It’s January 22nd 2019 and County Kildare man Robbie Downey is sitting alongside fellow Jockey and friend Leigh Roche in the departure lounge of Mumbai Airport. The pair are waiting to board a flight to Kolkata and as they do so Robbie thankfully takes the time out to return a WhatsApp call I made earlier in the day.
Downey arrived in India two months previously in November for their winter season, not knowing what to expect and leaving the safety net of his family and friends many thousands of miles behind him. And though there was always going to be a certain amount of fear and trepidation, he took the jump, feeling he had nothing to lose; “Ahh yeah to be honest I felt the timing was right. Things had gone a bit stale at home and I had moved to England for a short period but this was something that I always felt I wanted to do so when the opportunity arose I grabbed it with both hands. I am grateful Leigh is over here as well as it could be a lonely place without a familiar face. ”
“I came here in November for their Winter Season. Coming over was a bit of a shock, one of my first thoughts were oh no what am I letting myself in for, this reaction hit as the plane began to descend into Mumbai. I could start to smell the river as it flows out to sea and the unbearable stench of the sewage coming from it. When we hit the city of Mumbai itself for the first time the first things I noticed were the people everywhere, the constant noise and the heat that just hit us when we got out of our taxi. Walking through the city I found there is so much pollution, mainly from the fumes of the exhausts and to be honest I found it hard to breathe at times. In fairness though we found out pretty quickly that the lifestyle is okay for jockeys over here. I found that the natives around Mumbai are either really rich or really really poor. It was a wake up call to see people starving to death on the side of the road. It woke me up and made me realise how lucky I actually am.