Living in Mumbai has taught me a few many precious lessons (I can always count on this city for some deep learnings 🙂 ). One of these lessons is the idea that, at the end of it all, no matter how rich or poor, educated or not, we are all vulnerable creatures; we are all prey to the claws of suffering, be it on an emotional, psychological, physical, and/or spiritual level. And what do I mean by “vulnerable”? I think the Oxford Dictionary describes it best in the following sentence: “Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
Mumbai is a city of stark differences, in all realms and respects. Think about it: you have the biggest slum in Asia – Dharavi – that is housed withing Mumbai, inhabited by approximately 1 million people. In the same breath, the city is also home to thee most expensive house in the world – Antilia – a 27 storey building that is estimated at US $ 1 billion. Talk about stark differences! But it is through these differences that I am becoming increasingly aware of the common thread that links one Mumbaiker to another, and that is our susceptibility to vulnerability. The differences in lifestyles, access to monetary income and gain, access to basic facilities, and opportunities for a better life…these differences are not ignorable and sometimes leave a heavy dent in how I live in and what I think of this city.
Beneath all the hoo haa of living and surviving in Mumbai, there is a certain fragility that lies in the fabric of the human psyche. One tug of the fabric, and under certain circumstances, the human mind can collapse. And no matter how rich or poor, educated or illiterate, civilized or uncultured you may be, you are still susceptible to this fragility. I may be talking in circles, and perhaps this is a reflection of my own fragility and state of mind, but I hope I am coherent in what I am saying.
What I am noticing, through my work with my clients, my interactions with my help at home, and through my friends and relatives, that nobody is free from being vulnerable; everybody is exposed to suffering, at one point or the other. However, what I am curious about is not the cause of or the amount of suffering, but what we chose to do with it in our lives. Do we allow ourselves to sit with the sense of fragility and vulnerability and be with the discomfort? Do we look at it deeper and try to make meaning of the discomfort? Or do we look the other way and pretend it does not exist? Do we ignore the discomfort of vulnerability by distracting ourselves through media and social interactions? Does allowing ourselves to be vulnerable mean that we are weak? Do we allow the vulnerability to make us “tough people” or do we allow it to soften us around the edges? The possibilities are endless.
At the end of the day, we are all vulnerable creatures, some of us trying to live, and most others trying to survive. Mumbai is a tough city, and the perils of making a life here does make one vulnerable at different phases in their life. Let’s aim to flip the discomfort into a creative process, whether it is blogging, cooking, exercising, spending more time with friends and family…. and however you may chose to deal with it, remember to not push the discomfort away.