Mumbai, India: In Between

Karen Russo, part of our recent expansion of reporters stationed around the globe, blogs:

There is something about being away from home that is making me crave American music -- really outdated, really uncool, sappy American music from the 90s. (I know it's uncool and a friend told me I shouldn't admit this to anyone, but...) There’s a line in a Counting Crows song ("Round Here" YouTube video) about being "in between" and I didn't understand it until now because in India, most days, that's what I feel: "in between."

In between reporting, in between uploading files, in between shoots, stressing, checking in with my mom, traffic jams, endless meetings for my apartment. In between all of that and much more, I find myself in between being a part of this country and watching it move past me like it's a film. When I am stopped in traffic and a beggar outside my window holds out their hands or touches my arm, I feel like I am viewing something, not experiencing it. What do I do? Do I avert my eyes? Do I give money? I breathe a sigh of relief when the traffic light changes.

I feel proud of myself for learning my way around the city, but within moments, that emotion turns to anger -- because I nearly get run over by a cab. I’ve been here long enough to confuse myself into thinking driving on the right side is normal. Wait is it? No, it's not. All this is "in between," this comparison, this asking myself -- Was it like this in New York? When did it become normal for me to fight a taxi driver for cheating me out of 10 rupees? 10 rupees? Would I scream at someone over a penny in New York?

So this "in between" is what broke my heart the other night when I realized I was not "in between," that this isn't a movie and when I saw a little boy asleep on the sidewalk, he was really there. I thought he may be dead. He must have been about 8 years old, but I have seen toddlers bigger than him. His body was tiny, the size of a doll. His limbs so skinny, he must have weighed 25 pounds. Maybe. I wanted to pick him up and take him home, clean the city's filth off of him. But then what? What could I do with him? There were no parents around. I had no money on me, but grabbed my friend who was walking ahead of me. "Give me some money," I said. I took 10 rupees and placed it in the boy's hand, thinking it would wake him and he'd clutch it. But he didn't stir. I was afraid someone would steal it so I sort of tucked it into his sleeve. He didn't move. I walked away.

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