Mumbai Memories


Mumbai could be very unsettling for someone who is used to life in Delhi. My first impression of Mumbai was marred by the nightmarish flight. It was the middle of August and i had added some leaves to the Independence day weekend and come to meet Anindita, who was working here for a media agency. The monsoons were hitting Mumbai with their full fury and we began to feel the effect as the plane began to begin its descent towards CSIA. I had a window seat from where i could see the wings of the plane and i could see them almost flapping up and down. Scared would be an understatement..,i hate flying with all my heart. Every time i need to travel on work, i try and go by train. In my mind i was waiting to hear the captain announce “Mayday!” anytime.

But then we landed and i headed out where Anindita was waiting for me with a broad grin on her face, which did calm me down a little. I was still a bit unsettled, though. But that was taken care of at the Vile Parle station from where we needed to catch a north-bound train to Borivili, where she stayed. So there was my first encounter with the legendary Mumbai suburban train. I finally managed to get into a first class compartment, luggage and all and stood there, sandwiched by people on all sides, Anindita nowhere to be seen. After Andheri, the crowd thinned a little and Anindita materialized magically from behind a fat Marwari aunty-jee. Phew!

This was in 2008 and i have been to Mumbai twice more and come back with more memories. All my trips to Mumbai have never been about exploring the city, although i always meant to. Its been about spending time with my best friend. And in between long walks on Carter Road, boat-rides to Elephanta, Chicken Peri Peri in Inorbit Mall in Malad or simply sitting on the embankment on Marine Drive, i did get a glimpse of the city. Sometimes i hate Mumbai because of the constant claustrophobia, the ever-present crowd and the way the weather reacted to my then long hair, but all said and done, it is also where some of my most important memories are. Some of these memories are good, and a couple of them, not so, but important they are, nonetheless.

Marine Drive on a very grey morning!

I have always visited Mumbai at the same time of the year – the August 15 weekend. Being the heights of monsoons in Mumbai, i have always got bad light and as a result of which i have resorted to shooting in black and white with increased contrast and spiked ISO for the grainyness. At times, the sun did come out and i reverted immediately to colour!

As the waves come crashing by..

We usually hang out at home in Borivili. Anindita likes to go to the movies so we usually average a movie a day while in Mumbai or when she comes to Delhi. The funniest part of the movie going experience in Mumbai is rising for the National Anthem. Works for a Manoj Kumar Movie but not so much for Singh is Kinng!

Anindita!

Sometimes in the evenings we would go to places by the sea to sit and talk. Carter road was nice but i liked Bandra Reclaimation (i think!) even better. Its like a promenade by the sea with a park that runs alongside. To your right is the Bandra-Worli Sea Link while in front of you, across the little bay is the constantly rising Worli skyline. A perfect place to sit and watch the sun go down. If any Mumbaikars are reading this and you happen to identify which place i am talking about, please do tell me because next time i am in Mumbai, i would like to go back there.

Sea-side Lounge
Sea Link

Last year when i went to Mumbai, Anindita took me to Carter Road, again in Bandra. Off the park by the road, a little strip composed of boulders juts out into the sea. We tried to walk right till the end of it, but it was broken at several places. We however, did make use of the ice-cream vendors loitering about the area.

Friends
Can’t lose your way here, can you?
Animated @ Juhu Beach
Piety!
To the Gods above…

In September 2008, Aamir had to go to Mumbai to meet ‘someone’ and since he had no other place to stay in Mumbai, decided to stay at Anindita’s.. and that gave me an idea. In the evening he was leaving for Mumbai, i asked him if it was okay for me to tag along. It was a Friday and all i had to do was call in sick on Saturday. So i bought my ticket in the same flight hardly two hours before the takeoff and in another three hours Anindita found both of us knocking on her door rather than just Aamir.

That weekend was a flurry of activity. Since i had come unplanned, Anindita had to go to the office the next day, while i stayed at home watching TV and cooking. In the evening, Anindita’s friend Ananya came over. I had gotten friendly with him during my last visit and he took me to a nearby restaurant where we feasted on some delicious Marathi mutton curry and biryani. Anindita came back at night and the next day Aamir, her and me roamed around the city and in the evening both of us left on the last flight to Delhi.

The usual reaction to Aamir’s face
My two best friends in a single frame
Conspirators Inc.
Technicolour
Gadadhaari!

Other than this surprise trip, on both the other occasion, i had made it a point to go to Elephanta Island. Other than my personal interest in history and heritage, it was the hour long boat ride that attracted me the most. As you leave the Apollo Bunder and make your way through a large variety of ships of various sizes, the Bombay coastline recedes gradually to the distance and you see what you rarely do in Delhi – a skyline! I usually bribe the boatman to let me sit in the tiny triangular patch right in front of the boat where you can feel the sway the most.

