City of Illusions
When Duryodhana of Mahabharta was invited to the newly constructed palace of the Pandavas at Indraprastha, his fascination knew no bounds. Where there was no water, he held his feet up and where he discerned a glass floor, he mistakenly plunged neck deep into a designer aqua pond. Not only did he get soaked to the skin, but was made a fool of by the deceptive landscaping, much to amusement of Draupadi.
Such is the power of Maya or illusion. She spreads her robe with ample flaunt and tickles and teases the senses of those who are deluded by the glitter of the world. While she captivates and cons us everyday with one movement of her wand, we search on restlessly for durable peace. In what we feel she will provide us comfort, no sense is soothed; only fluttered more earnestly. The expectation and result are in perpetuity linked inversely.
If Maya has extended her empire across the planet and beyond, then the illusionary city of Macau is a strong contender for the capital. It has all that one craves for from the material world. Money, gambling, fast cars, faster girls, night bars, striptease clubs, palatial hotels & more. But sadly, it aches for a soul.
Everything is tidy in this 28 square km administered territory of China. Roads, bridges, malls, marketplaces, public areas are all spic and span. Buildings are stupendously tall and prolific outcrops of sparkling glass and steel. Young girls in pencil heels and micros outnumber the men folk 4:1.
Civic sense is of high order and rules are followed vigilantly. Owned 70% by a businessman called Stanley Ho, the city has given Las Vegas a run for money, considering that it is already submitting five times the amount in tax money from gambling than its more famous American counterpart. If the city is all about over indulgence, then the owner only proves it with four wives and 17 children in tow; the youngest spouse being only half his age.
Macau is a destination for people who yearn for an instant high. Girls and sex are more easily available than water. And men and women test their fates in the casinos, sometimes in quests that are of addictive levels.
Night time is particularly spectacular when flashing neon lights throw a net of allurement on bedazzled beings, inciting transgressions from model behaviour. Garish bars and clubs burst with corrupt energy and blaze with offers of nymphs from different continents. From slight enticement of a coquettish dance to hardcore pornography, everything is within easy reach.
In casinos…like a scene straight out of a Bollywood movie, the high stake gamblers gather in what are called ruby and diamond rooms. Under dimmed lights, young ladies in silk gowns and black and white pant suits lay out the cards, as drinks flow freely. Millions are won or lost in one night alone.
The hotels create artificial worlds. Even the blue sky is a pasted plastic on ceilings. Flowing canals, gondolas, boatmen and women in attractive dark pants, striped Tees and broad rimmed hats with red ribbons create a make belief setting alluding to that which is in reality not.
And if these wondrous vistas are not enough, you can bungee jump from 1109 feet high Macau tower or sky walk around it. A person can feel blood rushing to the head, as he prays and remembers everyone that he has ever loved in the six-second of free fall, meant to induce thrill.
Even the caretaker of the temple - and there is one in this city of sin- puffs away at a cigarette nonchalantly within the sanctum sanctorum.
Anything and everything in this city is created for the satiation of insatiable human desire. There is no pause, and so no pondering. One can run after a mirage all his life, but die unquenched. Macau is a fantasy island, meant to wander through, but not one to get trapped in.
It has no gravitas, no poignancy, little art or craft or scope of thought, and certainly no culture which induces meditation on a higher purpose. It delves and dwells only on the base, leaving little time for the more worthwhile.
The greatest and the most fundamental challenge for its inhabitants then is to remain grounded in what is the truth, even if it actually exists in the substrata; hidden deep beneath what is evident to the eye on the surface.
But for this, the shield of chimera must be shattered!