Mumbai is a city full of continuous contrast. From the sweltering sun that sticks to the skin outdoors, to air conditioning raised so high it causes hands to shake and mouths to shiver indoors. Contrast is found again in food. Some dishes are so hot, they send the mouth to burn, while other yogurts are so cool, they can ease the most burning of pains. Perhaps the most visible contrast is the economic inequality, with skyscrapers and luxury hotels that share the same road as slums. Or the bountiful health of those who drive cars or ride in air-conditioned busses who share the same route as those suffering from malnutrition, those who walk, begging. And then there is the contrast of the emotions that I hear within me. This sensation is unlike that I often find myself in inside the comfort of the Andover bubble. It is different from the laughter from a friend's story after the sting of a bad grade. Rather, it is the sensation of a full spectrum of contrasting emotions pulsing within the body that comes and goes within a single moment. Gazing out a bus window, taking in the vibrancy of the pace, the determination of the street workers, the optimism of a tower being constructed, from the bottom up, the frustration of the existence of slums, the admiration of a mother with her pouring love for the child beside her, the hopelessness in the eyes of the child beggar, the empathy for the living conditions, the excitement for a city that seems to be constantly growing. Within each event -- the simultaneous eagerness for sitting in front of a corporate panel, taking in the words of those who lead change and those who I aspire to become, while also being smacked with a deep sensation of guilt, the recognition that I am sitting in an air-conditioned room of the Four Seasons, munching on a meal so costly, it could have contributed to some of the discussed issues. Again while in a slum -- while walking through the pathways of Dharavi -- hit by a sadness that I'm still incapable of fully translating into words, yet warmed by the smiles and sense of community. The instance of seeing a woman hunched over, hands busy molding a clay pot, feeling both pity for her working conditions -- surrounded by trash, and little access to clean water -- yet a deep admiration for her work ethic, the recognition that she has come to Dharavi with a purpose and she is filled with a determination that fights against even the poorest working conditions.
Contrast. Constant contrast, day in and day out, with a transition of emotions so intricate it challenges even the complexity of an embroidered carpet or the confusion of Mumbai traffic. I have never felt so confused or overwhelmed as I have these past two weeks -- through the smiles and the stings of reality, the laughter and the tears -- the constant contrasts. It is a challenge. Everyday I battle with the contrasts that Mumbai offers -- the black and the white -- and everyday I work to reflect and discuss so I can discover the gray.