MEMORIES AND MAGIC OF MUMBAI: THE CITY MAXIMUM
“And my heart will go on and on………”
This ‘song of the century’, originally composed as an instrumental motif left the strongest remark when that chaotic destruction sunk in one’s heart. The melody which became Celine Dion’s signature song that used to awaken nostalgia in our flabbergasted minds back then is now giving off completely overwhelming feelings about the city of Mumbai.
‘Memories’: Lord, let them bloom beautifully in me, despite my city living like a displeasing broken stem. On repeat in my mind, the joy of some of the old, profound background scores is holding on to the truth in the middle of this tragedy and constant fear. I’m quietly watching what’s happening in and around the city I so dearly love and adore, and have for years. Coming to Mumbai was like coming to the city of sparkling dreams where life was like a vision board. Either it was deciding what you wanted and bringing that into your reality, or it was choosing images from the previous day’s adventure and the most appealing episode on your list got stuck on the board. Adding words and phrases to real-life events, friendships, and love connections was rather the fuel to the fire you needed to achieve your work goals of glitz and glamour. Celebrations happened every week, you just had to pick, choose and join the party. Life had an exciting buzz and thumping cadence, like cars zooming through the streets as if on a fast-forward filter. We were making good money, spending better, rocked and rolled without thinking too much with eyes set on the future that was sure to be brighter than the present and the past. There was so much fire and chimera of brightness around the sorrows and failures that came along the way that the latter could never take over the shine of positivity – a beautiful, surreal skyline, brilliant blue coastal beach, and lush green monsoon magic. Grounds thundered with the beats from nightclubs close by, while a selection of different cuisines was unlimited to fancy with attractive presentation inviting us to indulge in the most glamorous ambiance. Bedazzled banquets of all the plush hotels were just regular spots to frequent. The local boutiques used to be filled with numerous choices of any price range, and the weekend was looked upon like this big festival coming up where party parades upscaled any kind of boredom that sank in for validating one’s self-worth. Life was like being in the Disneyland of India where every corner of the city evoked something to galvanize thrill and joy. Getting lost in discovery was the essence of life.
THE SUDDEN CHANGE THAT SHOOK EVERYTHING
Come February 2020, with talks of COVID-19 hitting China and Italy badly, the only timeline we had thought of dealing with the impending issue was for a few good months and moving on with our usual routine. The new concept of a quarantine life sounded like a fancy break from all the social commitments one had to deal with, and people revelled in some officially granted downtime being locked in the house. I too started baking, making cocktails, and indulging in some soulful reading which got me in sync with mindfulness and the conscious choices I was making; it helped to filter the best out of what I was blessed with. My mind attained a rarer form of peace and the space I got from people and social life, at last, gave me the breather I very much needed. Introspecting and trying to reunite with my inner circle was the whole and sole motive of life.
“An amazing thing happens when you get honest with yourself and start doing what you love, what makes you happy. You ride the wave of life, feeling content and letting it take you wherever it wants. You’re calm and grateful, and it’s like a veil has been lifted, baring you to a fresh, new, joyous perspective.”
Honestly, how blessed were many of us that during this global pandemic, we could afford to just stay cozy at home reading books, getting educated, continue working online, creating art, talking to our loved ones, having a kitchen stocked with fancy food choices, a WiFi connection providing the world at your home screen, all this with very little worries. Overall, life had kind of got locked in, nature was healing, and the human race got stuck with masks, waiting for this unsolved virus war to meet peace. Mumbai looked beautiful from the lenses of the visual creators, roads were empty, and the ocean was calm and clear. Trees were breathing by the roadsides and Mother Nature was recuperating from all that bumble we had created and ended up exhausting its resources for decades. I realized it was that time of a transition where lifestyle was going to shift its meaning for good. Whatever we lived was ending so that a new chapter could begin.
Deep down the core of this city’s ocean, something was getting churned and the after-effects were on their way up, like a calm before the storm which will be called the second wave. This was the mere idea we had played around in our minds sitting in our houses, waiting for this lockdown to get lifted. However, this wasn’t it; no one knew what was going to surface from deep down.
