Mask-Mask-Mask UP! Please? Just “Rock That Mask!” Thank you!

Written by on in Mumbai

Namaste, Dear Music Lover,

Please… don’t tell me it’s inconvenient to wear a face-mask in places like (indoor or outdoor) shops and markets… really, anywhere people must be in close proximity to unknown others. Or if you must, just tell it to the hand because I’m simply not having more negativity these days. Full stop.

The mask is not solely for your protection, it is rather meant first to safeguard all others around you from your exhalations (as well as yourself from any of their aerial emissions!). Don’t be intimidated by naysayers. Better to follow the lead of those trying to help.

One of my manservant FJ’s old tales places him in a mini-mall in Beverly Hills (near his home in those days) that had, among other noteworthy places, a nice boutique restaurant called California Sun Dried Tomato. As my footman tells it, who should surprise him as Joe paced the area awaiting a dinner table: none other than Canadian-American film icon, funny man Jim Carrey (in full regalia for an upcoming film). I wonder how often that film has been viewed in 2020! So, as FJ tells it, Mr Carrey “…crept up behind a concrete pillar and suddenly jumped out, making a bizarre head tilt at me wearing that bright-green face mask, lol. He was quite a sight.”

Hearing this unlikely story, I asked him, ‘So then, Joe, what did you do??’ Joe said, “Not much. I didn’t react as he’d expected; I’m a bit stoic like my dad was. I thought Carrey was funny, so I smiled, chuckled and said something like ‘Hey, that’s a good one; early for Halloween, but very intense!’. Walking home I saw a movie poster for The Mask [1994, New Line Cinema] (then soon to be released). I guess Jim Carrey was looking for movie publicity—I’ve been a lively-arts guy and a journalist since the 1970s; I may’ve had a ‘movie-reporter’ look? Ha! Unforgettable.” (My footman does seem to have an excellent memory.)

Who could’ve known how that film presaged nearly a whole year (since March/April of 2020) or more when surgical facemasks would be required for virtually everyone as our entire planet struggles to beat down the worst aerial threat since the nuclear cruise missile?

Now, aerial simply means ‘in the air’, also termed airborne (as in ‘air pollution is unwanted airborne gases or other harmful substances not conducive to human [mainly oxygen] respiration’). So, we do want abundant airborne oxygen (largely diluted, mostly by nitrogen, plus small volumes of other, benign gases—however, healthy breathing air is best taken with absolutely or very nearly none of various unhealthy gases, particles or biological pathogens [e.g., viral material] that can wreak havoc in humans).

While our lungs can tolerate some pollution (of various types), they often cannot sort out and block some of the worst microscopically tiny biological material (e.g. airborne viruses). Obviously, we don’t want any of the bad stuff. But it is so easily transmissible that we could be infected in various ways. (I’ll leave such discussions to the appropriate experts, obviously.)

Our human lungs are remarkably resilient organs. They can not only refresh one’s blood with (if sufficiently present) abundant pure oxygen—as needed for healthy blood, and to resist/eliminate any pathogens that get mixed into the air we breathe, also our lungs power our voices and filter out pollutants (with breath and waste expelling).

Does anyone wonder why I seem to be perhaps a bit fixated on breath? I hope it’s obvious enough: Singing is my work! Breath for that is not optional.

I don’t have a full list of the awful chemicals, gases and particles that have been known to be suspended in Earth’s air, but we know that like pathogens, trace or small amounts of various harmful things appear in our air, and most modern countries try to inform their people of known risks and issues that are readily quantified, like the presence of certain commonly seen pollutants. One much-discussed bad gas is radon.

Among others are benzene (C6H6) and methane (CH3). These “hydrocarbons” can cause various illnesses, and are better never ingested by humans (although methane is so common from biological processes like livestock animal growth and waste, that we are exposed to in limited doses from cows, horses or humans, almost from birth; it’s the highly toxic concentrations that are truly hazardous; they also impact global warming, another important long-term-health-related topic). So, like several other common gases that although toxic (even in low doses), are nevertheless fairly commonly found in our air (usually in fairly low levels, like carbon dioxide CO2). Again, please don’t ask me for FULL lab details. (You can find them readily via your preferred search engine. Or ask your local medical or enviro scientist. Unlike some people, science doesn’t lie.)

