We arrived in Mumbai during India’s so called ‘bank note crisis’, during which people were queuing all day to get cash out and some even reportedly paid others to wait in line for them. As we were warned about this beforehand, we got rupees out straight upon arrival at the airport. With nobody waiting in line for the cash machine there, nor for immigration, everything ran perfectly smoothly. I even remember asking the immigration officer if ‘that was all’ and him saying yes – but nodding no… This Indian head wobble thing was something I would soon get used to.
My friend Aneree was waiting outside for us, in her car with chauffeur. It was lovely seeing her again; her enthusiasm about showing us the city in which she was born and raised made us feel really welcomed. She had a day full of activities in store for us, but first brought us to our hotel for some refreshments and a meal, which was great after all those long hours of travelling. During the car ride, I started to have the feeling of being part of a movie scene. Everything was so different, so full of colours – from the exotic fruit stands next to the road, to the beautiful traditional dresses the women were wearing. I was hit by a fragrance of local spices from the street shops and vendors who were all around. The roads were filled with cars, busses, motorcycles, cows and people trying to manoeuvre around each other. My ears were beeping from the noise of the many, many honking vehicles trying to find a space in the madness. There are about 22 million people living in Mumbai alone, which is more than all people of the Netherlands put together!