MYTHOLOGY OF SAMUDRA MANTHAN
In an excerpt from Hindu mythology, Indra – the king of the gods was once riding on his elephant, and he came across sage Durvasa who offered him a special garland that had been given to him by a nymph – a beautiful maiden. To show that he is not an egoistic god, Indra accepted the garland and placed it on his elephant Airavat’s trunk. It so happened that the flowers of the garland attracted some bees that infuriated Airavat and in a fit, he threw the garland away. Seeing this, Sage Durvasa got enraged that Indra did not consider the garland as a prasada to bring fortune, and didn’t treat the gift accordingly. He cursed all gods or devas to be stripped away of all their powers and fortune.
Power can be so heartlessly driven by ego and anger; it never makes harmony in the longer run. How do we blame the system when supremacy is lost in supervision? With Gods being powerless, they were defeated by the demons who gained control over the universe. When asked for help by the devas, Lord Vishnu suggested churning the legendary Ocean of Milk together with the demons to obtain the nectar of immortality and share it. This was the event of ‘Samudra Manthan’.
It was an extensive process that also released many other elements from the ocean, good and bad, including the deadliest poison called Halahal. By the end of the long process of churning, it was the heavenly physician Dhanvantari that got Amrit – the nectar of immortality out of the ocean. To protect everyone, the great Lord Shiva swallowed Halahal and was declared the lord of the lords. This symbolism of consuming poison to transition into a new life, new world by breaking the old narratives and universe of the old system can be applied in today’s times too. It’s a prayer and wish to close our eyes and focus on our mind’s third eye to connect to Lord Shiva to gain power from his sacrifice and strength, and to gulp the poison of our unethical lifestyles down, making the world a better place for all living beings and the departed to achieve the ultimate peace.
It does feel like Samudra Manthan today when our lives are facing a dangerous virus in the air, natural calamities are turning human grounds upside down, animals are being sacrificed in the battle of superiority, and there’s no end to this battle our race is fighting for survival. The Maha Kumbha is celebrated at those four places where the resultant Amrit’s drops fell on the Earth. They are supposedly the purest places in the Hindu religion that used to be considered as the result of the blessings from gods; they are today the sites of causing more deaths and misery in people’s lives. Were those lives lost even close to moksha? I wonder what kind of salvation will this churning of human life which we are witnessing leads to. It is still a mystery in my head.
PRESENT TIMES OF REALITY
Coming back to now, when I’m visiting the hospitals around, thinking about whatever best I could provide with my own plasma to save lives. This experiment has eventually failed trials and is now of no use. All one can do is only keep trying from their very best capacity; it makes me think like this is demons’ work in the making. Humanity is fighting to breathe and there’s not enough air provided to the lungs, whether it’s for young kids, the rising youth, or for senior citizens who have lived their best life in their past years. Rich and poor, all are fighting for the same air, gods, in the form of doctors, nurses and all are working on the front line of these hospitals, armed in their spirit, doing the best they can. While on the other side, many dignified middle and labour class people are breaking their silence to earn their daily living out of broken or almost closed businesses. 1% of the top layer is claiming that the economy is booming, while the rest are suffering underneath the same lifestyle. The same city where life was at its highest buzz is so quiet today. The roads are empty, there’s no thunder underneath my feet anymore. Outside food is only getting supplied to the doorsteps and celebrations are boxed up inside phone screens without the human touch or warmth being shared out loud. Silence has become somewhat permanent on the face of the deepest cry my heart has ever felt within, and life is waking up every morning just to be able to survive through the day, only to be grateful for the air it breathes. Days are passing by and my heart goes on in hopes of normal days to come back soon.
The city where I have lived to the fullest – like I never had any life before coming here – is in a stark dilemma of life and death. My heart is pulling the same strings of music again and again which is kind of rankling to hear now. But the same melody goes on and words seem to be leaving that tune, wanting to never come back. The song of the century with lyrics to pine for has gone back to its instrumental version in my heart, and no matter how hard I try, words will only make meaning when healing is completed and there’s no struggle to breathe back into the buzz of Mumbai. But, as seen time and again, the spirit of Mumbai never flinches, and I’m sure the sun will shine upon this sempiternal city once again, burning the negativity and gloom away forever.
Mumbai meri Jaan is in a battle to breathe life back into itself, and it is going to win.
My heart awaits…..
And never let go till we’re gone.