Mumbai: In a throwback to Italy’s March 16 “flash mob of lights,” PM Modi’s appeal to the nation to switch off all lights at 9 pm may have elicited a mixed response on social media platform, but Mumbaikars chose not to take sides and responded to the call with gusto.
PM Modi had hoped to rouse the collective consciousness of the nation and harness its power to rein in the invisible pandemic; if the fight is all about optics and symbolism, it surely worked.
But, away from the optics, it was also a grim reminder about thousands of hopes that are flickering like dying embers in the corridors of hospitals, where doctors are taking a call of life and death.
PM Modi, who has a hand on the pulse of the nation, had lauded the citizens for displaying unprecedented discipline and sense of service during the ongoing lockdown period. They rose yet again to the occasion.
In no time, the ‘charge of the light brigade’ turned into a festive moment with masked faces, only the eyes glistening, bursting crackers, blowing conch shells and cheering each other in unison. In the cacophony, one could hear the chants of "Bharat Mata ki Jai" and “Ganpati Bappa Morya” as well.
Likening it to the festival of lights, Kandivli-based businessman Samir Desai said: This is a gesture of solidarity. At Diwali we light lamps and candles to banish the demon from our lives. Why not do this now when the entire country is going through such an ordeal.
Although PM Modi wanted the candles to be lit for nine minutes, the chant and the cheers resonated for nearly 30 minutes. The lights, too, stayed off for longer than the prescribed nine minutes.
Musical therapist and DJ Roshan Mansukhani turned his Oshiwara housing society into a mini open discotheque as residents stood in their windows and brandished their candles and mobiles, somewhat like strobe lights as the DJ played merrily on his console in his window.
In Dahisar and Mira Road, the excitement spilled into the streets with some residents bursting crackers, unmindful of the rigours of social distancing. As the nine magical minutes lapsed, what ensued was a long enduring session of clapping and banging of utensils, which is becoming a part of the urban folklore.
Street vendor Anand Raju never had it so good in ‘off season.’ For the last two days, he has been doing little else but rummaging through his stock for old ‘diyas’ and clay lamps, mostly Diwali leftovers. “There were many diyas and crackers left in our stock. I am glad I was able to earn some money when business is at such a low ebb,” said the daily-wager.
From Girgaum, Dadar, Andheri and Dahisar in the western suburbs to Chembur, Parel, Kurla and Dombivli in the eastern suburbs, the city was strewn with lights. For nine minutes at least, corona had been exorcised for good. Someone played ‘Hum Honge Kaamyaab’ on the saxophone in a pitch dark Bandra locality. Some sang, 'Go, Corona Go'.
At around 9.30 pm, Prime Minister Modi tweeted a photo of him lighting a lamp at his official residence in Delhi. Wearing a blue kurta, the Prime Minister also posted a short Sanskrit poem that, roughly translated, read: "Salutations to the light of the lamp which brings auspiciousness, health and prosperity (and) which destroys inimical feelings; Salutations to the light of the lamp".
Important Tweeple (blue-tick accounts) shared pics of themselves lighting diyas in the yards of their luxurious, official or personal homes - Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his mother Hiraben, Union Finance Minister Nirmalya Sitharaman, Home Minister Amit Shah, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and actor Rajinikanth, to name a few.
Others ran a #BattiNaBujhao campaign. Corona gone, asked former J&K CM Omar Abdullah (With inputs from Swapnil Mishra, Dipti Singh, Bhavna Uchil, Pramod Chunchuwar and Vikas Nag)