in Mumbai

My only real symptom is that I’m tired. I’ve got my appetite back, I don’t have a fever, and I never turned yellow. Really I would feel totally healthy, if I weren’t so tired.

I’m also a little disappointed, though I try not to be. Bad enough that I missed the first month of my program waiting for my ankle to heal, but now instead of heading off to Ladakh I have to sit and wait for my liver to heal! But luckily this time I am not sitting miserably killing days at home; instead I’m at my grandparents’ house in Mumbai. And hep E, while annoying, is not threatening, chronic, or very long-term, so hopefully I’ll get to have at least a few minor adventures of my own while I’m in the city. Right now the most I can manage is going to one place or meeting one relative each day, and mostly I just sleep and eat and sit and sleep and eat and sleep some more.

People here tell me it’s hot, and I think they’re probably right. But after the beating sun and dry, scorching winds of Banaras, Mumbai weather feels pretty nice. It’s cool in the morning and evening, and there’s this strong breeze off the ocean that I find really refreshing. Every day I happily throw open my windows to greet the sun and wind, only to have them blown back shut in my face. Then I more slowly open one side at a time, and latch them to the sill so they’ll stay.

My clothes have caused people here some confusion. Since I didn’t bring many western clothes when I came to India, most of my outfits are proper salvar-kurta-dupatta sets I bought in Banaras. They’re comfortable and cool, and were the appropriate thing to wear there. But for cosmopolitan Mumbai, they seem very old-fashioned and dowdy. People I meet are surprised to hear I’m from America because I don’t dress like it.

I’ve also been struggling a little with the perception people here have of Banaras. While some people tell me with a laugh that I saw “the real India,” as if Mumbai were somehow just a Bollywood creation, many classify my city as “backward” or “dirty” without a second thought. They praise me for the fortitude they think it must have taken to spend time there, but don’t really understand why I would have wanted to.

I like Mumbai, the breeze and architecture and convenience. But I miss Banaras. I miss the ghats, the blaring street music, the smiles of strangers. Sometimes I even miss the cows, but that may be excessive nostalgia. Mostly I miss my friends there, and the independence and purpose I had. Guess it’s time for me to start finding a little independence and purpose here now. At least once I stop sleeping 14 hours a day.

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