MY 10 FAVORITE PLACES TO SEE IN MUMBAI, INDIA!

I have many favourite places to see in Mumbai. Having stayed in Mumbai for 7 years, I spent many weekends exploring the city. Many of my local friends have told me that they don’t understand Mumbai the way I do. In fact, when I was still living in Mumbai, my visiting friends often requested me to show them the city  through my eyes. I enjoyed taking them to my favourite places. Now that I have shifted to Delhi, I still keep getting messages from friends and readers, requesting me to suggest best places to see in Mumbai. It is tough to write this blog because I love each and every place in Mumbai.

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Peace and tranquility at Banganga tank, Malabar Hills, Mumbai

South Mumbai: South Mumbai is my absolute favourite place to see in Mumbai. Some of my must do activities to do in So Bo (as the cool kids call it) are: Watching sunsets at Marine drive, admiring art deco heritage buildings, bingeing on Aram Vada pao and jumbo sugarcane juice, watching movies in heritage theatres, boozing at Mondegar, Leopold and Gokul, checking out the latest

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Fort area in South Mumbai near VT aka CST Station at 5 a.m.

exhibitions in Jehangir Art Gallery, taking a ferry ride to Elephanta Caves from Gateway of India, buying second hand books near Fashion Street, exploring parks of salubrious Malabar Hills, sitting peacefully by the quaint Banganga Tank and of course attending the annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.  I used to spend most of my weekends here, just enjoying the many faces of this side of Mumbai. I am sure I have skipped some of the places in So Bo, because there are so many things I enjoyed doing here. I feel like writing a separate blog on So Bo.

 

Masjid: Near CST aka VT station, it is my annual haunt during the Ramadan period. I am a vegetarian still enjoy hunting for vegetarian dishes during the Ramadan period in Mohammed Ali Road, Masjid area. On regular days also, the area intrigues me. I have spent many days exploring the many heritage buildings, mosques and temples in the area. Not to forget, my personal bonding with the slum kids near Masjid station.

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Grafitti art outside the walls of people’s homes in Chapel Road, Bandra. Near Lilavati Hospital

Bandra: Breezy, arty and very chic, Bandra refreshes me every time I go there. Whether it is exploring the classy cafes or just enjoying a simple sweet corn on Bandstand promenade, Bandra has something for everyone. The views of Bandra Worli Sea Link are the highlight. The star houses are another attraction. I still remember the madness I witnessed when I saw Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan waving to his fans from his house Mannat on his birthday. The graffiti,heritage buildings and crosses add charm to the Chapel road.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Kanheri Caves: The ancient Kanheri Caves within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park awes me every time I am there. The SGNP is the place where I spent many mornings practising photography in my initial days. Needless to say, the SGNP is ethereal in monsoons. It is easily accessed via Kandivali and Borivali.

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Heritage Homes, Khotachiwadi, Mumbai

Santa Cruz: I love getting down at this and explore its quaint streets. I loved spending many evenings watching plays and spotting celebrities at the iconic Prithvi theatre. Before and after the play, I made it a point to stroll along the adjacent Juhu Beach. On two occasions, I waited for hours to see Mr. Amitabh Bachchan appear before his fans outside his house in Juhu.

Powai: I discovered Powai Lake and IIT Powai while I was learning photography. We were taken to the IIT campus to polish our skills. It was refreshing for me to discover a sprawling green expanse in a metropolis which is perennially space crunched. The lake had occupied my attention for a long time when I was there. And oh, also the warning board, “Don’t roam around in night. There are leopards around.”

Khotachiwadi: The old heritage houses near the fort area fascinated me. I made many visits just walking in the quaint lanes of this colony. What is special about this place is that all the homes are made up of wood. Many of the original houses have disappeared. Yet, many still stand strong, giving us a glimpse of the past.