Another gas that can damage or even kill humans (and it often does, especially those who are most vulnerable like the elderly or ill among us) is carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so if one is being actively harmed by CO, the victim doesn’t even know. For this reason, CO poisoning is a very silent, unexpected killer—it’s been used many times by murderers!

But I digress, and while there are many other culprits (like carbon-bound dust particles, sometimes called coal ash, that can clog various glands and organs in one’s body) my wish in even raising awareness about the harmful parts of e.g., everyday urban air pollution from vehicle engines or even cooking fires is simply that: to bring it up to whomever reads this and is willing to be involved in solving the crises of environmental problems caused by over-proliferation of antiquated technology like gas-powered internal-combustion engines. Let’s not blame mainly carbon, simply because it binds so readily to other elements.

Now, I’m not sparing any violators: even our typical “heat engines” like the ubiquitous petrol-fueled ones seen all across Earth have evolved quite a bit (since they were introduced, more than a century ago). My footman/driver Joe insists that our diesel-powered “mystical music bus” uses 21st-century tech to greatly lessen its air-pollution impact. While that may give us a tiny brag (in order to claim we’re being somewhat environmentally aware and responsible), the huge total number of vehiclesgoing around ruining our atmosphere (or, the portion not already ruined by our beloved trees!) still grows—and yes: Far too few (especially here in South Asia) vehicles are of the less-polluting type! Though an encouraging trend is well underway: return to fully electricpowered vehicles. And hydrogen (gas-) powered vehicles also produce virtually no real pollutants, and are now [back] in wide production).

Please note that no ordinary surgical type of face mask can protect one from toxic gases! Every gas in air goes right through any (even the best) face-mask. Our best remedy couples toxin awareness with its avoidance. When properly warned, we can take the most appropriate precautions. Just so we spread the hazard-causation blame around a bit, I recently learned that of all [unsuspected] sources, actually, TREES are among the most egregious causes of global warming gases. Isn’t that nearly unbelievable? Trees also produce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Trees! Well, fortunately they do produce copious volumes of oxygen, too. Oh, my goodness. But whether they’re worse or better at defiling our atmosphere, they’re far from alone in whatever the measure of harm done.

So, if I’m able to snap my fingers and bring needed changes, I think I would. Joe claims that I actually do have impressive powers to make him smile and feel great when I simply snap my fingers (rhythmically), so Dear Music Lover, you may need to be ready to witness much more of my finger snapping and hand raising. It’s harmless, I think, lol. No, I haven’t become caught up in delusions of my grandeur. ;) To those who’ve been hypnotized: each finger snap is also your next chance to awaken to a better you (and a healthier planet)!

However (all finger-popping aside), there have been some assertions that people can certainly overreact to the ongoing rigors of living through lockdowns!

However (all finger-popping aside), there have been some assertions that people can certainly overreact to the ongoing rigors of living through lockdowns: Here’s a magazine article dealing with how some people manage or fail to cope with the pandemic.

There are any number of theories and strategies to cope with “living in an isolation bubble” and frankly, I’ve tried various ways of re-organizing and re-strategizing my work and personal lives in efforts to better balance my coffee-driven work-times with our veggie stew home-cooking and relaxation times. There is no such thing as one’s ideal balance, other than whatever works for us now. I’m fairly sure that any number of front-line health workers would agree with this.

One actual (as I prefer to regard it) benefit has been made known to me by casual experiment: there are both many types of“ coffee and many ways to prepare and enjoy it. I’ve been told not to overdo any such strong stimulants, and to avoid too much sugar and cream in my coffee brews. I’m working on that addiction, too (that is, to moderate its use; I wonder if I’ll ever abandon this rather recent friend—thanks, Mumbai!). Still, one must place oneself in occupations potentially less-hazardous to people (than e.g., a viral pandemic). Recalling the main purpose of mask-wearing… it’s best to avoid being a spreader of anything bad!! By so doing, we can always help to ensure our own health!

So, having no current alternative/option to go to Concert X or Convocation Z (and let’s face it: I’ve seldom been one for cons of any type), I find myself resorting to my old ways of simply finding the fun in my own thoughts and imagination.

Just beware, Dear Music Lover: as it happens, I’m blessed with a rather WILD IMAGINATION. Not actually a wicked one, but certainly neither a tame one (yet). So if you’ve perused or spent time watching my YouTube channel, you probably already caught my drift about wild imagination (or maybe zany or humourous are more-apt descriptors of my original videos— based in reality). Please stay tuned—at your own risk, of course—there and here. Thanks!

