This week’s Malavika’s Mumbaistan can pay tribute to the acclaimed singer-songwriter, whose 88th beginning anniversary fell this week.

It have been around the overdue 1990s once I’d obtained the call. “Leonard Cohen is within the pool at the XX Club,” the individual stated, citing one which I manifest to be a member of “and understanding you’re a huge fan of his – hurry there in case you want to fulfill him.”

Want to meet him – are you kidding? Cohen’s songs approximately love, loss, beauty and demise had entranced a technology of human beings, ever seeing that he’d burst upon the scene in the Nineteen Sixties. Along with Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, he’d shaped the triumvirate of troubadours whose information we‘d loved and traded even in faraway pre-liberalization Mumbai, coveting, cherishing, borrowing and lending them to each different as if they have been black gold –or a couple of Levis (which have been simply as treasured -and scarce at that time).

You guess I’d need to fulfill him.

Of route, not anyone become a Cohen fan. Even lower back then we had been aware about the ‘Godfather of Gloom’s secret handshake attraction’. Devotees of his dark lyrics, deep voice and outstanding music tended to be a sure kind of individual. What turned into called the ‘sensitive poetic kinds’ or as we have been knowledgeable in David Remnick great 2016 New Yorker profile of him, what Cohen himself had defined as ‘internal-directed kids, lovers in all tiers of ache, disenchanted Platonists..’


I became at the Club earlier than you may warble “And she feeds me tea and oranges…” Across the garden, barefoot and clad in a crumpled kurta pyjama, seated go-legged on a patch of verdant grass, turned into the diminutive, barely hunched discern of Cohen; older more wrinkled than his album pictures, however the sensitive good-looking face unmistakably that of my lengthy loved icon.

“Mr Cohen, I’ve never finished this before..” The thirty-something me had stuttered all in a apprehensive rush: “Forgive me for enforcing this way, but you’ve been one in every of my favorite musicians and I’ve grown up loving and singing your songs and I cannot believe how I’m assembly you in Mumbai on my avenue at my membership in my metropolis…”

Peering up at me, Cohen had smiled

“Come sit down” he’d said, patting the grass beside him. “This become supposed to happen.”

He informed me that he’d been spending plenty of time in Mumbai to be close to his spiritual guru, a respected teacher of Advaita, who resided a stone’s throw far from in which we sat. Each morning he’d depart his sparse room on the modest motel nearby in which he lived and walk the quick distance (beyond the constructing in which I resided) to wait his guru’s each day morning satsangs. Afterwards, he’d go with fellow devotees to a local tea shop, to speak about the day’s consultation and later swim or spend the day at the club, or meditate or write lower back in his motel room.

Would I like to accompany him tomorrow to meet his Guru? He requested.

And that’s how Leonard Cohen entered my life for a short season.


We’d meet on the morning satsangs, wherein his guru’s crisp deliveries on profound elements of the philosophy of Advaita, peppered with wit and awareness, had come to be something of a sermon at the mount for me; however additionally, on the Club or on the street wherein I’d run into him often. On multiple events, he’d invited me to his austere monk-like hotel room wherein our conversations on Zen Buddhism, the Kabbalah, Carl Jung and Advaita, his beloved kids Lorca and Adam, his loves and losses and his existence-lengthy trysts of melancholy ( which he referred to as a constant hum of anguish) and which he turned into scuffling with currently, had lasted overdue into the evenings.

By the time Cohen had come to Mumbai he became already a folk-rock legend and due to his inner demons had supped deeply at the fountain of many spiritual cups. Just previous to his Mumbai stint, he’d lived at a Zen monastery in Western California, for nearly 5 years where he’d had to upward thrust at 2,30, easy bathrooms and shovel snow.

He’d departed from there within the mid- Nineteen Nineties while he’d examine some thing written by the guru in Mumbai and right here, he become, settled into an appealing recurring: on foot the streets anonymously, interacting with local people, sitting in the solar… He spent multiple years this way in quiet mirrored image and mirrored image within the metropolis.

Later, he become to say his months spent in Mumbai had cured him of his despair and I may want to see why. The town’s warmth and vibrancy were just what he’d required. Also, those people who he’d befriended and knew of his need for anonymity had protected it fiercely – which include me the editor of a daily newspaper at that time. After all, Who would need to show him to the cruel glare of exposure?

But Cohen’s new peace of thoughts were brief-lived; some years after he’d stopped coming to Mumbai, he learnt that his long-time and relied on supervisor had robbed him of his money and left him sincerely broke. It might have been a devastating blow for a lesser man. Not Cohen; In his Seventies, he’d risen like a phoenix to the task, venture almost a decade of arduous world excursions, as his song underwent a massive revival achieving even more recent heights of renown and fulfillment.

By the time he died in 2016 on the age of 88, he’d launched five new albums to first rate acclaim (one, some months before he died) -his lyrics developing even darker and more prescient, his famous voice, a growl many octaves deeper.


As we have a tendency to do, I frequently wonder about my come across with Cohen. We met at a bizarre phase in our lives and like a Zen koan it had been sublime, magical, severe -and whole in itself.

After he’d left Mumbai, Life had taken us in one-of-a-kind directions and I hadn’t saved in touch, and even though he gave me cassettes of his music- in the ones days earlier than digital camera telephones and selfies- I have little or no to show for it. Neither did I proportion with him the numerous songs or poems I’d been inspired to jot down due to him.

Often, I am confused through my reticence. There had been a person whose paintings had inspired and sustained me. Why hadn’t I made something extra of it? In a international of the show and tell where nothing exists until it is amplified and stronger – why had I allowed this sort of profound and particular revel in to remain so unpronounced and unexpressed?

Since then, even as inhabiting the equal neighbourhoods strolling at the same grass where Cohen had once walked, and swimming in the identical pool, I wonder how he could have answered to the adjustments round us. Mumbai and the sector around it are darker and more troubling when you consider that his departure. What could he have manufactured from it?

But it is at such times, that the words from one of Cohen’s maximum well-known songs, ‘The Anthem’ come again to me:

‘Ring ring the bells that also can ring/overlook your best supplying/there may be a crack a crack in the entirety, that’s how the light gets in…’

After all, Cohen of all people understood the interplay between darkness and mild, and the way both are vital for the life of each other. You take the coolest with the bad, the satisfied with the unhappy. Things get damaged after which remade, words are left unstated after which stated, but anywhere there may be light waiting to get in and like Cohen, it is to that that we should constantly turn our face: ‘There is a crack in the whole thing that’s how the mild gets in.’

And he gave us ‘the tune.’ We owe it to him.

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