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Flamingoes at Sewri, Mumbai

Bhaucha Dhakka: I would often board the first local train from my home in Navi Mumbai to Dockyard Road. Starting at 4 a.m., I would reach Bhaucha Dhakka by 5-6 a.m. The many fishermen would congregate here to sell the fish. The chaotic movement and the sheer quantity of marine life sold on streets amazed me.

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Early morning at Bhaucha Dhakka, Mumbai

Sewri: Sewri was my favourite haunt for watching the migratory Flamingoes every February. I would join a photography group and would welcome the faraway guests every winter along with other enthusiasts. The other places I found great for flamingo watching are Nerul and Sagar Vihar in Vashi, Navi Mumbai.

Vipassana Centre, Boriwali: The calm one experiences here is rare in a chaotic city like Mumbai. If I arrived here by ferry, the sights would catch my attention. Via road, the salt pans had my eyes peeled on the way. I can spend hours here, just doing nothing.

You too can enjoy these places the next time you are in Mumbai. Of course, there are many more places in Mumbai which are close to my heart. Maybe a sequel to this blog will follow soon.

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Ramadan Festivity, Mohammed Ali Road, Mumbai

Places to stay in Mumbai: Renaissance Hotel in Powai is an excellent choice for the well-heeled. Not only is its food famous but it also enjoys a great location. Situated opposite the serene Powai Lake, it is a calm haven away from the chaos of Mumbai.

Feeling nostalgic about Mumbai like me? Or just want to discover these places? Book your flight with Indian Airlines and make it happen!

 

RELATED BLOGS:

HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED THE 4 a.m. MUMBAI? IT IS MY FAVORITE MUMBAI!

GUDI PADWA – THE GRAND CARNIVAL OF MUMBAI CALLED SHOBHA YATRA!

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Attending Shobha Yatra during Gudi Padwa in Dombiwali is another favourite activity to do in Mumbai. Not including in the list because it is an annual event.

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Me eating Pao Bhaji at Churchgate Station at 5 a.m.

 

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6 Exciting Monsoon Treks in Sahyadris, Maharashtra!

Off late, the discerning traveler has started to get out of his/her comfort zone and choose offbeat destinations. What’s more? Travelers these days even choosing not so popular weather conditions over high season. However, more and more people are taking up trekking in monsoon, especially in the geographically blessed Sahyadris in Maharashtra. Not many brave to trek during monsoon, fearing rains will spoil their plans. However, I feel it doesn’t rain all day in most of the places and one can still travel in monsoon. In fact, the fun of traveling in monsoon is double. Not only is the weather therapeutic but the monsoon foods, bonfires, the water sports etc make it all the more fun. Such excursions are best enjoyed with close friends and family.

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The Village Scene while returning after Bimashankar Trek! (Taken from a moving bus.)

It is one thing to trek in the majestic Sahyadris in the dry season but it’s a different ballgame altogether to indulge in a monsoon trek through the verdant and misty hills of Maharashtra. Of course, it’s a ‘limited period offer’. Come July, August and September and the hills of Maharashtra display their split personality unabashedly.

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Naneghat Trek

The dry brown shrubs give way to greenery all around. The hot clear skies turn cool, breezy and mist laden, the nondescript dry streams metamorphosize into monstrous waterfalls and the clouds are your constant companion. There is joie de vivre in the air and you should definitely be a part of it! In my seven years in Maharashtra, I have been to some of the most scenic treks. Here is the list of hand picked trails (suitable for monsoon) for you based upon my personal experience.

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We had a swim in this lake near Harihar Fort Trek

 

Disclaimer: I have personally attempted monsoon treks only in Naneghat (July) and Bhimashankar (August). Rest of the below mentioned treks I have done in dry season. However, I have verified with experts and they have confirmed that below treks are monsoon friendly.

1) LOHAGARH TREK
Level: Very Easy
Duration: 1 day
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Locals we met during Lohagarh Trek!