The island slowly comes into view and in a few minutes the boat docks. It usually does so alongside another boat and you cross from one boat to another till you reach the jetty. The most fun thing about Elephanta Island is the tiny train that takes visitors from the jetty to the ticket office. When Anindita and I went there, we were hungry and went to a restaurant for lunch. Time flew by and before long the caves had started closing down. So basically, we went all the way on the boat, took the train from the jetty to the ticket office and then spent like three hours there, but never really saw any caves.

Suspended Animation @ Apollo Bunder
A village in Elephanta Island
Joy-ride, literally!
One flew over…
Anchored in the jewelled sea

When the Portuguese were building their base in India, the island’s jetty used to be dominated by an enormous sculpture of an elephant; hence the name. Numerous attempts were made by the Portuguese to destroy the sculpture, until it was broken down in pieces. The fragments were later transported to the mainland and joined together. Today it can be seen in the Bhau Daji Lad museum in the suburban Byculla.

One of the many caves in the island
The jetty from in front of the caves
Sculptures at Elephanta
Sculptures at Elephanta

As i said already, the best part about Elephanta is the boat ride. In the evenings, when you take the boat back from the island towards Colaba, the sun is usually setting and a thousand other suns dance on the surface of the waves. Here are a couple of images i took on the trip back from Elephanta:

At the end of the day!
Bom Biah: The Good Bay!

On one of the trips, Anindita had to be in office one day and i decided to walk around the fort. I was told that it would be deserted as it was Sunday. So i walked around. I started at VT and walked all across the Fort and the narrow bylanes and following the recommendation of a friend, had lunch at Jimmy Boy Cafe. I dont know if anyone would agree with me, but Fort did feel a bit like Kolkata, albeit better organised.

Someone please help me identify this building. This was near St Xavier’s
Details from VT
Details from VT
Details from VT
Look, a cherub!
The old man of the arch!

Bombay is too hyperactive for me. Everyone seems to be travelling all the time. From home to the station, from the station to catching a bus without any time to spare. I have seen women chopping vegetables on the the train so that they can get home and cook and get a few hours’ sleep before the next day begins at the same pace. I am not that ambitious a person. All i need to have is enough money to tank up my bike and my camera slung on my neck. Bombay does not make any sense to me, but then its my personal, honest opinion.

The customary mugshot

Sometimes, i did feel that i was travelling to Bombay to bring back memories that would sustain me till the time i came to Bombay next or Anindita came here. But i guess after some time, you need something more than memories… you need something that stays in the preset – with you. So Bombay, in a way is synonymous to distance, as far as i am concerned – a place where memories are made, the Chocolate Factory, if you will! Thinking about Bombay does make me feel nostalgic but at the same time makes me realise that there is more to life than nostalgia. There is life itself. Things change, as do people. I know i will go back to Bombay and when i do i just hope i stop manufacturing memories and just be in the moment, at one with the environment.

Its been raining more than ever!

And as Vikram Seth said:

All you who sleep tonight

Far from the ones you love

No hands to left or right

But emptiness above.

But know that you are not alone..

The whole world shares your stears

Some for a day or two…

And some for all the years

And some, for all the years

Day 5 – Havelock Island


What a day! What a rare day! Ever since we came to these islands, it had been raining… all the time. For the first time in days, the sun was out and all the colours changed. We reached the port early in the morning to board the boat (MV Rani Lakshmi) that will take us to Havelock via Neil Island.

The map of Havelock will put my later ramblings into a lucid context. I hope!

Havelock map

Boats lined up on the docks at Port Blair. All of them are run by the government and are subsidised for the locals. While we paid Rs 235 per head for the journey from Port Blair to Havelock, for locals its Rs 25.

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Jetty lights against the clear blue sky!

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Thats the colour of the sea when the sun is shining. Port Blair recedes to the distance as the boat starts its eastward crawl towards Neil and Havelock

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North Bay. The entire region is surrounded with coral reefs and forms the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park. When you look at the back-side of a Rs 20 note, you will see an island with lots of coconut trees and a lighthouse. Thats the north bay island and the lighthouse (which is just left of  this photo’s left limit) is known as Wandoor.

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The seating area of the boat.

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Once the boat reached the high seas, there was nothing to do on the deck so i sat down and caught up with a couple of episodes of SCRUBS. The photograph was taken by ma while i was busy in the aforementioned fashion.

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The deep, blue sea!

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The boat makes the first stop at Neil Island. On the background is one of Neil’s beaches while the lighthouse in the foreground, a tiny lighthouse marks a coral reef so that the ships and bigger boats like the one we were on,  stay clear.

