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Ode to the Visitor

May 26, 2012

An open love letter to thee who visits me in Mumbai:


The Visitor may take many forms: backpackers rambling in from Sikkhim and Varanasi, corporate bankers in the Indian-Tiger Economy for 5 business days, volunteers gearing up for life in Calcutta, jet-set friends flying in for a weekend, sisters on a pilgrimage to where Baby Maeve call’s home these days.  The Visitor is always different, with an agenda and an expectation all their own (even when the absence of agendas and expectations defines the journey).


And I think it’s time to note why expats should celebrate all visitors. Sure, they carry tokens of home and Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese. They bring photos, new jeans, quinoa and camaraderie. But most importantly, they bring with them enthusiasm and wonder.


Life abroad can be hard at times. Every city gets monotonous, her flaws stand out sharply as you compare her to an inflated memory of home. Friends may call you and ask what “crazy wild experience” you had this week, and frankly the only answer you have is that you went to work and survived seven days. Just because we are somewhere new does not mean everything is foreign: feeling lost, helpless, frustrated, and overworked is unfortunately a familiar demon.


Enter: The Visitor. She reminds you that where you are is beautiful. He reminds you that every action you take is slightly different than the ones you took before. They alert you to the sensory experiences you have let go dull: the smell of the Tandoor, the film on your cutting chai, the sindoor in an auntie’s parted hair. She asks questions about why things are this way. You don’t always have an answer, but you start to remember when you too asked these questions…before you threw up your hands and said “It’s India, only.” Before you let this city just wash over you.


The Visitor has no idea that India is as tall as the US, as diverse as Europe, and as bureaucratic as the DMV. The Visitor thinks that you can visit three Indian cities in a weekend. Scoff at the idea and get anxious, but The Visitor’s blind faith pushes you to do it, to get out of Mumbai and get back to your main objective: Exploring. The Visitor thinks everything in Rupees is ridiculously inexpensive, and reminds you to part with some cash and just enjoy your life already.


But finally, the Visitor’s awe at the “Incredible India” reminds you exactly why you moved here. Why you bother to build a life and an identity in a place so foreign, so corrupt, so intense, and so rewarding. Why this challenge called Mumbai is ultimately worth it, and completely irreplaceable.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. shinhuh permalink
    May 28, 2012 6:56 am

    How do i “love” this post? where is the button?


  2. Nicole permalink
    June 8, 2012 3:09 pm

    So good Maeve!! I want to be a visitor soon 🙂

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