It is one of the easiest treks I have attempted ever. Barring a few patches when you have to climb the steep stairs, it’s mostly a cakewalk. The panoramic view from the fort on the top is breathtaking. The highlight of the trek is Vinchu-Kata (scorpion’s sting). It looks like a scorpion’s sting and hence the name. The trek passes through charming little villages. Wave to the villagers en route, or better still break a bread with them. Check out the ancient but well preserved Bhaje caves nearby.

2. NANEGHAT TREK:
Level: Easy
Duration: 1 day
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We crossed these streams during Naneghat Trek in monsoon.

The route was once an ancient trade route which was in extensive use to transport goods arriving at the Junnar which was then a flourishing marketplace. The locals are still found using this pass to reach Konkan. Not only is it easy to reach but is a relatively easy trek, making it ideal for beginners. The final 20 minutes of the trek was something the memories of which we will cherish forever. It’s a simple uphill route on neatly man made rock cut stairs. What makes it out of the ordinary is that during monsoon one gets to traverse it with a gushing waterfall engulfing the legs as one climbs up. The highlight of this trek was the ancient cave, said to be commissioned by a woman ruler Naganika, probably to serve as a resting place for the traders who used this route. Naganika was the wife of Satakarni (180-170 BCE), the third ruler from the Satavahana era. The inscriptions mostly talk about the achievements of the dynasty and thus are a vital source of information for historians.

3. HARIHAR FORT TREK
Level: Easy
Duration: 1 day, 2 day if camping
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Look Closely. We climbed those stairs in night.

Though not very tiring, this trek can be tricky in monsoon. The steps can be slippery. What makes it exciting as well as risky is the last stretch of vertical steps which are almost at a 90 degree angle. But the views on top are rewarding. The trekkers can cook their own food and stay in an abandoned cave overnight like I did. We trekked in night under full moon and it was magical. However, during monsoon, a day trek is advised. You will not forget in a lifetime the intensity with which the wind slaps your face as you reach the top. Spend at least 2 days here. While returning, have  a swim in a lake nearby.

 

4. RAJMACHI TREK
Level: Medium
Duration: 2 days
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Picture this in monsoon. Same thing, just more green. During Rajmachi Trek.

This strenuous trek takes at least two days to complete. We started from Lonavala and ended the trek at Karjat. Expect to see different species of birds, mammals and reptiles en route. We were lucky to see a series of shooting stars during our night trek. The view from the fort is breathtaking. We cooked instant noodles in the open and sourced the water from a cave nearby. Our sleep, the next day, was broken by the sound of many bike enthusiasts revving up their mean machines. This place is popular with bikers for off roading. We ended the trek with a sumptuous lunch at the house of one of the locals.

5. BHIMASHANKAR TREK
Level: Medium
Duration: 2 days
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The many waterfalls we saw in Bhimashankar Trek.

 

The difficulty level of this trek is medium. However, it requires you to be in fit shape as the trek is strenuous in patches. I like this trek for the many opportunities of delicious local food one gets to eat while the trek is still on. Look out for makeshift huts selling poha , Jhunka-Bhakhari and fresh lime water. Once the trek is over, binge on the mouth watering pedas fresh from the shops lining the temple. The trek is also memorable for a series of waterfalls one gets to see en route. Keep your eyes open for little surprises en route. Beware of the slippery patches in monsoon.

6. DHAK BAHIIRI CAVES TREK
Level: Very difficult and risky
Duration: 1 day, 2 days if camping
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Defying Gravity and risking my all at Dhak Bahiri Trek

It is the most dangerous trek I have attempted in Sahyadris and survived to tell the tale. After an easy trek of 2 hours, I reached the point from where there is a steep descent to approach the Dhak Bahiri caves. The task was to reach the cave by crossing the rocks and climbing up. There was an iron rod holding on to which I had to walk on the narrow space below my feet to cross the 1st level on the vertical hill.

