Our second visit was to a NGO, working with development and social issues in the outskirts north of Mumbai.
This day proved to be the longest and sweatiest day so far, with a two hours long bus ride combined with Mumbai’s warmest day in a decade with 38 degrees (you might have noticed publications in the media reporting about 50 degrees in Santacruz). Fortunately the day’s visit was just by the coastline, so we were – somewhat – chilled down by the breeze from the ocean.
CSA is an organization I’ve met and interacted with in Bangalore, two years ago in Christ University. There it was ruled and organized by students, where their main work focused on development issues in the slum areas nearby the school. Those issues consisted of, for example, arranging sponsorship, tutoring, kindergartens and women’s groups for the inhabitants. In Mumbai the organization worked in much the same way, concentrating on the fishing and farming communities living in the areas (called the Dhavali Islands).
We were picked up by our van – named Zundin’s Royal Fleet – together with CSA: s administrative chief who welcomed us at TISS. After an hour’s ride my email contact, and chief of the organization, Mario Mendez joined us (It seemed to me as a strange name, since the man was obviously from India. Though during the day, we met and interacted with a lot of the CSA: s staff and all with the same Spanish indication. We came to the conclusion that it was maybe common between Christians to change their birthnames to, for example Fernandes D’Silva and Antonio Gracias. A bit confusing, but interesting though).
As we left the city (which took approximately 1.5 hours driving) Mario gave us some guiding about our surroundings. Just outside the city, we drove past huge areas of salt banks productions and could for once enjoy a drive without hysteric honking and a pushing crowd. While driving, Mario told us about the environmental issues the area that we were going to suffered. Most urgent was the establishment of Mumbai’s garbage dump, a project which had failed miserably and poisoned the whole area and made nearby farming impossible. The dump was, for some mysterious reason, located on a hilltop and its liquid would therefore flow (rinna) downhill during the monsoon. Its consequences could be easily seen in the river areas, where the inhabitants used to wash their clothes in a peaceful area now found the place a messy mud impossible to wash anything.
Arriving to the headquarter, we were given a brief introduction about the organization and its establishment. Later on, we went to visit the villages nearby. Our first visit was the most memorable one I believe, where we all entered a big church-like building with a dozens of kids gathered nicely on chairs. When we came in they all started to applaud and greet us while walking, slightly embarrassed, to the scene were we had nine chairs prepared for us. Meeting the children was a great experience, as they are always the happiest and most forward ones to talk to.
Our day continued with two other villages, one a fishing community and the other one a farming community. We interacted with a women’s group and walked by the beach were they keep their nets and talked a lot with the locals. Since they all relied on the weather conditions most of them were poor, since their income was most unpredictable. The women we met though were most energetic and even gave us a dance show. That was also a great meeting.
As the day passed by, we reached home by 8 pm and were all exhausted. It was a short dinner and then back to bed.
The warmest day in Mumbai was over.