There was a time when Bombay scared me. Yes, it was Bombay then, not Mumbai. The jostling crowd at VT, the sea of humans moving rapidly with an air of purpose in their pace, the average Indian hanging and almost tipping down from the fast moving locals, the long queues of cars at the signals, the carefree accent, the routine tightly tied to the clock. It amazed me how people complained, raised hue and cry about every single aspect but never left the city.
I admit I never tried to break free of that fear too. I was happy watching Bombay from the sidelines – movies, exhibitions, books, stories. But God has a way of making things go round in your part of the world. We moved closer to this city and then formed a connect too. I first went there for an art exhibition about a year and half back but the schedule was so busy that all I could explore was the way from my place of stay to the exhibition grounds. My five day exhibition ended and I landed back to Pune all exhausted with a memory of rush hour traffic, Worli Sea link and humidity galore. It left me high and dry.
So when I went this time for a short personal visit, I wanted to see the real city that fascinates so many. I never understood the logic behind this fascination but this time, I was going with an open mind. I wanted to feel the beckoning of the sea that drifts you with it. And to my surprise it happened. One look at the sea from close quarters with the background music of crashing waves and you forget who you are standing with, who you are talking to. You float with every wave that comes closer to touch you and then leaves without doing so. Your feet soak in the sand and leave a print and the next wave takes away that bellowing with it. Alone in the world and you feel your sorrows, your joys, your sadness, your heaviness of the heart rising above and melting away. When I saw so many people sitting by the Bandstand, I knew now what they were looking for – solace. Some with partners, some alone all trying to be at peace.
Now it had to be something non-touristy, non- commercial and a way to witness how the early mornings are in a city that never sleeps. We chose Jogger’s park. The roads suddenly looked wide and open since the real Bombay was still sleeping. Sunday mornings are not meant to give up on those precious dreams. We reached the Jogger’s park and it was on the road the cars were parked one by one in a line alongside divider when their owners enjoyed the early morning jog on a mud track. And that’s how it is. There is no parking area as such; there is no place so the road sees its share of visitors who have to resort to lining the road without blocking the passage. But I was impressed by how not even one car broke this unannounced rule and people could easily take their cars out or pass by and not create a chaos.
Inside, a mud track, a concrete walking area and a walk-by lane awaited us. You could watch the sea on the other side which was far but you could judge by the rubble and black rocks beneath that it could come this close in monsoons and high tide. Wonderful palm trees, lone benches, Worli sea link in the notable distance and a small pen for hens and ducks and bird cage along with play area for kids was enough to make us stay there for much longer than what we had planned. If I lived nearby, I would have gone there every morning just for the whiff of freshness and that view of the distant sea, if not for jogging.
Now the stomach was rumbling, asking for all the attention it didn’t get in the past two hours so we looked for a place nearby and found this quaint and quite famous Iranian café ‘Good luck restaurant.’ The muska bunns, Keema Pav and bhurji Pav fled off the plates within 10 minutes not only because we were hungry and could have eaten a live chicken too but also because it was finger licking good. My mouth is watering again just by thinking about it. The best muska bunn I have ever had and the non-vegetarians said the best Keema they ever had. Certainly, it is not famous just for its location.
Well, the location if you ask me is the desirable one. Within walking distance are the houses of two most desirable men of Indian cinema – Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan facing the sea. What a pity that they can’t just walk down to this café to enjoy the mouth-watering food here! Another straight road leads to the church of Mount Mary. When we reached there, Sunday mass was going on and despite so many people, the whole air had a sense of tranquility in it. And the architecture has to be seen to be admired.
But is the trip to Bombay complete without celebrity spotting? It isn’t and it wasn’t for me certainly. Rishi Kapoor in his jogging shorts and ears plugged with earphones in the pink of his health crossed by me at Jogger’s Park. I wanted to ask him if he could get Ranbir but then why to hassle the old man :)
Bombay is still a mystery to me. The enigma eludes me, the weather baffles me, the people surprise me, the traffic throws me out of gear but I want to see more of it. I want to feel the pulse that attracts and assimilates thousands that come here with dreams in their eyes. And so I will. Till the sea beckons me again…
Photo credits: http://www.navdeepsoni.com