One unassailable fact for us In the audiovisual arts is that not every performance is guaranteed to evoke thrilled reviews from 100% of our audiences.Not every film is guaranteed to be a box office smash (and in the new normal, none are having theatrical audiences, anyway). Ugh. Who could’ve expected this‽‽

The reasons for this are diverse, and often seem to follow no logical patterns. So it may be easy to conclude that the “issues, if any” are the province of consumers far more than producers. The usual implication is lack of audience sophistication (which although roundly debunked, remains a persistent explanation for less-than-glowing reviews). This is called something like the artist being in denial about the quality of their work. Or it may be something far less cerebral: cultural snobbery!

If no one else “gets it” then, just so you know, Dear Music Lover, it’s not going to spoil my day.My dreams drive my actions, and I will. NOT. succumb. Nevertheless, I do think there is far more to it all, and any efforts to fit reality into neat theories are doomed to fail. To my mind, overly simplistic thinking is practically a disease itself. I’m not living merely to seek external approval or validation. I learned that lesson many years ago. But is it beginning to sound as if I’ve begun to reach too far for some rather implausible explanations? Or… 

Maybe I’ve been infected and am in a contagious way? I doubt that! No, I’ve had a bit of a sneeze or a cough over the years (especially in normally-busy Bombay!), but I caught wind only of the fact that some bad air was headed our way (not a week too soon, but I’ve taken various safety measures to protect others and myself) as early as last summer (it’s noted in some posts here from as far back as last June—although I hadn’t known it was so viralCheck out my gas mask imagery)! Are you able to tell who’s pictured in any masked photos I post? It’s the hair that gives it away, isn’t it? Oh well, I’m not really in disguise (especially, amidst a sea of others all effecting “the bank-robber look”). If I do contract Covid -19, I will selfquarantineand take other steps to avoid spreading it!!

I want everyone to know that a) I do wear a face mask when I can’t do full social distancing. I think you should too. Not masking up can certainly lead to health issues that really, no one wants for self or others. And no, I don’t go around in military NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) safety gear. War isn’t my cup of chai. I don’t study it. However, we are currently living amidst a global pandemic that is the worst health threat on Earth for 100+ years. So it’s a sort of “war on health” that humans face against an invisible foe. That complicates things a measure. 

Hence, not to be outdone in my humanitarian efforts to help save the human race

I challenge all Bollywood talent and production staff to “Rock that Mask”—and wear it now!!

If you feel the urge, please: maybe you can convey your bespoke personal mask or political point of view (or views)—either graphically or textually (be terse!) face-mask statement. A nearly infinite variety of useful and creative PPE exists. (Take your pick to use when planning your next activity—or design and make your own masks).

There it is. I’m not calling any specific names just yet. You know who you are, and yes: it’s indeed possible that any failure to “rock that mask” will be observed, recorded and shared on global media (probably not by us!). If you fail to realize and support the cause (of looking out for others and self), then that’s on you! India is watching. (Enuf said on the topic, Dear Music Lover).

I’m no tattletale, but if the world knows how to prevent the spread of a very nasty disease that’s killed countless people already… isn’t it past time to follow sensible guidelines to cut this pandemic down to sizebefore it consumes our entire race? Like strap on a little mask? Please?? And let’s all continue following the guidelines to move toward eradication of this awful plague. Like isolating when possible andwashing hands 2-4 times daily (or more, if needed) while avoiding putting our hands on our faces or any other places on our bodies where infection risks are higher (like near our eyes or nose). Let’s avoid large crowds until the risks are vastly lowered! I know that seems counterintuitive to many of us living in large metros (and it’s almost sacrilegious to those of for whom audiences are key to our success). But the risks for spreading or being infected seem to rise exponentially when we’re stuck in group activities for extended periods. (So common sense tells us to avoid such obvious potential pitfalls.)

I know how it feels to spend good times and other times alone. While it’s not as fun as being with family and friends, it’s also seldom requiredfor survival, as is the case when self-quarantining. 

