Mumbai Memoir -133- Glitter in the midst of Mumbai’s ‘darkness’!
This year’s 15th August marked the 74th Independence Day of India. Due to the COVID-19 ambiance most of Mumbaikar’s are experiencing a surreal gloom about the festivals that are approaching and passing by without the usual pomp and celebration. As the government restrictions on social mobility still prevails, everyone is confused and defensive about moving around. With exceptions to certain areas, to a large extent Indians have managed to maintain discipline, given the billion plus population of the nation!
Its natural to feel the gloom as there is a lot of suffering being experienced at various levels. The economy is spiralling down, people are anxious of their job status and salary cuts. Kids are feeling claustrophobic at home, lifestyle issues are popping up among adults, as ‘Work from Home’ is the new norm. In all this chaos it is obvious that one may not feel upbeat to celebrate festivals and enjoy like usual. But its important that we try to push ourselves to catch up with the festival vibe, irrespective of the ‘dark’ practicalities of life.
The Hindi (National Language of India) word for ‘festival’ is ‘Utsav’. The word ‘Utsav’ originates from the word ‘Utsaah’ (which means enthusiasm & energy). Thus, it’s a common understanding that the intention behind every festival is to generate energy and enthusiasm and thereby positively distract us from the usual rut of life. No matter if the scale of celebration is even minuscule, participation in the flow of the celebration of a festival creates blissful mindfulness, particularly if one has past positive memories associated with the occasion. This creates a mind shift which sub-consciously charges us positively to face the struggles of life.
On the eve of the Independence Day of India, from my apartment window, I noticed that most of the buildings around the South Mumbai skyline were being prepared to commemorate the 74th anniversary of Indian Independence. Every year glittering lights adorn the famous buildings of South Mumbai. Given the background of my neck fitness issues and the general gloom of the COVID-19 social atmosphere, initially I was not keen on touring around to witness the charm of the glittering building structures. But, when the Independence Day evening bloomed, I pushed myself to carve a positive memory that I wanted to associate with the Independence Day of my nation. As I drove all over South Mumbai, it was a delight to gaze at the glittering lights that created the illusion of the Indian flag fluttering over the respective buildings. Though the number of people around were limited, but whoever were present kept gazing at the lights for long. As I gazed at the tricolors of the flag, I had a moment of reflection, in which I could sense the power of the people who have contributed in the past & the ones who are currently contributing to make my nation proud. The struggles of the freedom fighters and thereafter the hardwork of the common man to pull the country towards collective glory is commendable. I thought to myself- ‘So what, if the pace of growth has come down? We shall rise soon as a nation’. The lights, as if were stimulating ‘energy and enthusiasm’ (Utsaah) within me to feel positive and upbeat.
As I passed by the Metro cinema area, I just could not stop myself to get down and gaze at the statue of a freedom fighter named Shri. Vasudev Balwant Phadke. In the late 19th century, he challenged the colonial rule and through revolutionary activities attempted to seek freedom in various pockets of Maharashtra. Though his attempts failed, his sacrifice and efforts are worth acknowledging. As I stood by the statue for a moment, a childhood memory popped in my mind. I remembered that when my dad use to take me and my brother for a walk around, my dad use to stop by the same statute, remove his footwear and join his hands with gratitude in the memory of the freedom fighter’s struggles. Dad use to tell us the stories of how once Vasudev Balwant Phadke fought by uprooting & flinging a huge bell of a temple on his opponents!
As I drove back home, I felt happy about pushing myself to create new positive memories that day. I believe, it is up to everyone of us to choose to either stay in the dark or push oneself towards light. Celebrating festivals during happy time has its own charm, but the real value of festivals is understood when one gets re-ignited with fresh energy and enthusiasm in the midst of a gloom. After all, the true value of light is understood only when its pitch dark!
Photo Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar