Day 1 – Saturday
7.30am and 12 nervously, excited travellers assembled at Heathrow airport, eagerly anticipating the flight to Mumbai. The team, gathered from across southern UK, have come together to join young believers from churches in India. Our purpose to serve them and bring them encouragement as later in the week we will be sharing with them the fun of the U:Day conference. The pre-event publicity has whetted our appetites and we are looking forward to times of worship, bible teaching, fun and games and much more. This first day is mainly a travelling day and we boarded our plane without incident.
We landed in Mumbai at 1:30am local time to be confronted immediately with the bustle of this great Indian city. The queue to get through security was the longest and slowest that I have ever seen as it seemed that all of humanity had descended at the same moment upon the customs hall. We consoled ourselves that at least this would mean that our suitcases would be on their way through, cycling on the carousel when we got through. How naive? Another long wait, watching bag after bag pass in front of our noses, until at last we were all reunited with our baggage. Now the simple matter of going through customs. But this is India, more queueing to have our bags scanned before we emerged into the Mumbai night air. Even at 3:00am the area outside the airport was heaving with people and full of the contradictions that everyone reports. Bashed up auto rickshaws rubbing shoulders with state of the art luxury airconditioned cars. Street vendors, beggars, people sleeping on the pavement. My only real surprise was that the smells were not as overpowering as I had been warned. Our first experience of Mumbai traffic was moderated by the early hour. Exactly as forewarned we learnt that Mumbai drivers have three controls – a horn, brakes and a steering wheel which they use in that order! Bizarrely it seems to work, and our drivers squeezed through gaps in the traffic that I would never have dreamed of attempting.
4:00am saw us arriving at the apartments that seemed to be managed by a convent, where we crashed to our beds for a few hours sleep to ready ourselves for an early start in the morning.
Day 2 – Sunday
6:30am and the alarm went off. Not sure how much sleep that I had, if any! Time for a quick shower before going down to the floor below for breakfast of fried eggs, bread, coffee, doughnuts – all served by nuns! Time now for another dash across the city, this time our driver was Joshua. He seemed to get enjoyment out of winding up other drivers by obeying traffic lights and generally observing the rules of the road. I also learnt another principle of Mumbai driving – everything has priority over autorickshaws. Fortunately we were in a car so we had right of way!
We arrived safely at church and just like home the worship started to a 2/3 empty room. Just like home the room filled up during the worship. I was taken for lunch by a lovely Indian family to a nearby restaurant where we enjoyed great food before returning to the apartment to catch up with the others who had been to other churches in the city. For our evening meal we were taken to Domino’s Pizza, the sight of 16 people crammed into 2 cars was something to behold, as was the dogem drive through the Sunday evening streets.