Ah! The Mumbai rain is back like a sword zipping and swirling from east to west, left and right, parachuting endlessly in a shower of bliss. Simply drool over this splash of ecstatic joy like a kaleidoscope of lighting shining bright on faces. Monsoon is a celebration of life in jest. The mad mad rains hark me back to the Mumbai and SoBo days of getting soaked and drenched to bliss, socks turned into fish swimming in this lake called my pair shoes.
The year was 2008. Monsoon struck in the city and thunder electrified the blue sky fading into a dark patch, a barrage of water heckling the Mumbai populace on all sides. There is a something inherently charming about rain in South Bombay…the umbrella flying and the body oscillating as you let the fair down, traipsing at Marine Drive and the windy breeze in jest and jostling you as if some villains fighting you in a Hindi movie potboiler. The tea was brewing at Fort, just outside University of Mumbai as water flew beneath the feet and flowing on the road that we could play paper boats. Milk poured in the huge vessel and steered as steam flapped on the face. The tea seller expertly took a sip to get a hang of the sugar and eyes stood straight in agreement with the taste bud. Tea flew in exact quantity on the glasses placed on the huge wooden table where hardly tiny drops fell. I was in awe of the exact measurement. Pure bliss. I loved my Mumbai chai Kadak in the rain and the joy of water plopping in the small cutting glasses makes it an amorous affair.
A break up was being nursed in those days. I plopped my feet completely drenched and the sticky jeans, walking from DN Road to Churchgate Station…a helluva long way to go but determination to enjoy every single moment. The first monsoon had to be experienced like a mushy lover, caking the steam filled cup to the face that felt eternally passionate kiss to be cherished forever. Craziness had a name. From Churchgate to Mahalaxmi, I sashayed my way in a Best Bus and walked to Haji Ali, serenaded by the rain, twisting and spinning in aimless directions as the water and wind threatened to strike in the midst of heavenly bliss. I didn’t trudge in fear but felt the murmuring of wind and sticky clothes like gum on the skin that had no place to hide. Another cup of tea and samoosa at the modest canteen. On the way back, walked and steered the way in the rain which felt like a yatra of water and the body couldn’t move but jerked inside the sticky jeans. Finally, hopped on a bus, and zoomed in the local (train) back to Churchgate.
The rain miraculously stopped but the madness didn’t. I was in no dearth of spine and walked my way to Marine Drive after putting fresh clothes. The steps plodded towards Nariman Point and pain felt on the soles. But, who gave a fuck! I wanted to do something exciting! Climbed the boulders nestled close to each other and trudged the way to sit on the top, watching the waves crashing and the sea water manifesting its might. Felt like a King atop SoBo and eyes furtively glanced beneath the boulders, crabs swirling and gentle water percolating. The climb helped me to cope with anger and heartbreak, calmed the frayed nerves in the eyes of the storm to sit peacefully.
Indulgence coated in simplicity has a name when it lands at your doorstep. The sea change for your step and the soul as you unravel the hidden gem and mystery of your city and country with a tinge of Divinity cum spirituality. Who needs luxury in one of the most expensive cities on the globe? No prize for guessing, downtown Mumbai has more for the eyes and doesn’t cost you a well of fortune. From Mahalaxmi Station to Nehru Planetarium and Worli sea face, you can hatch a conspiracy of joy and exploration as you take a spin along the stretches of the Arabian Sea.
Worli is a hub not restricted to the canvas of speed where the dock of life never stops but offers a wide canvas perched in the center amidst the stunning views and jewels, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, Haji Ali and Nehru Planetarium. Considered to be a separate island forming part of the Seven Islands of Bombay given as dowry by the Portuguese to England in 1661 for a unique union, Worli was successfully known was Warli, Worlee, and Varli.
The Worli sea face nestled in the center of the city and holding in its embrace the palatial sky rises, attracting hordes of admirers in SoBo as the fluttering breeze wind caress the cheek and smack the lip craving for a glass of chilled falooda at Haji Ali Juice Center. Worli is nothing less than a wonder that has everything in place to offer from the magnificent and inspiring at the same time, pulling you inside the city’s cradle.
