Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crossing the Street in Mumbai

Since arriving in India in early January I've been trying to cross the street. The first night in Delhi at my b&b I told my host I was hungry and she said that there was a good restaurant just across the road. She offered to show me the way so she walked me to the road and pointed. "It's just there," she said and left me.

For twenty minutes I stood frozen. No one stopped for the red light. No one stopped for the "walk" sign. Basically no one stopped. I watched a few locals weave their way in and out of cars, trucks, taxis, rickshaws, but it seems I am made of lesser stock. Finally I gave up, returned to the b&b and with tears in my eyes ordered in.

I can't say that things have improved. In Varanasi a fellow hotel guest told me that someone told her to cross the road as if you are a sacred cow. That is, just walk into traffic and hope for the best. In Calcutta I never even tried.

But now I am Mumbai and more or less on my own. This morning I decided to take a walk. I would be brave. Look both ways and venture out. Again I failed. I paused for so long at one corner that two rickshaws stopped to see if I wanted a ride.

Then a red street dog came and stood next to me. I watched as the dog looked both ways, ventured out, dodged a few vehicles, ignored one or two screeching brakes and made it across. If a dog can do this, well, then I can, right?

So I looked but the wrong way. A rickshaw almost ran me down. I tried again, stuck out my hand like a native, cars weaved around me, but at last I have made it to a bagel shop with WiFi where I am writing this from the other side.


  1. Hi there!

    I just wanted to stop by and wish you best wishes on your trip. I am more than ecstatic to know you kept a blog online. Also, I completed reading The River Queen a few weeks ago and loved it. It really was emotional for me at first, but your style of writing allowed me to feel more comfortable and it truly kept me reading to the very end. It allowed me to reflect upon my own past relationship with my father, who passed away two summers ago. I almost cried when the book ended!

    Anyhoo, I will have to bookmark this blog so I can continue reading about your journeys throughout the world. Thank you!

    P.S. It IS odd to move through the world without coffee.

  2. This sounds completely terrifying - but I'm glad you triumphed. Sometimes the "small" victories are actually the biggest ones.

  3. Thank you both for your comments. Troy, I am touched that my story moved you in that way. Are you Tija Spitsberg's student, by any chance? Anyway I appreciate hearing from you. And FYi I am drinking ice coffee in Mumbai!!!

  4. Yes I am! I love the class thus far and am excited we will be writing our own self portraits. And I am a huge fan of ice coffee.

  5. Again, your words touch and move me and help me build confidence in my own choices. We can either stand, wait, and watch or be the red dog.

  6. Bethany, this is beautiful. I never saw it that way until you said it. Yes, we can be the red dog! Thank you for this!!!

  7. And, Troy, enjoy the class. You have an inspired teacher. And iced coffee should be on every writer's menu.

  8. ps, Bethany, you are the red dog!

  9. I had a similar experience once in Mexico, I was crossing the street and people crossed before the traffic light was on green, it was too dangerous