Mumbai Memoir 124- Feeling ‘Human’ in Mumbai City!
Its 4.30 am & I sit by my living room window to write this article. The dawn skyline of Mumbai city looks like a thick ‘seismograph’ that goes across the horizon. The traffic signals, flashing the amber light have been blinking since the lock down. Soon at around 5.15am a mosque nearby announces the call for the Fajr (dawn) prayers. Somewhere among the skyline, the canopy & the fluttering flag of the Mumba Devi temple blesses the first morning sun rays that kiss the ‘ailing’ city to rise with hope!
Indeed, in these dark times, hope is what the city needs, amidst the medical and administrative problems that are being faced due to the coronavirus pandemic. Mumbai, being the financial capital of India and, & with the city’s lock down now exceeding beyond 21 days, it’s clear that India’s economy will soon need a ‘ventilator’ for its survival! The markets, industries, offices, entertainment hubs, restaurants, local businesses are all shut down to combat the virus.
The handicapping conditions that we all are experiencing is totally new to all because no one has a reference model from the past, to deal with the situation effectively. But I realized that, in such times having a veteran around you helps, especially if over the years he/she has closely witness the fall and rise of the city.
My mother, who lives with me, is 78 years of age today. As we both experience the ‘quarantine time’ together, she nostalgically shares interesting tales of Mumbai city which reflects the resilient spirit of the Mumbaikars.
After her marriage in 1963, my mom came to Mumbai from a small coastal town named Harihareshwar in Maharashtra. Just after 2 years, in 1965, India was at war with Pakistan. Though most of the action was in the North of India, but Mumbai suffered massive financial trauma from that war. Later in 1971, India was again at war with Pakistan over the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) issue. Mom reports that a lot of financial and social restrictions were imposed on the citizens during those war times. Both the times, she has experienced curfews, black outs and random sounds of sirens alerting the public to stay inside their homes, was an everyday scene. In the blackouts the radio sets were the only source of news and entertainment then. Mom reports, ‘There was a constant fear among the Mumbai’kars that fighter planes would fly over the city and kill us all in one go!’
My elder brother and myself were not born then to witness it first hand, but, as mom reports, ‘that in spite of ambiguity, threat, confusion, those war days had created a beautiful chapter in her history, cause it was a warm feeling to see everyone standing together to fight it out collectively. Above all, in spite of the differences, the war had literally brought all of the joint family members together!
There after Mumbai collectively suffered on two more occasions, where the financial and social machinery was crippled for few months. One being the 1992 bomb blasts & the communal riots that followed it & the other being the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in 2009. Rising from the ashes like a Phoenix, Mumbai and Mumbai’kars bounced back in record time!
But now with the Coronavirus threat in the city, I asked my mom as to how we should cope with this medical scare? She smiled and replied, ‘Strictly follow what is instructed by the medical & administrative experts of the city (Discipline), secondly we humans must reflect on our prior lifestyle which needs correction for this to not repeat again (Knowledge) and above all, believe that good times will come’ (Faith)!
Reflecting on what mom had said, I could clearly sense that though it is unfortunate that the virus has crippled Mumbai’kars and the world too, but it has also been the reason for uniting the world, as one large joint family. It is astonishing & delightful to see even rival nations co-operating with each other in the ‘war’ against the coronavirus. At our personal level, notice that most of us are helping each other at home, feeding the poor & homeless (both people & animals), genuinely connecting with dear ones, a tleast digitally, taking out time to look beyond oneself & practicing empathy. I wonder, prior to the pandemic, had the ‘human’ in us got lost in the machines, IT & Artificial Intelligent based world that surround us, until the virus pulled us out and made us to ‘feel human’?!
NOTE: Offering my condolences to all the families who lost their loved ones in the pandemic & praying for the health & safety for all.
Photo Courtesy: Shraddha. C. Sankulkar