I go wherever life takes me. Today, life takes me to India. As I am writing this, I can hear the continuous sounds of blaring horns from cars, taxis and autos alike. The sun shines on the dusty streets of Mumbai as I look outside my window. People are walking around doing their daily business. Some work, some beg, some lay idle on the streets. Mumbai is known as the financial capital of India, and the booming economy of the area is evidenced by massive constructions going on. There are the rich, the poor, and very little in between. I get to experience both the bright and dark side of Mumbai. From the highest point of a lounge of a 5-star hotel, to the shoddy, dark and cramped slums of Mumbai.
|Some work, some beg, some lay idle on the streets, some do all of those|
The city is complemented by its people whose personality is as dynamic as the city itself. Along my stay for the International Interactive Workshop (IIW) at the Four Season’s Hotel, I have met so many locals, most of them fellow medical students who were very hospitable towards us. There were four Malaysians in the workshop, and before me and my friend Hannan went here, we had no idea that the other 2 Malaysians, Jasmine and Manissa were coming. We met during the opening ceremony, and since then four of us would go around Mumbai together with guidance from the Indian IFMSA President, Pratap Naidu, who happens to be a Malaysian citizen studying in India.
|From left: Me, Hannan, Pratap, Jasmine, Manissa|
He recommended the prominent places in Mumbai, such as the residence of the Bollywood star Amitabh Bachan and Shah Rukh Khan, the prime area of Bandstand Beach, Linkin Road shopping area, the Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel. The colonial era feeling was apparent as we walk around the Gateway of India and The Taj Hotel, where the gateway was built to commemorate the arrival of King Henry V to India during colonial times. We had dinner at Leopold café, a very old café that existed since colonial times. The foods here are might look similar to the Indian food we have in Malaysia, but many are wrong if they thought the taste is the same. The unique taste of the original Indian food could not be replicated anywhere else, and I have fallen in love with the foods here.
|Having Indian food at Leopold Cafe|
|This is NOT London. In front of The Taj Hotel|
|The Gateway of India|
The next day we went into the slums of Mumbai. The slum visit was one of the most eye-opening experiences throughout my stay in India. I am sure many have seen the Oscar-winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionare’, and many might have thought the movie might have exaggerated a bit on the part where they portray the slums. But they did not. The slums were just as it was seen in the movie, small, dark rooms, cramped, shoddy and dirty. This is where the poor live, and I have so much sympathy for them. But what surprises me from our interaction (via a translator) is that they are quite happy with the way they live. Some did not even want to move out of the slums even if they have been given the resources to. I have also been told that the child actors in the movie Slumdog Millionaire were actual child from the slums and their parents refuse the royalty payments from the movie because they want their children to stay in the slums.
|She is quite happy with her life|
|The children living in the slums|
At night most of the workshop delegates and us went to the Aer Lounge at the roof of the Four Seasons Hotel. The view was amazing beyond words. I have always loved city lights and the view from up here serves the perfect place to chill out from days of conference workshops. Of course, the drinks to choose from were very limited, I would love to have coffee up here but the closest they have was a mixture of chocolate, hazelnut syrup and coconut. It seems like a weird combination, but it tasted amazing. We really had a good time that night, playing ‘Truth or Dare’, taking pictures and just talking, getting to know more about each other. It was a magnificent night.
|At the roofs of the Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai|
The workshop itself was great in terms of content. I have always been interested in health policies and global health, and the workshop serves a great medium of understanding for me. I presented about the current Malaysian Healthcare but stopped short at 1 Care since there are still so many vagueness in the policy. I won the 'Best International Speaker' award for my presentation. Public speaking and presenting has always been my passion, and this serves as a motivation for me to live a life of traveling, writing (research and publications) and presenting.
|Before the presentation|
Today is my last day in Mumbai, and our next stop is Bangalore. I choose to visit Bangalore because I have so many of my friends there, and it is actually the place where I was offered to study medicine at before I decided to switch to Indonesia-UKM Twinning Program. I tried to imagine my life if I chose India. How different my life would be?