Mumbai Memoir 123- The surreal calm of Quarantined Mumbai!
It is been 7 days, since Indian government announced a complete ‘lock down’ of the nation that nurtures 1 billion plus people! My hometown Mumbai started shutting down since 22nd March 2020, when the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, announced a 1 day ‘Janta Curfew’ (People’s Curfew). I had predicted that the 1- day ‘Janta Curfew’ was a smart way to softly sensitize the nation of ‘staying indoors’, before aggressively & indefinitely ‘locking down’ from 24th March 2020 onwards.
A day before ‘Janta Curfew’ I was hustling to get the basic groceries, veggies and most importantly, arranging the back-up cooking gas cylinder. As I drove around in the vicinity of South Mumbai to pick up the essentials, I was bewildered to see Mumbai in a totally different mood! The abandoned streets, the shops with their shutters down, traffic signals erratically blinking & the ‘frowning’ concrete skyline of Mumbai, stood like a helpless street urchin looking at me with gloom. Like it would be for all Mumbai’kars, the city & its urban landscape has been the ‘constant’ in my life. And it was hard to accept that till the ‘lock down’ gets over, the ‘maximum city’ would be reduced to its ‘minimum’ functioning!
Due to the ‘lock down’, it certainly is difficult to cope up with such restrictions of movement. So far, the government, the police, the sanitation workers, grocers, basic utility goods vendors, media and the medical fraternity have managed to sustain a brave front to provide and protect the city, which is home to 12.9 million people! On 22nd March everyone stood at their windows and applauded for the people who are defending the city & the nation in their fight against the virus.
It’s a known fact that, when one practically cannot control the situation then what one needs to control is one’s perception. Also, it helps if we have some ‘coping model’ for reference to deal with such conditions of limited mobility. I am glad that I could create my ‘coping model’ that has been derived from 3 books and a film which I have read/seen in my growing years. The 3 books being ‘Ann Frank’s Diary’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ond6r5pafjw, ‘Majhi Janmathep’ (Marathi book based on the struggles of India’s freedom fighter- Swatantra Veer Sawarkar) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TMykYkvlzA (Documentary on Veer Sawarkar) & Victor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVhuCpgLCTE&t=172s have been my references to stay inspired and to ‘keep calm and carry on’ in these challenging times.
I thought to myself that, compared to the challenges and threats faced by Ann Frank, Veer Sawarkar & Victor Frankl in their extreme conditions, my quarantine life, at my own ‘sweet home’, is a ‘luxury’ in itself! Besides these books, the movie ‘Cast Away’ (Tom Hanks) can be a great morale booster in such ‘marooned’ times! When you empathitically compare your bad conditions to someone’s worse conditions, then the mind starts making a positive shift in one’s perception, and thereafter our bad conditions become no more ‘that bad’.
Through my article I wish to convey that Mumbai & Mumbai’kars are standing strong with the world to combat the pandemic of the new coronavirus. The ‘lock downs’ that we are witnessing of our cities are certainly for public good, and I pray that the world is restored to its usual buzz.
Meanwhile, its time to reflect on the surreal feeling of ‘hearing silence’ from the streets of our respective home-towns. Now that we have so much time at our disposal, it’s important that, we as world citizens, need to collectively & wisely interpret our city’s ‘silence’ and thereby make corrective measures to conserve our natural environment and also built our body’s immunity in times to come! Amen!
Shraddha C. Sankulkar (photos clicked from my car (a day before the curfew) and home window)