Climate change of every kind
From secret vaccine trials to all kinds of urgent action from civic gods, our sutradhars share their concerns in a pandemic-struck Bombay
"I bet you're hiding a smile in there, Pheroze," teased Lady Flora, egging her friend to reveal what the reason for his being in a good mood was when they met for their weekly night walk around Fort and Colaba. These were inexplicable times and the tiniest ray of sunshine was always welcome.
"You have magical powers, Lady Flora; I was smiling," confessed Sir PM, adding, "And, you will also break into one after you hear what I am about to tell you." Lady Flora's ears had perked up like antennae. "Pheroze, you're killing me with suspense. Spill it out!" she commanded. "Well, my good friend Dr. Viegas -- actually, the great Dr. Viegas -- is secretly working on a vaccine with his old associate WM Haffkine. They hope it will be a strong contender among so many that are being developed to help us fight this rampaging virus. I have full faith in my friend but can't reveal any more details; it's top-secret information," shared Sir PM, looking chuffed after making the grand announcement.
Lady Flora broke into a smile, as Sir PM had predicted. "I am delighted that your friend is finally taking the plunge to help save us from this terrible scenario. He has the brains and the past experience to come to the rescue of this city. Lady Flora was referring to the bubonic plague that hit Bombay in 1896. It was Dr. Viegas' medical knowledge and diagnosis in identifying the disease and his insistence that the Governor of Bombay invite Haffkine to step in that saved citizens at that time. "Now, we must keep our fingers crossed, and hope that the dream team recreates their medical magic," wished Sir PM, as he recalled a few chapters from back in the day when the city fought the plague.
'Miss the crowds'
"Bombay has been hit hard and needs to stay resilient. Look at the rate at which cases are showing no signs of decreasing. I miss the crowds, Pheroze; they add so much character. I was reminded of the poor guides who earn their daily wages by bringing tourists to see me, and the other city landmarks. What must have become of them? Sigh," she trailed off as they crossed Oval Maidan.
"If I were to look at an eye-opening, positive side to all of this, it would have to be that we have become more aware of the need to preserve our environment. Did you see how clear our skies and waters looked during those months of the total lockdown?" she reminded him. "Lady Flora, it was a revelation. Even from where I stand, I couldn't believe the transformation of the busy junction. Gargoyle, who is all the way across at Victoria Terminus, and I could actually chat from our respective locations! I hope it serves as a lesson for Bombaywallahs that they need to protect their environment and be more mindful of its limited natural resources. Climate change is inevitable, after all," thundered Sir PM, sounding every bit like the lawyer from his heyday. They'd reached Marine Drive. The glistening promenade was shorn of its usual buzz and blitzing traffic. "Ah! Doesn't this look like something you'd see in a night scene from a Bollywood movie?" smiled Sir PM; he silently loved this peaceful side to his SoBo.
Bollywood climate change!
"Speaking of Bollywood, Pheroze; I honestly feel they too are undergoing some kind of climate change…hehe. I mean what with all the shocking allegations and counter claims about nepotism and whatnot; it seems like one endless jamboree," exclaimed Lady Flora, her words were a bit of a killjoy amidst the serene setting, Sir PM felt. "And your ex-employer has also jumped into the circus," she cheekily added. "Pheroze, don't you think they should focus on looking after the city's medical and economic health at this critical period; the bigger picture? If Viegas and Haffkine have come out from retirement, that's telling a lot on our affairs, no?"
Sir PM had no choice but to agree with his friend: "Yes, I hope they too undergo some kind of 'climate change' in their minds, and stick to fighting off this big, fat pandemic. This is our Bombay, after all."
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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