The ferry left the docks with the squealing children, energized families and popular Bollywood music
playing in the background. Some gazed at the gentle waves and were completely lost in thought. The
fifteen minute boat ride from Gorai jetty takes the commuters to the Essel world and global vipassana
pagoda. Gleaming in the bright sun in the otherwise hazy days of July, the gold of the global pagoda grabs
more attention that the amusement park for many. Mumbai boasts of yet another landmark, this time in
the form of a global meditation center. It represents the spirit of our city, free from the barriers of religion.
Towering up to 96.12 meters, the pagoda stands on the land between Gorai creek and the Arabian Sea.
Amidst the gaming zones, the nightclubs, the shopping malls, the IT parks, the high rise residences, stands
the peaceful elegance of Mumbai. It is said to withstand all natural calamities for next 3 centuries.
“Remove your chappals outside, switch off you mobile phones and do not talk with each other” said
the guard in her soft yet firm voice. She had an unexplainable glow on her face. Dressed in blue shirt
tucked in black trousers and shoes, one cannot miss the fair skin, tight hair-bun, small nose ring and
sindoor that marks her identity. Kajal (named changed) moved to the city three years ago after getting
married. Originally from a remote state in Uttar Pradesh, Kajal has minimal formal education and stays in
the suburbs with her husband. “My husband, Mumbai and vipassana has changed me. They have given me
a purpose to live.” Back in her home town, working women are looked upon as taboo even in the 21st
century. Living in the village, she never aspired to work; even in her wildest dreams. She spends ten hours
a day at the global pagoda as a security guard. “I was so annoyed the first few months of my job. I had to
be here at 8am sharp. I had to cook meals for me and my husband before I leave. I had to commute, first
in bus, then train and again bus. Phew! I was tired. I wanted to go back to my small village.” Adapting to
this new lifestyle, Kajal says that this is the best thing ever happened to her.
The security agency she worked for then encouraged her to learn the vipassana. Kajal is not a
volunteer or trainer for the course, yet can easily guide on how to meditate. “I see the gray side of the
breakneck life. I see men craving for more wealth, children craving for hugs, boys and girls craving for an
escape from loneliness and an escape from the never ending rat-race, senior citizen craving for friends.”
She feels proud being a citizen of Mumbai. Back in Uttar Pradesh, she used to see on television was the
glamour and shine in the city. She used to see the Bollywood industry, the advertising and marketing
industry, the money minting IT and stock industry. “On coming to the city, I felt, the city needs peace. Now
there is no going back. Although minimal, I feel empowered that I am contributing in stabilizing the city.”
Why is resorting to meditation the ultimate therapy only after getting tumors the material wants?
Why can’t it be embedded in daily life? Wandering in the speedy life of the city, our mind fails to notice
the charismatic stillness. The stillness that is found in the nature. The stillness that is found in the sea, the
greatest gift to Mumbai. The stillness that makes us nostalgic as it takes us back in our memory lane, at
the same time pushes the tide forward to jostle us back to reality.