Believe it or not, I’m happy being myself and knowing what I’ve managed to accomplish in my few decades here on Earth. Like everyone else, I have no instant far-away galaxy rescue team waiting to whoosh me and my family off to some space colony where no bugs exist and the only problem is what to eat. (We call that a first-world problem, anyway.) Like many others who’ve relocated to Mumbai from other big metros, it’s quite a change to see many abandoned streets midday—and so many shut-down businesses! I know that while in Bollywood at this time, actors and musiciansare struggling with the pandemic’s rigors, and there are also countless others working in production as well as creative (screenwriters and directors), plus thousands upon thousands of everything from craft services (food) to costumers, stylists, lighting, sound and camera crews… publicity, name it! Our movie industry is far from being alone in our suffering, but the full scope of the virus’s current impact can even go unnoticed. For the popular action genres, there are so many logistical teams and crew members now forced on hiatus until who-knows-when. Not all have a second career not also in lockdown status. But we must survive to thrive again sooner than later. So if you’re also among the out-of-work people, whether in the industry or say, you would normally staff a food truck or street vendor used to feeding film crews… my heart goes out to you, too!

Again, my meager encouragement is nearly all that I can offer in support at this juncture. Things will slowly get back to the new, precaution-laden normal way business is being done in Bollywood for now. Urban dwellers often depend upon food brought into stores and shops, and many small eateries. It’s a somewhat crass observation that in years prior, only (foreign) “adult” film sets had an abundance of caution [to stop the spread of venereal diseases]. These days the obscenities are often of the political-mishandling variety. But that will be my final digression here (and I must apologize for its repugnance). Every eater must find her or his optimal diet and exercise regimen in order to maximize their health and avoid problems like viral plagues. Some people spend hours per day obsessing over which eatery they’ll patronize today/tonight, and given the shock to my income and little savings (that I had hoped could expand my tiny home-building fund), our house plans are looking tinier and tinier, lol. But with divine providence we’ll overcome these tough times.

Others have the dubious distinction of first growing (gardening) or hunting for their meal ingredients. That’s an area of discussion perhaps best left for another time! For right now… if you’ll excuse me, I’m simply going to scream into a big pillow and take a bit of the edge off, to catch some shut-eye (a type of side-eye that is accompanied by dreaming and deep, rhythmic slow and restful breathing). Breath is the #1 keypart of what I do best! We all need a simple reminder from time to time: let’s just take a few very slow, deep breaths to relax. 

If you’ve already been living in isolationyourself for the last 40+ years, then you may well not know: breathing is regarded worldwide as the #1 aspect of yoga and other exercise programs for the development of one’s core strength, as well as setting the stage for all other individual physical-practice preparation. In other words, a workout devoid of focusing on the many ways to regulate and strengthen one’s breath is likely to fail. Of course, any of the usual practice “plans” lacking focus on good breathing can simply be characterized as deficient or flawed.

Who wants to be so designated? Not I. I’m totally devoted to being the bringer of a queendom that is better than any. My footman Joe insists that I meet all of the requirements for same “in spades” ♠️ ♠️ ♠️ ♠️ (as if that’s one good way of saying/showing it). 

Now, please allow me to restate the obviousonce again: Where would humanity be without the tireless efforts and skills of our dedicated first responders and medical experts? Caring for those suffering from a graze or bump injury or bad run with the common cold is one thing. But ministering to those feeling the worst of this unprecedentedly contagious viral menace has us all in wonder at the selflessness of our doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners who serve the needs of those needing respiratory et al. help to recover from Covid-19. It’s often (from what little I’ve seen) heroic!! THANK YOUAND MAY GOD BLESS YOU ONE AND ALL

We pursuing our dreams in the film Mecca of Bollywood, amidst glitter and glow of cinematic lighting have been ready to at least sing your praises and stand ready to support the calls to action that are seldom very difficult for us all to observe: mask wearing and social distancingare not really hard to do. We must, of course ensure that front-line staff have the protective wear they need. Certainly those who’ve contracted the virus (whether showing known symptoms or not, but who test positive for it) must quarantine themselves without delay for whatever period the professionals prescribe (usually about two weeks). That almost goes without saying, and sadly it also falls to anyone who has had close physical contact with a known infected person—we call it something like controlling the spread. This spread is nothing with which to trifle like a sandwich filling; it’s a deadly disease that has killed many tens of thousands of people. India’s (and broadly, the entire world’s) human population is feeling a once-in-a-century pain!