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That, they say is the real colour of the sea around here.

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These pillars too, mark the coral reefs. All these pics were taken when the boat was approaching Neil jetty.

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One more

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Men relax on the jetty, suspended above the glassy waters.

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Boats around the Neil island shoreline

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The jetty at Neil Island

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While you wait for the boat to pick up and drop passengers and begin the next leg of the journey towards Havelock, you can chill with some coconut water at the jetty

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or with some paan and cigarettes!

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The sea, painted a million shades of blue!

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Approaching Havelock

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Near the Havelock Jetty. Look at how crystal clear the water is

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What can i say!

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This is at the jetty. All these fishes were in a large school and were circling around the jetty pillars.

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And then there were smaller fishes!

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Just like people have cars in cities, people in Havelock and other islands have boats and this is how they park them!

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Thats the view we enjoyed sitting at our resort!

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The wall was put up so that the high tide water cannot rush in.

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Why do people rave about Thailand so much. Are they not aware of these places in India itself?

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The resort lawns

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There you go! half a day of sunny bliss coming to an end. The rain clouds start rolling in… that too when i had just finished renting an Enfield! Damn you rains!

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Thats the red Bullet i rented. It was called Red Bull for the day!

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And thats Andaman’s finest Brew! The fact is, if you are wet and you are sitting in a shack on the beach and waiting for your shirt to dry, any brew is good brew!

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Havelock’s prime attraction – Radhanagar Beach. This 3 km long stretch of white sand is considered to be one of the best in the world.

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And it attracts not only loud Bengali tourist and bikini-clad westerners, but also the canines.

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I wish i knew how to swim…i wish i knew how to surf!

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Have you ever seen a beach this large so empty?

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Just to stress on the point i just made.

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framed with forests…

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Driftwood on the beach

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HA HA HA! Crabs are the best. These little fellows are barely two inches across. Whenever the waves go back, they appear for seconds, only to disappear into the sand in the wink of an eye. If you happen to catch one of them, like i did, they just play dead! the moment you let them off your hand, schoom…they are off!

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The beauty of this beach! The trees look as if they have been planted according to a plan. They grow naturally in a neat row across the length of the beach

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Just like this…

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And like this…

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At times there are rocks that jut into the sea. The rocks are covered with algae and they can be very slippery. I found out the hard way and to this day, more than a week after i am back, there is still a bluish black patch on my butt!

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The sand in this stretch of the beach was rather soft. Your entire foot disappears with every step.

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Ma being a little girl!

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I like this pic!

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The sun says Good Bye!

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I will definitely come back here one day. May that day be very soon and may the company be right!

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Day 1 – Port Blair


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We reached Port Blair at 7:30 in the morning. We had to wait till 9 for the tourist office to open so that we could get accommodation. We stayed at Hornbill Nest (above) that commands a stunning view of the sea and the road that snakes by it.

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This was the view from the verandah of the cottage we stayed in. I love the dark clouds… sets a very dramatic mood!

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More views of the sea.

After we had settled down, i went for a walk down to the rocks by the seaside. The hotel was on top of a hill and as i was walking down, i got a nice photograph of the sea through the seas:

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It was low tide when i reached the sea-side rocks. As the waters had receded, it had left several pools where one could see stranded marine creatures. This colourful gentleman is called a hermit crab. Unlike other crabs, he does not have a hard shell and is hence very vulnerable. So to protect itself, it makes its home inside discarded sea shells. As they grow in size, they keep moving from smaller to larger shells.

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And these are starfish..you cant see the whole animal as its hiding under some rocks. They look more like octopuses though!

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The rocks itself were fascinating. They look as if they have been chiselled away in an organised fashion in straight lines. While quarrying could be a possibility, natural causes would make these formations all the more fascinating.

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In the afternoon, the three of us went to Corbyn’s Cove, the only beach of Port Blair

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And that, as you know is me, at Corbyn’s Cove

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..and then, its ma and baba.

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But there were you too, Anindita..or atleast something that reminded me of you

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These are fiddler crabs. They like in little burrows on beaches and rocks. The disproportionately large claws are used for burrowing and also to impress females and help the little fellow get laid.

The road back to the town passes by the sea and i stopped at a couple of places to capture the views. Here are some shots taken from the road.

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Port Blair has an extensive watersports complex. When we went there, however, it was closed. But you could still walk around on the brightly painted piers. Here’s a photo:

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Port Blair is a very picturesque city. It has a feel of a hill station as most of the island is mountainous. Here’s how the Marina (it is to Port Blair what Marine Drive is to Mumbai) looks at night. The photograph was taken from the ramparts of the Cellular Jail

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