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Tuesday, June 5th. Woke up at 4:30am, gone at 5:30am, home at 11pm. What a day, what an experience.

Dinaz, our internship coordinator, invited Shauna and I on a trip to Matheran for the day. We knew little about what the trip would entail, but we knew it involved spending time in the mountains with kids, which won us over immediately. The boys and girls that Dinaz organized this trip for are a part of an organization called Salaam Balaak Trust (SBT), which opened its first center in 1989 as a result of the film, Salaam Bombay!. The film was directed by Mira Nair and most of the young actors who appeared in it were actual street children. SBT aims to restore street kids’ lives through bonding activities and education.

Matheran is like a completely different world and is nothing like the city of Mumbai. It’s a common vacation spot for Indians, especially those with an extra buck or two to spare. Before I get into why former hit series, The Simple Life, is all I could think about throughout the day, I want to talk a bit about what we did and the day itself.

Shauna and I met up with Dinaz and girls from Salaam Balaak Trust at the Mumbai CST, which was used in the film Slumdog Millionaire for the song Jai Ho. Around 6:30 am our train left for a town just at the bottom of the mountain, where we then took vans to the top. The train ride there and back are worthy of a post on their own, but I will say this, stepping foot onto a train in India means you’re willing to eliminate your personal space for the entire ride. The cars are separated by gender, and it’s a foot race to see who can snatch a seat. If there seems to be room to fit another person, they will make you push over every inch possible. The doors and windows are kept open, giving you the opportunity to hop on or off at any moment.

A view of a couple platforms at the Mumbai train station

Once we made it to Matheran, the kids got to grab a tree to plant before we began our trek around the mountain. I followed closely by as the kids chanted “Be Happy”, “Plant a Tree” and we made it from one part of the mountain to the next. I quickly noticed how much this popular vacation spot resembled the former reality TV series, The Simple Life, starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. The show broadcasted these two young, wealthy women working manual, low-paying, and unglamorous jobs. Wealthy people and unglamorous jobs is exactly what you’ll find at Matheran.

Even though Matheran is a serene place with remarkable views, I found myself distracted by the vacationers that were there. The vacationers were dressed in much nicer clothing compared to the dirty and worn outfits the workers had on. Practically all of the men there had on jeans and a brand-named polo, while their wives and children had on heels, dresses, and fancy saris.

To get from the entry of Matheran to wherever the guests were staying (there were numerous rooms and hotels to choose from), they were either brought by human-drawn carriages or by horse, their luggage being carried on the heads of both women and men. I saw vacationers just sit back and relax with their designer sunglasses on as the workers strained themselves just so the guests wouldn’t have to pull their own weight. I understand that this type of labor exists in many countries, but it’s just not a sight I felt comfortable seeing.

There was one sight in particular that I will never forget. I saw a woman on her iPad while riding horse-back, workers walking alongside her to make sure the ride went smoothly. All I could think about is why in the world would you bring your iPad to a getaway in the mountains that’s meant to be peaceful, relaxing and an escape from the hectic Indian city life. The iPad is probably worth more than a worker’s monthly salary. With all my comparisons to The Simple Life put aside, Matheran is truly a place worth visiting. The scenery and wildlife will take your breath away.

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