However, all the experts do insist that hope exists, and not only better treatments for sufferers, but preventatives for us all are in the offing—as soon as experts agree on them—and can distribute one or more vaccines to the far corners of our increasingly global populace. “The catch” at this stage is simply to ensure that we do have the working formula/bio-culture(s). And worldwide, research is well underway.India is not in climate denial—and that’s good because (according to Wikipedia of the 11 most-air-polluted cities on Earth are in India (and 14 of the top [worst] 20, with two cities in neighboring Pakistan ranking 12th- [Peshawar] and 13th- [Rawalpindi]

worst (based on 2010 data). While it’s no cause for celebration (and the Wikipedia article on air-polluted cities uses mostly 2010-2016 data (obscuring its validity), so 2019-present could be worse (or maybe better), and certainly we hope that the dramatic industrial/construction shutdowns plus deep cuts to air travel [to which I was finally just becoming accustomed!] could paint a rosier picture for many formerly top-worst-rated cities. Anyway, to me it seems rather cautiously hopeful from my own POV that Kolkata ranked 55th (2016 data) and Mumbai 94th (also in 2016). At least they (where many of my family members and friends reside) don’t tip the list of the worst-polluted cities!

I want to close this blog post/message with a simple statement to everyone who is rooting for the venues (sports and other entertainment, etc.) to be reopened as soon as possible that we have heard from multiple public safety & health officials that their orgs are hard at the matters required to ensure safety in order to reopen but only doing so responsibly! What all that entails is beyond me, but what I most certainly CAN DO is SEND MY LOVE TO ALL CINEMA PATRONS AND CONCERTGOERS. We definitely miss seeing you in the theaters!!

So take heart, Dear Music Loveryour life definitely matters to us (regardless of your skin tone or place of origin). You matter in many ways (and not only to us). We will all find our individual and collective paths through this morass. Life on Earth of the human kind shall not perish in this generation, we all can reflect and shun umbrage about the pandemic for that reason (the diligence of our medical and other health experts). By the way, it’s important to note for our NRI readers: Black Lives Matter, too!

Fears and trepidations or even modest worriesabout the unknown totality of threats affecting us all long-term cannot be productive, even though our innate fight-or-flight predator/prey autonomous responses are fully normal and so being triggered into automatic reactions is to be expected until the situation improves or (let’s pray) is completely alleviated.

But in the end, fear itself is certainly no anodyne. It merely serves as a first warning.But more mature responses are in order—and this is where our eastern traditions like yoga and meditation (including some rather practical ways of dealing with/controlling our own thought patterns) can be among our best allies.

Certainly they are affordable! While the historical learning and application of these health skills has typically been in class settingswith (in many cases, but not all) large groups in tight quarters, there are still new, digitally-conducted classes where we use Zoom or other group conference software apps to be together remotely and share the class experience without sharing any risk of infection.

The YouTube web site (and mobile app) has countless such mind-body classes archived as free video content (from literally tens of thousands of free channels!). Someone shared the channel of a touring swami who’s traveled worldwide sharing wisdom about the mind and how it can best be used to better our lots in life with my manservant Joe. He shared this with me (I respect it/him [Swami M.], and although neither of us is a devout devotee of any single guru or sect (other than those of the faiths into which we’re born), we can recommend the ancient wisdom he offers and now I’ll share it with you:

Dear Music Lover: take comfort in the knowledge that you are a spiritual being in the material world. You are more than your body and a collection of thoughts. Your being transcends all materialism and selfishness. I urge you to explore the ageless wisdom that has served us (especially in eastern rites and rituals) for unsaid millennia. Not only its host/guru Michael Benner’s compendium of wisdom, but in its many origins and forms… from Rumi to Thakur and even modern Swamis like Sw. Mukundananda—along with countless othershere and beyond—we can all continue learning for life! That’s certainly one way to pass those isolated hours!

Maybe a budding guru is reading and being inspired by this? SRK? Ha, one never knows—until one does! (Plus, SRK is quite evolved already, according to us!).

As we enter the time of year for feasts and celebrating with family and friends, let us all take sensible precautions so we can have more such celebrating next year and going forward. My advice is to heed the advice of the health pros who can best advise us how to proceed and/or how to avoid increasing any/all risks of Covid-19 transmission. 

I love and appreciate you all. Thanks sooo so much for all of your kindnesses and well-wishes. We’ll survive this pandemic with our dignity intact.

Until our next meet-up, I bid you adieu… not goodbye—and 


AM 💕💪


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