There was a clean fall and the inclination was around 70 – 80 degrees throughout. So a slip here and there while negotiating the rock patch and I am no more. After the horizontal trek, next up was a vertical climb and then a rope climb to top it all. The next 2 levels were more risky. No wonder, many people gave up after 1st level. Here I had to go vertical and reach the cave holding on to just a rope and resting our leg on not very trust able and hostile rocks. The climb was getting riskier. However, once I reached the top, the feeling was indescribable.

Caution: Don’t attempt this trek if you are not confident! I would suggest attempt this at the end of monsoon season, when it doesn’t rain much, the rocks are not slippery but the weather is still pleasant.

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That’s how you rest in Sahyadris in monsoon. During Bhimashankar Trek

Things to carry in a monsoon trek in Sahyadris :
– A windcheater/raincoat/Poncho and umbrella to brave the rains.

– Mosquito repellents like odomos to fight the mosquito, esp. in monsoons.

– Lots of snacks and lime water to keep energy levels up.

– Camera and plastic covers to protect camera and other electronics from rain

– Walking stick, not much required though.

– Basic first aid kit. Personal medicines, if one is on any medication.

– Sunscreen, caps, goggles if it’s a sunny day.

– Water (around 2 ltrs per person as it is a 3-4 hour trek one side, esp in dry season)

– Spare dry clothes and lots of small and big polythene bags to compartmentalize wet clothes and most importantly to protect your electronics, esp. camera and cellphones.

– Do wear trekking shoes (No chappals or sandals)

– Please avoid wearing gold and other ornaments.

Enjoy the nature’s bounty this monsoon in hills of Maharashtra. Be respectful to the nature and locals when you are at it. If you have any queries, ask me in the comments below.

Note: An abridged version of this article was published in the website Mobo.

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Me during Bhimashankar trek. Yes that’s my camera bag and umbrella!

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Gudi Padwa in Dombivali – The Grand Carnival Of Mumbai called Shobha Yatra

Everything in Mumbai is ‘Maha’ (grand) in size and stature. Be it the buildings, the vast expanse of sea, the industries, the heart of its citizens or the way they live their ‘larger than life’ despite the several personal and professional demons they struggle with everyday.

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Ain’t less than a carnival!

Mumbaikars never skip an opportunity to celebrate their life extraordinarily. And most of Mumbai’s celebrations spill on its roads and streets! Yes, Mumbai knows how to celebrate life on roads! Apart from Dahi Handi and Ganeshotsav, one major festival which is close to every Mumbaikar’s heart is Gudi Padwa. Gudi Padwa marks the beginning of the new year as per the Hindu calendar co-inciding with the harvesting season. The first day of the Chaitra month of Hindu calender is celebrated as new year amongst the Maharashtrian community.

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Sweat it out!

A Gudi is hung aloft in homes, shops, temples etc to mark the festival. A Gudi is

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Gudi

enthusiastically made by family members. A long bamboo stick is washed, dried
and its one end is covered with brightly colored and neatly tied zari Saris. Neem leaves, mango leaves, sugar crystals (gaathi) and Marigold flower garlands are also tied alongwith it. The top of the tied sari is covered with an inverted copper vessel called ‘lota’. The gudi is hung high to announce the universal theme of triumph of good over evil. It is also supposed to bring in good luck and prosperity. The preparations of the festival starts a day or two earlier with spring cleaning of the house. On the day of the festival, very early in the morning, the women and children of the house make ornate and colorful ‘Rangolis’ on the ground! However, the Rangoli is removed late evening on the same day.

 

People scrub themselves clean early morning, women smell of gajra (a fragrant flower garland tied on hair!) and wear new traditional clothes on this day. Men wear white ‘Dhoti’ and brightly colored (mostly saffron) ‘kurta’. The look is completed with saffron colored ‘pheta’ aka ‘patka’, the traditional Maharashtrian turban. While the women adorn themselves in brightly colored traditional 9 yard saaree and a short sleeved blouse. It’s complimented with flowers and jewelries especially the traditional ‘Kolhapuri Saaz’. A small pooja (ritual) is performed after launching the gudi.

