Farewell 2012…Hello 2013

The 31st day of 2012 in Mumbai has arrived. There is nothing unusual about today, as the city goes about its usual business, building its way to the crescendo……12:00 am, January 1st, 2013. It is a little over 6 pm and the firecrackers have already started, which is quite annoying and frustrating, because it does nothing for me, except gives me a taste of the evening ahead.

But more than commenting on the revelry and celebrations that are going to happen, I would like to take a moment and comment on the distress that some of the Mumbaikers are experiencing with the recent events in Delhi. As you may already know, on December 16th, a 23 year old girl and her fiance, boarded a bus at 9 pm, after watching a movie – The Life of Pi, to be precise. The girl was gang raped on the bus and her fiance could barely defend her. The rest of the details are too gory to describe. The least said, the better. She struggled for her life and was flown to Singapore for multiple organ transplants; and on December 29, she passed away, and hopefully, not in vain.

Even Wikipedia has an entry on the case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Delhi_gang_rape_case

Delhi is certainly in mourning and there is a certain level of sadness nationwide. I myself, am not in the best of spirits to indulge in the senses in the name of New Years. The nation has woken and I, amongst the millions of other people, pray that stronger measures and policies are created that protect women and women’s rights in India.

On another note, when I personally reflect on the year gone by, it’s been my first complete “chronological” year in Mumbai. Like all other life transitions, this move to Mumbai and the year 2012, have had their fair share of ups and downs. I have experienced the death and revival of my spirit, all in one year; the celebrations and grieving of my life left behind, in the last 12 months. It’s been a journey alright, and moving to Mumbai has  taught me many a lessons about myself.

Like 2012, I suspect the year 2013 will have many a more lessons that it will throw my way. I only hope that it also provides me the courage and strength to deal with the new year’s challenges. We live in very challenging and demanding times, and the world is turning topsy-turvy with every minute.

This New Year, let us pledge to take a moment or two (everyday) to be kind to ourselves and to others. For it really is in giving, that we receive.


Of Slums and High Rises

I am still amazed by the levels of disparity this city, so proudly, exhibits. There are no qualms about the vast differences between the rich and the poor. A few weeks ago, I spent the weekend at a friend’s place who lives in a high-rise building; on the 21st floor, to be precise. It was my first time spending the night in a high-rise in Mumbai, and it was an experience, for sure.

As I stood out on the balcony in the morning, I was in awe of the vision I beheld. Several yards ahead of me, was a beautiful skyline of Mumbai’s finest high rises, each one more stunning than the other. I managed to take a few pictures of them. Of course, they are not very clear, thanks to the bloody levels of smog that cloaks this city at any given point in time:

Mumbai's high rises (and don't miss the Mahalaxmi race course that is in the foreground of the photo)

Mumbai’s high rises (and don’t miss the Mahalaxmi race course that is in the foreground of the photo)


These high rises are mushrooming all over the city and one has to pay a very steep price to possess a flat in such a building. One of the most coveted buildings in Mumbai are the World Towers, in which World One, is projected to be thee world’s tallest residential tower. This building will be located in Mumbai’s Upper Worli, the new Beverly Hills of Mumbai, where a number of high rises are making their way into the city’s skies. The highlight of this tower is that the interiors are designed by Armani/ Casa….you can only imagine the rest. And if you can’t, please note that the tower is set in 18 acres of land and is as tall as 1400 feet, and offers a host of facilities and amenities to cater to every taste and senses one can imagine. Someone I know who is currently working on the project, mentioned to me that the lowest price to buy a flat in this building starts at INR 10 crores ($ 1,815,646.67),  going all the way to INR 50 crores ( a mere sum of $ 9,078,446.67).

When I stood at the very same balcony and I looked right below me, I was amazed, but not surprised, by what I saw: a major slum that sat pretty amongst the high rises and the race course; amongst the affluence and pretentiousness. This sprawling slum was a stark contrast to the previous image; a deep reminder of the several shades of life. On one hand, there were people where money poured out of every pore of their body. On the other hand, there were people who probably did not know where their next meal was coming from. Such is the tragedy of Mumbai, amongst many. Have a look:


Interesting contrast of the slums against some of the high rises:


I am no longer shocked or saddened by such contrasts. I have come to accept these as part and parcel of living in Mumbai; as one of the many characteristics of vibrant Mumbai. But the universe always has a lesson to teach me and I had a good laugh when I stood in the very same balcony and looked to my left. Lo and behold! I was greeted by a Christian cemetery that was plonked right amongst the towers and the slums. And it reminded me of the impermanence of things, the impermanence of material things and the illusion and seduction of this vast city that constantly lures people into believing they are in the land where dreams come true.

The Graveyard - where we ALL end up, eventually.

The Graveyard – where we ALL end up, eventually.

Rich or poor, black or white, privileged or unprivileged……we all end up in the same place at some point or the other. In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter if you give in to the city’s seduction or if you struggle at the raw fringes of society.What really matters is your humanness and how you conduct yourself in times of sadness and joy, in times of tragedy and success. What matters is not the material wealth and exuberant house you may live in, but the gratitude you develop for the simple pleasures of life.

