In April the world’s seas had fallen silent. The shipping lanes which carry the bulk of the world’s commerce had emptied out. We saw signs of that in Mumbai. There were videos of dolphins playing and fishing in Backbay. In the last hundred years there have been no reports of dolphins sighted so close to the shore. The anthropause had begun. Another sign was the lack of ships on the horizon. Normally we see long lines of ships on the horizon, all queued up to dock at Mumbai’s port. They had gone missing.
Now, finally, at the end of July, when I walked out to watch the monsoon sunset over Mumbai I saw the first signs of the end of the anthropause. At the horizon, past Prong’s lighthouse, there were two ships. Appropriately, one was gliding into port, the other moving out. I followed it until it moved over the horizon: traveling to new shores, as I still cannot. But the world has begun again. As we learn how to live safely with the threat of more infections, we will begin to resume our lives, slightly differently.
Its been a wonderful monsoon this July. It has rained more or less continuously for about a week now. I guess it seems more wonderful because we have been more or less forced to stay in by the lockdown. I have been looking out of the windows constantly. Constantly distracted from work by the sight of this lovely season. A few mornings ago I woke up and took the featured photo. The sea has been rough, and in the shallows the mud from the bottom has been churned up. Every year I look at it and see by the change in the colour of the water where the seabed drops off into a navigable channel. At the southern cape of Mumbai, perched on the edge of these shallows is the rock which holds up Prong’s lighthouse. I would have to walk out to the rocks to see it. The sky is also in two colours, the dark clouds overhead, and a lighter and more open sky out at sea. It is an enchanting month, with this sky and sea constantly changing.
In a normal year, by this time the season for sailing in Mumbai would be over. Although the warming oceans mean that the monsoon is unlikely to go back to its “normal” arrival time, tropical storms are brewing in the Bay of Bengal, and there is unsettled weather in the southern part of the Arabian Sea already. It felt nice to look back at old photos of a sail in Mumbai Harbour.
I’m not a sailor but I don’t turn down invitations for a quick sail around the three lighthouses. This was a lightning class sloop. I’m happy to sit close to the water, receiving instructions from the skipper to tighten a rope or duck my head as the boom swings around, feeling the little spray hit my face. The Family likes to take a position at the back where she can keep an eye on the boom and the sky. Her brother is our usual skipper, an experienced sailor in several waters.
It wasn’t a crowded day. Once we got clear of the main lanes leading from the Gateway to the the jetties on the main land, we passed a few moored boats, a few other lightning class boats out for a sail, and one deep sea fishing boat with a crew of five, strangely busy hauling nets at the edge of the harbour. Perhaps not so strange, on second thought. The name Apollo Bandar is supposed to be a corruption of the old Koli name, Palva Bandar, for the fish that was plentiful in the harbour as recently as five generations ago.
The sky was clear, flecked with wisps of clouds. The day was warm, but a nice steady breeze kept the sails half filled, and drove small waves on the sea. The sail was smooth, no need to tack constantly, or fiddle with the ropes. The boom swung around once as we rounded the yellow and red Prong’s lighthouse and headed back for a beer on the long verandah of the Yacht Club.