I love South Mumbai, or town as many of us refer to that part of Mumbai. It is one of my favourite areas of the city and I’m always looking for excuses to head towards that side of the city. Need to buy a book? Want to stock up on dry fruits? Buy a gift? Meet a friend for coffee? No, problem. I just make a trip to town.
I haven’t been needing an excuse these last couple of months. Every Saturday, I head to town for my PG Diploma in Indian Aesthetics classes. Though they are in the afternoon, I try to combine it with other ‘work’ or explorations in town.
About a month back, I had a minor fall that left me with a sprained ankle. Nothing serious, but my doctor didn’t want me gallivanting to town in local trains or walking around and straining the ankle, especially since I was due to travel soon. (I leave today. Yay !). That meant that my forays to town had to be restricted to going for class and coming straight back home. It was a depressing thought !
A couple of days later after the fall, I got a mail from Blacklane, a car ride service referring to an earlier email exchange. Sometime in June, Blacklane had reached out offering me a ride anywhere in Mumbai. Since I didn’t need one at that time, I declined and we left it that. The second time around, I didn’t decline, Blacklane offered me their services a couple of Saturdays back.
This is an account, in pictures, of that day in town.
Sometimes, all it takes is a bus ride to see your surroundings in a new light, or a new perspective. Don’t believe me? Read on…
It all began with an invitation from Audio Compass to celebrate the launch of their AudioCompass Guide with an “open air bus journey through Mumbai at sunset, discussing and getting to know her many stories”. So, on the appointed day and time on a beautiful day in March, I boarded the open air, double-decker BEST bus near Churchgate Station in South Mumbai.
As I surveyed my surroundings from the upper deck of the bus, it was with a sense of familiarity of seeing old landmarks—the Asiatic Departmental Store across the road, Resham Bhavan on my left… And yet, everything looked so very different. That’s when I realised that the elevation made a huge difference to what I was seeing and things that I had not noticed or details that were not visible from ground level were suddenly in focus. For instance, I could see the white spire of St. Thomas Cathedral rising above the trees through the left windshield of the bus — something I had never noticed before.
This is the ‘church’ whose ‘gates’ have given Churchgate its name. To me, this felt like an auspicious start to the tour and I couldn’t wait to see what else was going to be revealed during the bus ride. I didn’t have long to wait and once the other guests had arrived we set off. Continue reading
Last Friday began very ordinarily for me. Though it was a holiday, I had to go in to work. I finished around 4 pm and headed to Sewri, where I met up with 2 friends. Sewri is on the eastern shore of what was once Parel Island, one of the seven islands of this city, and fringed by mangroves that are home to a variety of bird life all through the year.
We were there to see the Sewri Fort, one of the Mumbai’s 8 forts, and once there we first spent time looking around and discussing its rather unique architecture (more about that in another post). Only then did we get around to exploring the nooks and crannies of the Fort.
When I peered through an opening in the wall, this is what I saw.
And I squealed, “I see flamingos, pink flamingos, a bunch of flamingos… ” (I’m pretty sure I must have jumped up and down, but I can’t recall that.). I think I went a little incoherent after that.
But the thing is: I. Saw. Flamingos. Live ones. Outside of a TV screen or a glossy magazine or even a comic book. I. Saw. Flamingos. And my camera wouldn’t stop clicking. They were quite some distance away and I had to zoom in to see them even half-way clearly.
The Sion Fort is one of the eight existing forts in Mumbai.
My brothers tell me that I visited the Fort as a 4-year old in 1975. Our family had just shifted to Mumbai from Bhopal that year and the first few months were spent in settling down and of course, exploring a new city. I have absolutely no recollection of that visit, though I remember other visits made at that time to the Gateway of India, the zoo, the shoe house at Malabar Hill, etc.
Over the years, hearing my brothers talk about the visit to the Sion Fort has always made me want to visit it. But somehow, every planned trip to the Sion Fort has never worked out for one reason or the other. One can even say that it was jinxed. There was one instance when I had gotten off the bus at Sion and had just started walking towards the Fort when I got a call from office asking me to report immediately for a work-related emergency! That was about 4 years back and my last attempt to visit the Sion Fort.
Till earlier this month, that is. When I casually mentioned about wanting to visit the Sion Fort to Rushikesh Kulkarni, a fellow blogger and the guy who runs Breakfree Journeys, he said, “Let’s go.” Before I knew it, a date and a time had been fixed for the visit. And just like that it worked out. So on a weekday, about an hour before sunset, Rushikesh, my friend Neena and I met at the entrance of one of the lanes leading to the Fort from the Eastern Express Highway at Sion.
The Sion Fort