My latest mantra is “Develop an attitude of gratitude”. Some days are harder than others, but I still try and I know it’s worth it.

Another high-rise in Upper Worli, Mumbai

Another high-rise in Upper Worli, Mumbai

Dusty Mumbai – Dirty Mumbai!

One of the most irritating things about Mumbai, and something I just can’t stand in general, is the dust! Yes, my friends, I am talking about pounds of dust that just float in the air on a daily basis, any time of the day or night. Even though Mumbai is a mega metropolis, the lack of good road infrastructures, massive construction sites around the city, and the uncontrollable fumes and exhaust from the millions of cars that buzz in and through the city, make Mumbai a magnet for dirt, grime, and dust.

There are no words to describe my irritation when I walk into my house and I see a layer of dust sitting pretty on my furniture and windows, barely two days after the maid has dusted the house! My god, where does this dust come from? All the windows at home have to be shut, even though I hate them being shut. And yet, the dust finds a way to creep into the house and make itself comfortable on every bleeding object and furniture there is. Even our window panes get greasy and dusty just barely after they have been cleaned with Windex.

Just last Sunday, we called in professional cleaners, who came in with all their machinery and spent 6 hours cleaning the windows and furniture in the house. They did a pretty good job and the house was spotless. I was relieved and relaxed, being in the luxury of an immaculately clean house. But like all good things that come to an end, this too was not meant to last. Within 48 hours, the dust was back, with full vengeance this time. When I asked the cleaners how dust creeps in, they said that since there was so much of it in the air, it just floats into the house through any tiny cracks and crevices in the walls, especially when you live on the main road, like I do. Technically, I do not live on the main road. The lane on which I live used to be a quiet, peaceful lane, with a handful of cars passing by. Now, this lane has become host to big trucks, schools buses, and a battalion of cars, that find it more convenient to travel through the smaller arteries of my neighborhood, than get stuck in the gruesome traffic of the main road. What used to be a peaceful neighborhood has now become a haven for two and four-wheelers that whiz in and out of these smaller lanes, bringing with them, all the possible dust and fumes that one can imagine. Don’t even get me started on my thoughts on the quality of air in Mumbai!

By the way, the cleaners also added, “Madam, this problem of dust is the bane of the entire city of Mumbai.” I was not surprised.

I can’t imagine that I have moved from San Francisco, where I literally had to dust the house once a week, to Mumbai, where I am surrounded by dust, both in and out of the house. I am trying to make peace with the fact that I may never be able to have a house that is dust-free or have minimum dust. It’s challenging to do so when you have a high sense of hygiene and cleanliness, like I do. Let’s not forget that I also have an OCD about clean furniture…..but just don’t have the time or patience to maintain them in Mumbai.

Oh, the quandaries of living in Mumbai….will they ever end?

Resiliency of the Human Spirit

Life in Mumbai is hectic, sometimes painfully so. Over the last few months, I have been in deep awe of the ability of the human spirit to survive and revive, even in the wake of madness and chaos. When I think of my own strength and belief to make this massive transition from San Francisco to Mumbai, I am amazed by my ability to thrive and make the most of, what appears to be, a dismal situation. Be it the large-scale corruption, the pollution, the astronomically high cost of living, the increasing population, and even the incredible poverty that I come across on a daily basis, I find that my spirit is able to rise above all the uncertainty and find meaning in and have gratitude for all the experiences that are thrown away.

I am becoming increasingly aware of this idea even as I continue my work with my patients – each one has a story to tell, some of them extremely disheartening and others not so painful. Day in and day out, I hear the stories and narratives of these people, all of whom are struggling and dealing with life and its challenges. Each story is different; each tale is unique. But the theme that is common to all their stories and to mine and yours as well, is the idea of resilience.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines resilience as follows:  “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” I believe the human spirit is resilient by nature, even though sometimes it is hard to imagine so. There is a certain spark within each one of us that is eager to blaze into a fire, even in the most dire circumstances. And it’s not a question of whether this spark will burst into flames or not, but more a question of time; for some, it is longer and for others, it happens before they even know it. But it does, one way or another.

When I am walking around in Mumbai or traveling by train, the resiliency of the human spirit is so blatant, that it’s always inspiring to me. Whether it is the homeless boy doing all that he can to earn some money or whether it is the 3-legged stray dog that is determined to cross the road in heavy traffic, no one in Mumbai ever gives up. Perhaps, Mumbai herself has a resilient spirit or maybe this is all a grand illusion, a game of some sorts? It doesn’t really matter.

I have learned, in my 14 months in Mumbai, that my stay in this city is directly proportionate to the choices I make. We all make choices on a daily basis: some are wise, some not so wise. But they are our choices, and we must live with them. I made a conscious choice to move to Mumbai, and though in the beginning it was very tough (and sometimes still is), I am beginning to realize that I must learn to make the most of my choices, and with each passing day, I am able to make peace with this idea.

Freddie Mercury states it best in his song The Show Must Go On. Hope you enjoy the video: