The first thing I noticed when stepping beyond the doors of the airport terminal in Mumbai was a potent cocktail of vehicle exhaust, human feces and burning garbage. The haze that I'd mistaken for fog outside the airplane window hung in the air everywhere, obscuring the far edges of the taxi bay and bringing tears to my eyes. The humidity lay thick in the air.
I stumbled over to the designated vehicle, handed the prepay slip to the driver and hunched down to fit myself and my backpack into the little taxi. Noticing the buckle but not a strap, I reached back to fumble with where the seat belt should be. The driver's "no-no-no-no" was the only English he would speak for the whole trip as he motioned that I shouldn't try to dig for it behind the seat.
Even at 6am, there were cars all over the roads. Pulling onto the highway, we merged into the thick soup of traffic with no look but a loud honk that raised my blood pressure. I got another start when, looking ahead for some landmarks to indicate I was on the right track, a ragged group of children emerged from the shacks by the side of the road and raced across 6 lanes straight through the middle of traffic.