Walking spots in Mumbai
Early morning walks in Mumbai are rib tickling to say the least. There are distinct people and experiences to each area of Mumbai. More so, if you thought walking meant exercising, giving one the solo space and time is concerned, then you’re sadly mistaken in Mumbai city, pre-dominated by star-struck people….
Loud laughter and shouts, crowds, noise and one would associate with local trains, but think again from early morning walks to late night home return journeys its all the same sad story!
Some along Marine Drive really look like they are preparing for the marathon, while there are varieties here. Now this is debatable, mainly b’coz we as a Mumbaikars are totally taken by this Marathon mania-why all run so much? So we see Mumbai marathon getting more & more popular by the day…Many also come early to see the billionaire rich Anilbhai, so that they can speak in their mother tongue, Gujuu…
The conversations meander between how businesses should be run. Their advice to Anilbhai would be-how to make them more rich-considering they are all Reliance share holders. The talks veer around money, cricket and how Tendlya should play and how much more money the Board can make.
The main necessity for a walker on this promenade is the compulsion to be a good multi-tasking person. Jogging, walking or evading the on-coming traffic is simple compared to evading large crowds of regular walkers who expect you disappear from their horizon in a split of a second. We as Indians just do NOT respect others’ space…so u have all walking in long lines or groups. Here all conversations are centred around money. One can see the religious ones greet each other throwing their arms in the air and loudly chant ‘Hari Om.’ Those like me who are dead against public display of private beliefs are disliked here.
For a walker, the grand experience is really the Oval maidan. Early mornings the crème de la crème of Mumbai walk along with their pedigreed canines. Seeing the Collies, Alsatians and German Sheperds you can’t blame me for mistaking the Oval for the cool hills of Scotland or Switzerland. Except that the dogs perspire in our city heat. Oval of course does resemble a mini Dal lake during monsoons. The interesting sights are couples jogging in very colour-coordinated outfits and bureaucrats dressed in very trendy clothes. The most interesting personality every morning is the white veshti-clad uncle who religiously keeps himself fit with some tough exercises.
Further down is the smaller SK Patil Udyan at Charni Road or known as Japanese Garden. Don’t be surprised to get a roar of a welcome from the nana-nanis of Girgaum. Every morning they throw their arms in the air and laugh loudly. Somehow the Girgaum’s moral policeman Pramod Navalkar’s given the top half of the park to the grand oldies to conduct their laughter & gossip clubs-like most even the nana-nani has become one gossip club.
Few others in various corners meditate or chant the shlokas-loud again. The best part about this park is the canteen run by Kutumb Sakhi Navalkar’s wife heads it. One can get the fresh aroma of kanda poha, vadas and piping hot chaai, its sheer orgasm on rainy mornings. Interestingly it is in this park that one can get a rare glimpse in of the traditional masala and papadwalis who walk carrying cloth bags on their heads.
Way up from here to Malabar Hill one has to take a steep climb at Babulanth junction. Everyday I’d see the variety of temples and priests conducting their rites with loud artis. I think they have mistaken this hill for the Himalayas! The priest insists on burning everything that resembles anything dry in his vision. The bells toll at specific intervals heralding prayer time…under the name of religion these temples have encroached happily on the Malabar hill. the climb however was one kuccha muddy road now its given way to one tar steep path.
Adjacent to this climb is the really cozy garden with a splendid view, the Kamla Nehru Park, also known as the shoe garden. It has been my favourite for the sudden view of the Queen’s Necklace in this otherwise green spot.
Contrary to the belief that Hanging Gardens are South Mumbai’s grand walking place. I recommend this garden for all those who are used to loudness in every walk of life. The first indication is the strong smelling deodorants that overpower the fresh cool air of Malabar Hill. In these gardens huge crowds walk together discussing about money and more money. Did I mention women across all these spots calling loudly to their cooks (Maharaj) & ordering them on their cells-between their strolls and running commentaries to cook specific breakfast within 20 minutes and menu for lunch?
The one weird experience I faced was in Malad when I had to pay an entry fee of Rs 2. I embarked on walking in my usual exuberant manner after finishing the first round in clock-wise direction. I began walking in the anti-clockwise way. I was in for a rude shock as the watchman stopped me & said I can’t walk in the opposite direction. I argued of course considering for the first time in my life I’d paid to walk in a park! He said the committee of the park had formed these rules & I couldn’t break them. I realised as I turned around, with men walking together in sixes and sevens!! That’s when I crushed the paid receipt in the guard’s palm and buzzed off abusing the park.
My all-time favourite is the Chowpatty beach at Girgaum. Spare some fishermen living in one corner else the beach has been cleared of all dirt and mess. The huge expanse of the sea shore and shells strewn in the mud remind me of my childhood. The sounds of the waves lashing as one walks by broken with sounds of sea gulls is truly a great way to begin my day!