I watched the fishing boats from nearby Machhimar Nagar pulling into the small bay outside our home — it is an annual ritual. But this year, it became a symbolic moment for me. Each year, I wait to see when these boats will find their way here, to safely anchor and wait out the monsoon, till the seas are safe again. They arrived early — I guess Cyclone Yaas was responsible for the changed schedule. Fisherfolk, the world over, understand the seas and tides instinctively. They read nature through cosmic signs most of us miss. There is so much to learn from these wise people who, through the centuries, have decoded complex natural phenomenon far better than today’s advanced satellite systems.
Seeing the boats bobbing up and down during the glorious full moon night (Buddha Purnima), I felt strangely comforted. I had been woken up at 5am by the ‘glare’ of the moonlight streaming in through the large picture window. I foolishly rushed to capture the moon’s luminous beauty on my cell-phone! Suddenly, I stopped. Like most of us during this maddening pandemic, I had also started obsessively capturing every special moment, instead of being IN the moment and enjoying it. The full moon gave me immense hope — it heralded a more benign period ahead. Rightly or wrongly, I thought it was conveying a message to the world, that Covid -19 has done its worst. We can start looking ahead with renewed confidence that we are on our way to defeating the virus.
Of course, this is going to take a while. The sixth month of the year is a whisper away. In Mumbai, the numbers are looking less sinister. The by now ‘Mumbai Model’ is being recognised and praised generously — justifiably so. As of now, Mumbai is seeing a decline in the number of cases. This has been possible thanks to the well-coordinated efforts of those manning the ‘war rooms’ and dashboards, making sure there were meticulous follow ups and close tracking, leading to better management systems. Credit must be given where and when it is due. The ‘Mumbai Model’ is not perfect — agreed! Flawed or otherwise, it is achieving results that inspire confidence in citizens. This should not lead to smugness and complacency. The battle is still very much on! But thanks to the commitment of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray and the dynamic BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal, Mumbai has not taken as big a hit as was feared when the second wave caught India unprepared and off guard.
There is no point in chest thumping (too premature), and comparing Mumbai to Osaka. Every country and every city has its specific coping mechanisms and ‘success’ stories to share. Osaka is Osaka. Mumbai is Mumbai. We should be proud of our city and its unique struggle, without drawing comparisons. It is equally simplistic to urge citizens to stop ‘India bashing’, as if anybody derives pleasure from doing so. The horrific realities are there for all to see. You just have to watch Barkha Dutt’s incisive and hard-hitting reporting to comprehend the pathos of those leaving hundreds of Covid corpses in shallow sand graves along the banks of the Ganga. Is she making it up, as the camera clearly captures the macabre reality of a system that failed? It’s easy to term her and all those critical of the disastrous handling of the second wave as ‘traitors’, ‘India bashers’, ‘anti-nationals’ or ‘paid agents’. Try telling that to the grief-stricken relatives of those who lost family members, helpless and unable to access basics — forget ICU beds. Call them ‘India bashers’ if you dare!
The bald truth is the leaders at the Centre failed their country during its worst hour. History will remember and judge, even if we try and forget the horror of being forced to become helpless bystanders as tragedy after tragedy unfolded. It is easy to pontificate from a distant podium and lecture country men and women to look the other way, and ignore those funeral pyres. It doesn’t have to take a Covid death in your own family to feel for those unfortunate fellow citizens, forced to abandon their loved ones on the banks of a river they worship.This is also not the time to seek pats on the back for a job that demands an uncompromising commitment to saving lives — do it because it is right thing to do. Not for garlands and trophies.
So, please… spare us the platitudes. It is not about bashing or praising India in a stupid vacuum. It is about having the courage to confront the truth — no matter how unpleasant it is.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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