Now its time for the dieters to let loose and allow themselves to give in to the gastronomic indulgence, mostly sweet dishes. Strangely, the first thing the family member eat on this auspicious day is an odd bittersweet mixture of coarsely ground bitter Neem leaves, ‘gud’ (jaggery), and dhana (coriander powder). The highly medicinal properties of Neem strengthens the immune system and purifies the body while the sweet jaggery offsets the bitter taste of Neem. A wide range of sweets such as Shrikhand, Poori , Sanna, Basundi, Kheer, Jalebi, and most importantly Pooran Poli ( A kind of sweet lentil paratha) is cooked at home.

Once the celebrations at home wraps up, the festive fervor spills with full vigor on the narrow streets and roads of Mumbai. The ever busy and infamous traffic of Mumbai comes at an abrupt halt as the city witnesses multiple ‘jhaanki’/ ‘Rath Yatras’ / parades in different localities of Mumbai. However, the parade in Dombivali steals the show with its grandeur, pomp and show. It attracts the maximum audiences, photographers, media, politicians , the usual suspects! And for good reason!

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Dombivali based Ganesh Mandir Sansthan’s Nav Varsha Swagat Shobha Yatra Sanyojak organises the annual procession better known as Shobha Yatra every year. Contrary to the popular belief, the tradition of taking a Shobha Yatra , much carnival like, is a recent phenomenon. It was started in the late 1990s and has inspired similar procession not only in Mumbai but all of Maharashtra. The tradition is not only entertaining but also displays the cultural and religious richness of Maharashtra in its full glory. And in the process it unites the citizens by instilling in them a sense of belongingness, cultural and ethnic unity and brotherhood. The bonhomie, goodwill, geniality and camaraderie amongst complete strangers here is to be seen to be believed.

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You can expect to see myriad themes and performances in the parade. At one moment you will be treated with a power packed and well synchronized dhol performance then at other you will be amused to see dogs dressed up as dolls and sitting pretty on moving motorbikes. And then the next minute you go ‘wow’ when kids as young as 10 years old flex their agile bodies and perform ‘Mallakhambh’ as if it was actually a ‘child play’. Lavani perfomances are also big attraction and so are the participants dressed up as mythological characters on horse driven ‘raths’ (chariots). Maharashtrian celebrities also throng the parade and add more glamour to the festive milieu.

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Volunteers are appointed every few meters to offer free water and ‘sherbets’ (Refreshing sweet drink) to not only the performers but also the audiences.

Where else you can have so much fun and not spend a single rupee? Only in Mumbai!

(Oh come on, you can afford that local train ticket!)

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Lavani – Maharashtra’s folk dance

P. S. I was accompanied by my good Maharashtrian friends and colleagues, who were also the volunteers in the processions. Ankita Gawade, Manjiri Joshi (She is a fab Tabla Player) and Sameer Naik enriched my experience by giving me the local’s perspective. This blog is based on conversations with them. I thank them for inviting me to see the festival in all its glory. If you want to see the processions live, Dombivali carnival I have been told are the best. I went in April, 2013. More pictures here :

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Me and Maharashtrian actress Mrinal Kulkarni

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Have You Ever Experienced The 4 a.m. Mumbai? It Is My Favourite Mumbai

THE SINISTER PLAN:

When I lived in Mumbai for 7 years, I often did this. There were Saturday and Friday nights when I used to be sleepless and restless. So it was 4/11/2012, a Saturday, 3:15 a.m. and I was watching my favourite scenes and songs from the ‘soul’ film of my life: INTO THE WILD for the Nth time. Every time I see this film after 12 am, I am unable to sleep. Thanks to the semi autobiographical theme of this film, it does something to my brain, makes me think, brood, reflect, cry and smile. (More on that, in a later blog)

And then there is this huge ‘soul window’ in my flat from where I can see local trains pass by. I know that in half an hour the 1st Vashi to CST aka VT bound train will start at 4 a.m. Impulsively, I decide that I have to take this train and spend some ME time at the God’s hour.

