would call home for the next two months.
Upon arriving at the baggage claim, I saw just a small portion of the country’s innumerable population, making the airport experience a nightmare. At the end of 90 minutes, I finally retrieved my bags and ventured into the Indian heat a second time, bewildered by the throng of clamoring taxi drivers and car service providers. I found my man in a short minute and was soon carted off to the Columbia arranged housing.
Collapsing onto a bed created for a man of average Indian height (several inches too short), I closed my eyes to my new home and unpacked bags. India was to be explored properly the next day.
Together with two other interns, I proceeded to make what would be the first of many trips to the adjacent neighborhood: Bandra. There, I was introduced to Indian food for the first time at a restaurant that served completely vegetarian cuisine. Called Elco’s, the restaurant was full of regular customers, one of whom helped our troupe of interns pick from a menu that was as foreign as the food itself. The menu may as well have been written in Sanskrit, because after ten minutes of unsuccessful deciphering, a fellow patron picked five dishes for us to sample to our pleasant surprise.
Tasting food with names such as pani puri, stuffed paratha, roti, and butter naan, I walked away from the restaurant feeling a little queasy (again, an experience that I would revisit many times during this trip). Nonetheless, it was a productive second day as we were introduced to local transportation in auto-rickshaws and black taxicabs. By the end of the weekend, all eight interns had arrived in Mumbai and were exchanging hellos and numbers in due time.
There was a brief informational orientation hosted by the Columbia Global Center located at Express Towers, the same building in which I would be working for the summer. Incredibly helpful, the staff at the CGC told us how to navigate Mumbai and gave us a few travel suggestions as well. And after a tiring day, all the interns decided to get some dinner all together for the first time. The jet lag affected me the worst of all the interns, apparently. While some had an arsenal of sedatives and caffeinated drinks to combat the time zones, I was found sleeping in a rickshaw (very dangerous given the fact there are no doors or seatbelts) going to Bandra during one particular outing.
At the restaurant, I half-finished my meal and nearly fell asleep on my plate in the middle of my seven friends in a relatively public area. Soon, I closed my eyes and nodded off while sitting in the restaurant booth, paying no mind to my fellow diners. While no one attempted to draw on my face, a few of them snapped a cell phone picture or two. I kindly asked that all of these pictures not make it to Facebook. So far and to my knowledge, none have surfaced.