Mumbai seems to be a city of contradiction. As the union of so many cultures, it exists between the old and the new. While some residents walk the streets in traditional clothing and speak the local language, they do so in the shadow of enormous buildings and well-groomed streets. During our time with Karan Khemka yesterday evening, he shared some fascinating insight about the nature of Mumbai. He told us that Mumbai is not an Indian city, and that it would be a mistake for us to assume that it was. He then explained that the city was both geographically and culturally distinct from the remainder of India. It had been its own city since its inception. While I first resisted the notion that Mumbai was not an Indian city, I now understand what that might mean. It is not that the city does not exist within India, but that culture makes it unique.
Just as there is contradiction between Mumbai and the remainder of India, there is also contradiction within Mumbai. Much of our time here has seen us oscillating between the extremes of rich and poor. Our first experience saw us visit the quarters of construction workers and our second saw us in an expensive apartment building. The next day cast the contradiction between slum and corporate office. Being thrown from one extreme to the other has made me feel uneasy in both surroundings. These shifts have also caused me to consider contradiction closer to home.
Andover is one of the wealthiest towns in the United States and it shares a border with a town that is radically poorer. Walking the streets of Andover you would never guess that poverty lives only miles away, but that is the nature of contradiction in the United States. While such conflict exists here in plain sight, it only exists at home behind closed doors. My experiences in Mumbai have demonstrated that contradiction is always present in the world around us. I will now make a more serious effort to find these contradictions and understand the context behind each of them.