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Fisherwomen waiting for cab at VT. Yes, it’s Rush Hour at Dawn!

In a jiffy, I got down, took the 5 minutes walk to Vashi station, punched my ticket coupons and waited for the train. There were 2 more men seated on the ghostly and deserted platform, one of them playing my favourite soulful songs Faya Kun and Nadan Parinde from Rockstar. More food for my soul! (I can’t help but chew on the thought that the protagonist of Into The Wild and Rockstar are so similar in their spirit and bad ass attitude) The mood for introspection is set!

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THE RIDE:

It was a 45 minute ride and I was happy to see an empty train. That meant I could stand at the door and let the early morning cool breeze caress me.10 minutes into the ride, and people started filling up the train.

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Lesson learnt: There is no such thing as an empty Mumbai local train 4 a.m. or 4 p.m.!

But I fiercely latched onto the middle rod of the door like a novice striptease dancer. The commuters were mainly the fish vendors on their way to Bhaucha Dhakka, Dockyard Road and the ubiquitous pao (Mumbai bread) vendors and flower sellers. The contrasting smell of fresh flowers and decaying fish combined to emanate a funny sick sweet smell. Then soon a bunch of young punters (aka tapori) broke the silence as they hopped on to the train. No prizes for guessing what happened next: I got to see the famous Mumbai local stunts (which claim many lives every year) by the self styled and trained teenagers. The jaw dropping bonus: One of the performers was a burqa (Islamic veiled dress) clad teenaged girl. It happens only in Mumbai! Enveloped in the soul stirring melodies of In To The Wild (Eddie Vedder, I can’t thank you enough for these songs!), and intoxicated by the sweet November feeling, my soul is transported to some other world!!!!!

 

VT (Victoria Terminus) aka CST STATION (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus):

Soon I am at VT station, I get out and behold the sight of the iconic BMC building (Big hug, British folks!!) All lit up, it looked great in early morning. Bang opposite it, fish vendor toting huge empty cane baskets were struggling for a seat in taxi. It’s 5 a.m. and its serious business time. Lighting up a cigarette (Of course, its injurious to health), I ordered a tea and bun – maska (bread-butter). Simple yet tasty!

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Me at VT (Pic : Jeetendra Sharma)

Satiated, I move on to find myself intrigued by the frenzied activity of newspaper vendors. There were scores of them arranging newspapers (and inserting those irritating advertising brochures) on the supposedly busy VT to Kala Ghoda road. I had to take out my camera to capture this rare moment. Click click click, I went. Next stop in my ‘pilgrimage’: The Flora fountain. My dad is obsessed with this fountain (and to think, he last saw it in the 1970s) and thanks to the genetic disorder, the tradition to obsess about this remarkable piece of public art has passed on to me! I take the ‘darshan’ and move on. By the way the ‘Amar Jyoti’ (Eternal light) is still going strong! (There is this small ‘mashal’ aka firelight which is lighted 24 * 7, 365 days, come what may, be it rain, storms, or even Kasab – (the 26/11 terrorist!)

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Me salivating over Bun Maska (Pic : Jeetendra Sharma)

Churchgate

Then as I move towards Churchgate station, 4-5 bikers whizzed off past me in a jiffy at a mind boggling speed. The need for speed and empty Mumbai roads : perfect combination. All I could manage was a ‘chaunk gaye’ (surprised) expression. They were probably coming from their biking session at Marine Drive.

On the way to Churchgate, I see people sleeping on pavement sans a care in the world. But what struck me the most was that most were sleeping with a dog as if they were the part of their family. I even saw one guy hugging the dog as they slept in eternal bliss. The bonhomie and bond shared by them was very palpable.

