Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

Mumbai morning. marine drive. May 3, 2015

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 2:31 pm
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Marine Drive_2

It’s 7 am. The air feels cool. Mumbai’s pride; Marine Drive, is awake and alive. The broad promenade stretches along the Arabian Sea. In the evening, the shining lamp posts form a necklace, the Queen’s Necklace as they call it. Beautifully rounded, accompanied by the waves that steadily hit the rocks. But it’s early morning now, the sun is about to rise and break through the morning mist. A faint breeze strokes my chin as I listen to the ever present Mumbai crows. To the north, the skyline stretches towards the sky, mostly made by the high-rise buildings of fancy Malabar Hills. They seem quite a distance away behind a haze of mist, or smog as it might well be.

I turn around and my gaze falls on the Air India building, who has become my landmark. Tall hotels together with ordinary corporate buildings form the Northern skyline. People come to work here, but right now, people come to walk. They walk alone, or in pairs. In long strides, and short strides. The men, retired perhaps – in their white, big jogging shoes. Loose trousers, shirts with rolled up sleeves. Some stroll along leisurely, some walk briskly. They walk the talk. Old colleagues, neighbours, brothers, friends. Twos and threes, sometimes in fours. Then there is the retired couples; the women in their salwar kameez and a woollen cardigan on top of it. It’s still cool for a Mumbaikar. The wide trousers flutter around old legs above big shoes. Good shoes. They don’t talk, there is no need. They walk. Before the sun emerges and makes walking unbearable.

Some wear track suits, swinging their arms energetically from side to side. More men in groups, friends on a daily morning round. Glasses blinking, hands agitatedly waving the air. They could be discussing politics. Shouting friendly at each other. Or just keeping quiet. An old woman walks towards me, she is wearing a burka. She sits down next to me, breathes heavily. She seems distressed, restless. After a while she heaves her heavy body and leaves, perhaps she needed a rest. A suffering body or a suffering mind. Marine Drive_3

A young man is chasing a football, all by himself. The ball goes this way and that, always captured by the man who puts it back on track. He’s moving along with the ball, in between people. Nobody interferes. I follow him with my gaze, soon the restless figure is lost among the people.

The stream of people thickens. The sun is about to break. Four women is sitting side by side, chanting. Om, they chant. Ooomm… They are unmoved by the stream of people, by the looks of any odd tourist. Closed eyes, deep in concentration. The concrete wall along the promenade doubles as a bench. People also walk on top of it, or they sit down cross legged with their faces turned towards the sea. Contemplating; about the day that lies ahead or even life itself… Even at this hour, some young couples sit close together, captured in secrecy perhaps, a more than common sight in the evening. Some do yoga, stretching their bodies towards the soft sky. Some is lost to the world in deep meditation. Or, we simply let our gaze wander. Up and down the promenade. Thinking how lucky this overcrowded, polluted, dirty megalopolis is to have such freedom and space for everybody to share.

The joggers emerge among the walkers. Long trousers, short trousers. A woman in a sari even. Chubby young girls adamant on losing a few kilos, their feet heavily touching ground; bump bump. Sweat foreheads. Alone, but also in pairs. Mutual struggle. Mutual pain. Being two is always a small comfort. Athletic men in shorts glide along, fancy sun glasses, even more fancy shoes. Expats trying to keep fit, trying to beat the forever-glaring sun, trying to keep up a lifestyle from colder countries. Foreign business men from nearby hotels follow suit. But people mostly walk. Arms swinging from side to side. Stretching limbs as they walk. Serious looks on their faces. Trying to fight old age. Middle aged women in western clothes and big sunglasses. Walking fast and furious. Fighting yesterday’s too many laddoos. Young girls in threes and fours. Serious sometimes. Or giggling, discussing that very special boy in school. Avoiding the many stray dogs that scuttle about. And there he is; the little boy with the monkey in a chain. Frowned upon by the regulars, but always attracting interest from tourists before they realise he’s not there to entertain, but to earn a living.

I’m leaving, still not at risk while crossing the street. Walking towards the Air India building, and then straight ahead on uneven sidewalks towards Colaba. The odd stalls are coming to life along the way, people are queueing for their buses, the Oval Maidan is quiet, but the traffic is picking up as I reach the other side of the city where the sun has hit the Indian Sea with full force. Mumbai kråke

 

Morning walks…. March 20, 2012

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 7:17 pm
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When I came to Mumbai last November, it was hot. Unusually hot, the locals said. And yes, the thermometer was constantly pushing 40 and the humidity made it almost unbearable to stay outside for a long time. My partner hates shopping, but suddenly he saw shops as an opportunity to cool down…. My good luck! But he also likes to walk, and how would we be able to take brisk walks in the south of Mumbai, when the heat made you feel dizzy just after one block.

