As a classic westerner in Mumbai I was fascinated by the millions of religions and cultures which together form the enormous melting pot that is the city of Mumbai. My mind had exploded with new sights, new experiences and new places. I saw those who mostly worship Hanuman, Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Ganesh, or Allah, Jesus, Mary or even their own local Guru, and had the pleasure of experiencing such incredible locations with dramatic devotions to these entities. The possibilities of Gods, spirits and energy was beyond that of my tiny imagination.
After my first night shoot of my second dance contract and reaching home in the early hours of the morning, the sun just rising up from the treetops outside of my new apartment, I took a chamomile tea and perched on the bedroom window seat to enjoy the first light flood the beach as the morning set in. Mumbai is usually a little sleepy in the early hours, with the majority of people busying around by mid morning. So it came as a small surprise to see the beach filling with hundreds of men, not women, only men and they all took their position facing the ocean and bent down to begin. I was in amazement, of all the religious diversity I had seen, it all felt like nothing compared to this first light local gathering to worship and express their gratitude to the God of the ocean, to the God of the beach, the land, the water, the sun, the morning, work, family, life, good health. My mind was bursting with the possibilities of what these noble men were praying and thanking God for. I sat and sipped my tea, a little too high up to feel the atmosphere, but was already so involved in their worship that I found myself also in a state of worship. It was inspirational.
Many months went by and I always looked forward to the end of night shoots, or early flight landings and reaching home in time to join the ocean worshippers. As the weekend approached, including my first day off in forever, I decided to have a party, invite some friends over, enjoy some music and totally relax. It was getting on for the early hours, I noticed the first shade of fresh blue hit the sky and suddenly those ocean worshippers popped into my mind. I was so excited to show everyone and ask more about this amazing form of worship and how I could learn more. I wanted to know everything, what did they believe in, who was this God of the seven seas, perhaps the same as the God of the moon, or ruled by the God of the moon, what was the truth of this God of all oceans? I love the ocean and I too wanted to express my total gratitude for such a beautiful world. As the men filled the beach exactly the same way as they did before, I called everyone to the window to see for themselves. 5 minutes of utter silence prevailed as we all watched them take their positions. I looked around us, all squinting trying to see how they offered their worship. What felt like years passed by as I waited patiently for an explanation of this amazing religion.
Everyone accept me burst into hysterics, a laughter so loud it filled the apartment block entirely and probably the majority of Mumbai. What had happened? I was completely confused. As the laughter died down I asked what exactly was so funny. Turns out they were not worshippers, not expressing gratitude to the God of the ocean or the land, not praying to save their families from drought or flood... Only to take a morning dump. YUCK.
I have never again walked along the beach to cool my feet in the water, in fact, I've not even only walked along that part of the beach, and never again sat overlooking the ocean with a chamomile tea at that hour of the morning...