Pic above : We saw some turkeys on road, In Local Train , Tea at 5 a.m.

As I reached Churchgate, I indulged in the second round of cigarette (Yes, you are right…..I am wrong!), bun-maska and tea. Interestingly, I could see I was not the only eccentric chap there. There were also many ‘advertising types’ brats who hung around.(Read : the standard wild Afro hair, a goatee, a Bermuda, sandals and black tee with whacky prints and voila the advertising wala look is done) They parked their super expensive sports cars and bikes and high maintenance girl friends and indulged in this humble ‘eating out’. Anything for the love of 5 a.m. Mumbai!

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Churchgate

As I savoured the ‘Ambrosia’, I was interrupted by another divine intervention. All the walking and eating built up the pressure on me and I had to defecate ASAP. Thankfully, the God sent Sulabh Shauchalaya (Public toilet chain of India) was nearby. So, I sat pretty as a king on the HOT SEAT and admired the erotic art and literature on the jarred wooden door (both hetero and homosexual in nature, ugh!) Thanks to the free XXX action on the door and walls, as I began fantasising about ‘things’ and possibilities, I was soon shaken from my fantasy world. As soon as I entered the loo, within 2 minutes a rude knock on the door was accompanied by a crass, “Ae nikal re, kya ander hi baitha rahega?’ (Aye, get out, will you keep sitting there all day?) I wound up my performance in a jiffy, exited, but not before giving an intimidating eyeful to the ‘Yeller’.

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Me at Marine Drive (Pic : Jeetendra Sharma)

Marine Drive

The next stop was Marine Drive. Though at 5:30 a.m. you don’t have to fight for a seat on the promenade but it was still surprisingly buzzing with activities of different kind. There were joggers, time-passers, ‘life-livers’, Yoga lovers, dog walkers, road sweepers, the works! Most of them were rich SoBo (South Bombay)/Colaba gentry. Then there were a bunch of oldies whiling away their time; the overtly LGBT group busy in their own little happy world; the girl who looked like a prostitute; the traveller who was perhaps passing his time, before he can board his long distance train from VT; the foreign couple, perhaps from the adjoining Oberoi hotel.

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Me at Marine Drive (Pic : Jeetendra Sharma)

The great leveller this egalitarian megacity is, it’s the only city I know where people share a common platform , regardless of their class, caste, color, income group, sexuality, gender, region, religion, ideologies whatever. I soaked in the seductive ambience and perched on the promenade, sipping tea and observing. (Yes, you have those cycle tea sellers at 5 a.m. in Marine Drive! Now squeal like a teenaged girl and say yippee!)  Soon, the streets light went pfft and the whole area was illuminated with soft early morning Sun. I have seen many sunsets here, it was one of those rare sun rises I have ever seen in my life.

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Churchgate

I soon received a scandalised SMS from my room mate. “Dude, where are you?’ he asks. I couldn’t help but smile. He was worried to not find me at home so early in the morning. Soon I received another SMS from an office friend Sagar Surve asking me to join him on the Walkathon (Walking marathon) in Bandra. I still had one venue left to complete my pilgrimage circuit; i.e. Bhaucha Dhakka. I was in 2 mind, as I had not slept in 24 hours. But soon, I put aside ‘Will I be able to pull off the 5 kms walk after remaining awake for 24 hours’ with a sporting, ‘Lets do it. Lets push the limits and test my stamina.’

BHAUCHA DHAKKA :

I still had time left, so I rushed to VT to take a local to Dockyard Road station for Bhaucha Dhakka. Come here at 6 a.m. and you will see thousands and lakhs of fishes of all kinds and sizes lying on the roadside.

