The first day has me exploring Mumbai on foot, the honks of cars, the smell of smog and fish mix in my mouth like a toxic molotov cocktail, the dirt from the street is tossed into my eyes and I’m excited to find out what this city has to offer! Within the first 30 minutes of exploration two young gentlemen start to follow me. Both seem particularly interested in who I am and where I am from. My guard is instantly heightened by their overly interested behaviour, I lower my voice, keep my strides long, large and calculated, assume natural dominance and continue talking to them with confidence. If there was anything that being friends with an experienced Spanish policeman taught me, that was how to assert a relaxed dominance. These boys continue to follow me on both sides…a little concerning but I remain calm. They ask if I have been to India before and even though I had only just got off the plane, I say “yeah this is my 5th visit Mumbai”.
Travel Tip #1 If someone you’re not sure about asks you how long you’ve been in a country it’s generally best to say more than, ‘err this is my first time here’.
They attempt to maintain an empty conversation before deciding to leave. I pass the day getting my sim card, bearings, some seriously spicy yet delicious street food and decide to chill with a few Indian travellers by the Gateway to India before the night walk home.
On my journey home I notice the crowds starting to thicken. Something’s happening up ahead but I have no idea what it could be. The next thing I know I hear a clanging of metallic blades and screams of pain. What the hell is going on!? I cautiously walk closer to see huge Islamic flags with human blood on them. I attempt to remain calm and ask a local nearby what the smeg is going down. He tells me it’s a blood ritual called Ashura being performed by the Shi’ite Muslims as a way to remember the pain and sacrifice the grandson of Muhammad went through. Local men would slash their backs with blades as a way to remember the pain. Quite a welcome show India, I must say!