Travelling in India is always an adventure. When you first touch down in Mumbai you instantly experience India’s unique landscape: the crazy roads lined with makeshift shacks, faces everywhere, and the blistering heat. On arrival I was racing to the city centre in an old school Mumbai taxi.
The loud roar of the taxi buzzing out of the airport and onto the roads, signified the start of this adrenaline-filled adventure, and I am mostly talking about the roads. Seeing the sheer number of cars squeezed onto the highway was the first shock, with cars ignoring the neatly drawn white lines on the road, and creating their own patterns. And the honking, the endless, loud, and seemingly pointless honking.
On our second day in India we did what had to be done, and jumped in a tuk tuk. I’d seen them chug around the city on day one, and was all set for the next roadworthy adventure. The tiny yellow ricksaws have open sides, and as your driver attempts to race through Mumbai’s traffic, you find yourself stuck on Mumbai’s hot and busy streets for most of the ride. When our tuk tuk suddenly came to a complete stop, the driver sat honking and raging at the other cars and tuks, and our tuk tuk was immediately approached by a mass of children. They surrounded the three wheeler and tried to climb on board, desperate for their picture to be taken, or for an English response from us like “hello”.
I didn’t know what to do apart from being super friendly, take photos and smile at them. The children in India are the cutest little kids you will ever see, you want to take them with you in your tiny two-man tuk tuk and off the streets – but you know you can’t.
You are instantly faced with the horrific realities of travelling. As a budget traveller who is travelling the world for three years, I never have any money. Any money I earn needs to go towards food and the next flight. But it’s first world problems I face. These children have nothing, certainly not enough to leave India.
The most painful moment on that tuk tuk ride was when the driver shouted at the children to let go and sped off, even though their little hands were still attached to the rickshaw. Screaming and panicking that they had been hurt, I looked back to see their wide, infectious smiles still prominent on their small faces. How are these children so resilient? And I am so weak?
That first ride through the streets of Mumbai was the start of a number of life-changing journeys in India. As the tuk tuks stop and start, honk and howl through the streets lined with people, you have to take a good look at yourself and those happy children, and realise how topsy turvy life is.
By Charlotte Howell