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The smell will wear on you. The place lived upto the term ‘fish market’ There was chaos, bad ass behaviour, petty fights, screams and mixed human noises. (If only the dead fish could make noise to appeal for mercy!) And then a hand cart puller rudely admonished me while I was standing in the middle of the super busy road, admiring a huge and gorgeous sting ray with a child like curiosity, mouth agape. “Ae Lambu, hat re…”,

BHAUCHCHA DHAKKA (2)
Ae Lambu, Hat Re….”

(Hey tall man, get off my way) he screamed. I move on to discover more secrets of the sea. Alive Crabs, Bombay ducks, pomfrets, prawns etc filled every empty space.

By this time, I had managed to click some good pictures, but soon a Mr. ‘I Own Bhaucha Dhakka’ (and maybe even Bombay) accosted me aggressively: Photography not allowed here. When I asked why, I was subjected to 100 year old history of India.

 

The Britishers made this rule! Blah blah (Sad, we are still following the archaic laws!) Wake up Sire, Raj is over. After ensuring that I deleted all the pictures, the man voluntarily escorted me to the taxi stand so that I do not return back. (The pictures in the blog is from a different visit)

 

 Pic Above – Bhauchcha Dhakka

WALKATHON AT BKC, BANDRA:

I moved on to Bandra Kurla Complex for the Walkathon. After ogling at all the celebrities, especially my personal favourite, Anurag Kashyap, (Other celebs were : Kunal Kapoor , Gowatrikar sisters, Jacky Bhagnani (yawn!), I began the litmus test. I finished a 5 kms walkathon on 4-11-2012 in 45 minutes. Not a big deal, but a somewhat big deal when I have not slept for a single minute in past 24 hours and took the 4 am VT bound train, roamed like a vagabond at 5 am in the streets of Mumbai and then took this last minute impulsive decision to take the walk. Thanks to my friend for putting a pistol on my head and forcing me to take the walk. The perks: free snickers and crackers and water bottles and safety pins (Ugh).

Pic above  – Pic 1 – Kunal Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap, Rajat Barmecha , Pic 2 – Me after finishing Walkathon, Pic 3 – Me with Aditi Gowatrikar

Pics above : Tired me (Shot by Nishant Bajpai)

I returned home at 11 a.m. As soon as I hit bed at my bachelors’ pad, my roomie says, “Lets go to the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, I blabbered in my half sleep, “Dude, I am too tired. I ain’t a James Bond! Ever seen me with a martini? Put the light off, sell my tickets, and see the movie alone”

IMG_0066

Important Points If You Want To Do It Too :

 My 4 a.m. Mumbai darshan got so famous and envied that later many of my friends nagged me to take them along. The pictures here are from many of my early morning walks in So Bo. Here are some tips for you :

  • I won’t recommend this pilgrimage to solo women.
  • Even men should be aware of their surroundings. There have been some cases of chain and cellphone snatching early morning.
  • Don’t flash expensive gadgets and jewelleries.
  • The fish smell from Bhaucha Dhakka just grows on you. It might take a day or more to get the smell out of your nose and clothes. Yes, even after a bath.
  • Eat Pao Bhaji at the Churchgate station main gate. It is very unlike the regular Mumbai pao bhaji.
  • There might be some drunkards or lunatics around. Beware.
  • Carry paper soaps, you know why!
  • Walk, don’t take a cab.
  • Best months to do it- November to February, even monsoon if you can brave the Mumbai rains.
  • I enjoyed doing it solo and also with friends. If you are a girl and you want to do it. Do it like we did. We went in a group of male and females.

Other fun places you can do this in Mumbai:

  • Dadar Chowpatty
  • Bandstand, Bandra

I wrote this post in 2012 but sharing today for the first time with all of you. As I sit and edit (I was a horrible writer in 2012), the piece in Delhi , I get deeply nostalgic about Mumbai and want to catch the first train to the maximum city. I have never felt so deeply for any city (and I have lived in 7 cities). I shifted permanently from Mumbai to Delhi in Nov, 2015 but my heart still lies in Mumbai. 

 

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