Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Where I grew up, we were always surrounded by three places of worship. The temple of the village goddess – Jarimari, the Madina Masjid and the Our Lady of Remedy Church. These three structures were symbols of the identities of the people who inhabited this part of North Bombay. Most winter mornings, we could hear the azaan and a few hours later, we would be walking past the morning mass happening in the Church, the morning aarti going on in the temple nearby.

All festivals were celebrated with much gusto with exchange of sweets and treats every time. Getting mutton on Bakrid from at least 2 to 3 households was not uncommon, or getting marzipan on Christmas. It was a cultural immersion of a different kind. This helped me to welcome all religions, beliefs and festivals with equanimity and never without any ‘othering’.

If you were to carefully look through the history of the city, communal clashes have taken places indeed, but there are many other examples of harmonious living. Every neighbourhood has a dargah which welcomes people of all faiths, and novenas are observed by many during the feast month of September for Mother Mary. The same goes for the crowds at Mahalakshmi and Mumbadevi – both temples dedicated to the powerful goddesses attract people of all faith.

This is also the spirit of Mumbai. This is what defines us. This is what we need to preserve. One of our focusses through our exploring Bombay walks at Breakfree has always been to erase these imaginary lines drawn to divide, and instead celebrate the diversity that exists between all of us. In the times to come, the city’s fabric maybe challenged but we must remember that it is the diversity that makes us so strong. It is this harmonious coexistence that propels us and makes us who we are.