Mumbai is a city surrounded by questionable stereotypes and mixed messages. Telling people I’d be moving here, I was always initially met by surprise, followed by the most distant range of emotions. There seemed to be 2 categories, and 2 categories alone:

  • people who adored Mumbai,
  • and people who absolutely hated it.

Growing only more curious, I had to go see for myself and develop my own opinions.

2 weeks into Bombay life, I figured I’d share my experiences and first impressions with you.


Equal parts excited and frightened, I boarded my plane from Kathmandu to Mumbai on a Sunday afternoon. Looking around and realizing I was the only white person on the Nepal Airlines flight: I knew my journey had started. In just 24 hours, I moved from the peaceful Buddhist monastery (a blog about my week there is coming up) to the madness of Mumbai’s streets.

This switch symbolized the theme for the weeks to come: contrast. My first 2 weeks living in India have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, moving between awe and panic, between celebrations and mental breakdowns.

The ups & the downs

Let’s start with all there is to rejoice in. On free days, I hop from one creative hideaway spot to another hipster cafe, taking a rickshaw (those are the Indian tuktuks) for 30 rupees as soon as I get tired or lost. I had the privilege to attend an Indian wedding, and dress accordingly as an Indian princess (hence the lehenga fit in my picture, yes, and the fab makeup by my new friend and MUA Aanchol). I’ve met like-minded and very welcoming locals, who besides lending me their stimulating conversation over brunch and drinks, have been going out of their way to show me and tell me about the best things in town.

Which brings me to the next highlight: eating and trying out all the tasty snacks and dishes around. It’s all spicy AF which I love, and the Indian people are as confused about my love for spicy food as the Spanish were about me not eating jamón. Take pani puri, a pastry ball in which they pour spicy water juice being sold in little stalls on every other street corner – I know it sounds weird as hell and I was skeptical myself, but one serving is enough to convert you for life. Then there’s sathya, a Kerala dishes which comes served on a banana leaf and is eaten with hands. Not to forget, I work every day from and for Ministry of New – a design-inspired co-working space and being voted the 2nd most beautiful co-working space in the world, it’s undoubtedly the most beautiful space in Mumbai – alongside a community of very impressive freelancers and entrepreneurs. These are the ups.

Then there’s moments in which I find myself absolutely lost and low. Not knowing where I am, taxis refusing to take me on or not understanding my destination even though I give them Google Maps (it’s still a mystery to me why they can’t read maps), people following me down the street for a few minutes and angrily screaming at me in Hindi for no apparent reason, and others pushing cameras in your face to take pictures of you without asking (I know it sounds unreal but yes, this actually happens all the time). Then there’s a daily 3-hour commute from which I regularly get so sick I have to throw up. And the noise, the noise never stops – even when you’re inside or it’s night. These are some of the struggles.

My days have been not a gentle swaying, but a crude slinging, between these alternate impressions and emotions.

Although a seemingly empty statement, the best way to describe it all is to say that it’s a lot.

Bombay lifestyle

India being the birth place of yoga, contemporary Bombay lifestyle has very little to do with this historical sentiment.

Everything seems to hit you harder here. Your rest seems futile, your meals heaven sent, your hangovers deadly, your commutes a quest. People work late, generally starting at 10 and finishing at 8. There is always shit happening and invites being thrown at you left and right; festivals, art weeks, parties, dinners, events. The hours pass by in the blink of an eye, and a single week seems to hold months worth of activity. Boredom is not an option and perception of time is skewed.

Beneath the thick layer of excitement, I feel physically and mentally exhausted.

I assumed this intensity was just my subjective experience and a natural side effect of moving to a new place. But all locals confirm that they struggle to find their equilibrium in this town, being pulled from one impulse to the next. Bombay life is characterized, to all that inhabit it, as hectic and like the city itself, full.

Why you keep calling it Bombay?

Right, about the name. So when I came here I noticed how everyone here still refers to the city as Bombay, not Mumbai. It turns out the guy responsible for that renaming back in ’95 was a nationalist dickhead so out of principle locals rather not endorse it. Thank you Suleiman for the quick history lesson on this.

All in all

The other day I was calling my mom and she asked me if I liked Mumbai? To my own surprise, I realized I didn’t have an answer to that simple question.

It’s all been so unfamiliar and overwhelming, it’s hard to make up the balance. Besides, Mumbai couldn’t give a shit less whether you like it or not. It just goes on buzzing, hustling, and honking of course.

Do I like the fact I came here to experience all this? To that I know the answer: yes.

There are some very comical and some truly challenging difficulties to fitting in and adjusting here. It would be naive to think that there wouldn’t be.

Although some days are easier than others, this culture shock and wave of new influences is exactly what I came here for. And it does not fall short.

Yours truly,
live from Khar Social (a fantastic hipster cafe here),

PS: If you like to follow my day-to-day adventures in Bombay, connect with me on the Gram!

A lot of people ask me 'Why Mumbai?' (of all places?!), stressing how it's such a weird pick. All I can reply is 'that's exactly why'. – I was craving a change, a culture shock, an experience that would confuse my worldview and turn my conditioning inside out and upside down. Although I've travelled and lived in multiple countries before, they were all Western and developed nations. I wanted something else, the next level. It was quite a gamble and there were (plenty) moments of absolute fear about what I was doing. But without risk no reward right? – So off we went, and my ballsy move seems to be working out. It's too early to truly rule a judgement but so far, I'm absolutely loving it! I've only been here for 5 days now and slowly getting a hang of things. I got my crib, a Jio with unlimited data (#JioDigitalLife), my daily commute figured out (thanks to #olacabs), spending my days in the most beautiful co-working space I've ever set foot in (@ministryofnew of course) and meeting inspiring and international likemindeds every day since arrival (you know who you are). – To think that this is only just the beginning. Bombay, I'm ready for you ??? #mymumbai

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