Published in Bombay Times 31st October 2006 Walk along Marine Drive.
Sit on Juhu beach. Watch the sea. That vast expanse of water. The limitless horizon. The tide rising and ebbing with the phases of the moon. The waves flirting with the shore.
This tide saw you as a child, searching for shells in the sand. These waves will carry your ashes when you die. Such is the sea. Ever-changing. Never-ending. Patient. Mysterious. Holding Mumbai in its liquid palm, caressing it along the shores, nourishing it with water, and helping it regenerate year after year after year. The sea is Varuna, source of water, source of life, source of all things. Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, is his daughter. The father surrounds Mumbai. The daughter resides in Mumbai. Together they breathe life into the metropolis.
Varuna gives the rains which fill the lakes of Powai. Varuna gives the salt when the water evaporates in the pans of Vasai and Navi Mumbai. Because of the sea Trishna and Mahesh Lunch Home can create mouth-watering cuisines. And what do we give the sea – garbage and sewage, tons of it, every day. The sea does not mind. It regenerates itself and continues to give, asking nothing in return. The sea does not have to be tilled. Its wealth is always ready for harvest. But one day, the sea which sustains life, will take life away. That is the way it has always been. Ultimately, on the day of Pralaya, the sea will rise and dissolve all existence into a formless, nameless liquid mass. We got a taste of the sea’s fury this monsoon. The sea is where all things come from. The sea is where all things go.
Krishna drew the city of Dwarka out of the sea which became the home of the Yadavas. Years later, after Krishna left the earth, the sea rose and reclaimed Dwaraka. Arjuna, the Pandava, wept in memory of that wonderful city. Suddenly an image flashed before his eyes. A little baby, gurgling in excitement, suckling his right toe covered with butter, lying on a Vata (Banyan) leaf that was cradled by the waves of the sea. This was Krishna giving Arjuna a message. The baby was the symbol of renewal, the Vata leaf the symbol of permanence. The stormy sea represented the interplay of creative and destructive forces that weave this ever-changing in the world. Nothing lasts forever. But everything returns. Nothing is permanent in life but everything is cyclical. What goes around, comes around. Eventually.
So why despair. Enjoy the moment like a child relishing rich creamy butter. Every year, Mumbaikars visit the sea, after the rains. To immerse images of Ganesha, and a month later, images of Durga. The gods and goddesses go away every autumn. But we all know that they will return the next year, and the year after that and after that. Like the rains. Like the flooded streets. Like the pot holes. Like our moods. Like the traffic jams. Like the elections. Like the fashion shows. Like the stars. Like page 3. Like the day which follows the night. Like the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon, the dancing waves, and the rising and ebbing of tides.