Morning haze, as seen from Marine Drive.

The solution was not hard to find. Our hotel, Suba Palace, is only a 15 minute walk away from Marine Drive. It would have to be morning walks. We set out just after a light breakfast. The big roundabout that makes the start of Colaba Causeway, S. P. Mukherjee Chowk, was still rather empty, we could cross the street in a civilised way…. And then we headed for Flora Fountain, along MG Road, through the charming Fort area, where we took a left turn and ended up on Veer Nariman Road that cuts through the Oval Maidan to the left and the Cross Maidan to the right!
Or we chose the more quiet Madame Cama Road that would take us directly to Marine drive, through a pretty quiet neighbourhood. Many of the streets in the south of Mumbai are lined with beautiful trees that also cast very pleasant shadows. But we didn’t really need the shadows in the early morning. The air felt cool and fresh and we could walk pretty fast.

Going north!

It’s always interesting to see a big city come to life. And especially a megacity, like Mumbai. I guess this part of the south of Mumbai will never get really crowded and these streets will not be lined with hawkers during the day – still – they won’t remain empty. The rush hour had not really started, some cars were there – but you couldn’t really call it traffic. Mumbai traffic….The Air India building rose in front of us, and Marine Drive was “just around the corner”. We passed a fantastic banyan tree, where we crossed the road and then: The Arabian Sea.
Marine Drive is a promenade, 3 kilometre long, and there is space for everybody on a Monday morning! People come here for a brisk walk (or just a walk), there are joggers, people do yoga and meditation, and contemplation. In a city of close to 18 million inhabitants, Marine Drive is a breathing space for many people – including an over heated tourist!

The Samudra, natural perfume….

We walked to the very start (south) of Marine Drive and turned around – going north. Every morning I had to comment on the Samudra, its lovely fragrance and the funny flowers. But then suddenly: The sun strikes back…. When you walk in the early morning, or in the pleasant shadow, it’s hard to imagine how the sun burns. So we crossed the Netaji S Bose Road (Marine Drive), now heavy with traffic, and walked towards Churcgate station. We wanted a coffee really badly, every morning, but it was just about too early for the coffe bars we passed on our way. We knew the Barista, or the Cafe CoffeDay, both next to Regal Cinema in Colaba would be open any minute. Both serve excellent coffee!
The morning walk became a ritual. A ritual I will keep up as long as I visit Mumbai!

 

Looking for quick rupies….

A corner shop comes to life in the morning….

And the bus queues springs to life as well….

A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…. as seen from our window at Barista!

 

Marine Drive April 10, 2011

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 4:37 pm
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Marine Drive in all its splendour....

Mumbai feels, most of the time, terribly congested, polluted, noisy, suffocating – words are many to describe the sad parts of this – in my opinion – fantastic city. But there is at least one place one can breathe freely. And that is Marine Drive. It’s a 3 km long boulevard in the south of the city, stretching from Mumbai’s Manhattan; Nariman Point to Malabar Hill, a posh residential area. It is a ‘C’-shaped six-lane concrete road along the coast, which is a natural bay. Real estate prices are among the highest in the world in this area

Family life at Chowpatty beach!

Since I prefer to stay at Suba Palace in the south of Mumbai, Marine Drive always comes as a relief after a long taxi ride from the northern suburbs. Yes, the traffic very often comes to a standstill here as well, but at least one can watch the Arabian sea on the right hand side. But at one point the taxi has to turn left and hit into the ‘jungle’ once more.

The highlight of Marine Drive is the beautiful promenade along the road where many  Mumbaikars take in a breath of fresh air and view the setting sun. The promenade is lined with palm trees. At the northern end of Marine Drive is Chowpatty Beach. A friend of mine had heard of Chowpatty and wondered if she should bring her bathing suit. Well, rather not. I wouldn’t dare lower my body into the polluted water, neither would I think it suitable to appear in a bathing suit. But Chowpatty is good for observing Indian family life on a Sunday afternoon.

Young lovers enjoying the solitude...

The stretch from Colaba to Marine Drive is walkable, just head for Churchgate train station. I have found a good pizzeria on a corner, so that I can eat well and at the same time watch Marine Drive. Outside the pizzeria a young woman with a child resides, I don’t really think it’s her child, beside – I have seen her with different ones. She begs from the pavement, sometimes she walks out in the street to beg among the cars. I think she is given left overs from the pizzeria. At least I hope so.

Living off the streets...

Marine Drive is lovely during night, when all the street lamps resemble a string of pearls and forms “The Queen’s Necklace”.  The boulevard is full of young couples, maybe their one and only escape from congested living conditions and extended families.

The Queen's necklace.