One of the most frequented railway stations in suburban Mumbai on the Western lines, scything from Churchgate to Andheri and Borivali, Mahalaxmi Station stands tall in the middle. Between Churchgate and Mahalaxmi Station, it’s a ten minutes train journey as you hop out of one of the busiest station that attracts commuters in lakhs on a daily average.
The unique and friendly pathway covered in tin sheet as you wade inside and outside offers a sense of comfort and familiarity to commuters that lead towards the crowded road overlooking the Mahalaxmi Race Course and a one-minute walk to the bus stops towards Haji Ali or the Worli Sea face.
The Mahalaxmi Racecourse is rooted outside the station and standing in its midst gives an angular view of the city as it is chaperoned by tall towers, the sea, and the highway. The race course is glitz and glitter affair in the city which is one of the biggest attractions frequented by the who’s who’s of glamor.
Sprawled over 225 acres of land and stretched over 2,400 meters of race, the Oval shaped land overlooks the sea and borrows its architectural finesse and state-of-the-art from the Melbourne Race Course. Built in 1883 on a land donated by Sir Cusrow N Wadia, the structure was supervised by Major JE Hughes and is home to five Indian classics where the main attractions are 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Oaks, Derby, St Leger and Poonawalla Multimillion million, among others. Racing takes place between November and April.
Moreover, the spectacular Grandstand is ranked as a heritage structure that has under its roof, Club House and famous Gallops Restaurant for its patrons and guest. Glitz, power and its hall of fame witnessed not just the biggest Indian names in sport, politics, and cinema but also world personalities such as the Queen of England.
Standing tall in this iconic South Mumbai heritage is the Royal Western India Turf Club Limited (RWITC) considered to be the most ancient and vintage horse racing clubs in India. Tit-bits tell us that it was an exclusive club since its inception and boasted a staggering number of 7,566 members in June 2010.
Worli Sea Face
The quaint, mesmerizing and picturesque view of Worli Sea Face where the blue azure water adds splash to delight lovers and admirers and evenings witnessing in drove the lusty congregation to gaze in delight the sun taking a dip in the pearl of the ocean. The water rising during every monsoon and wave lash coiling its might and unfurling its fury like serpents is a magnificent sight offered by the Arabian Sea that stretches and spreading its might. A moment to be captured as the salty water sprinkles and smothers on the face. Of course, SoBo is the queen courted by the sea of lovers. From the stunning view of Haji Ali at a distance and the architectural marvel, the Bandra-Worli Sea Face, you cannot just keep your eyes from the tale of love and obsession.
Tootling on the cobblestone promenade at Worli, the sight of the bounty waves crashing and surrounded by lovers snuggling, expensive houses strike the mind in offering a quintessential slice of SoBo. It offers comfort and brings alive a flurry of relaxed air by sitting on the bench and watching the sun bow out and tinting the sky with the dimming shade.
The evening walk offers a plethora of emotions that strikes your aesthetic senses that you cannot afford to miss in this part of SoBo. Waltz your way to a date that doesn’t cost much but makes for priceless moments, hither and yon at the promenade.
Of course, it’s a stunning view as you sit in Mumbai’s iconic yellow-and-blacks cab sashaying past the promenade and the breeze smearing your breath. It’s love at first sight.
It was way back in 2006 that I visited the Nehru Planetarium at Worli and was dazzled by the serenity flowing in the surrounding. It’s hard to fathom that this place of immense beauty is anchored in the heart of the city that airs a complete view of SoBo. Surrounding by greenery and the splaying of palm trees that not only offers a scenic view but gentle air and breeze usher to make it a splendid affair.
There are 1000 various plants and trees sprouting in the spick-and-span garden to make it a grand and lovely affair to take a walk and to feel every single moment that runs deep down on one’s senses. Spending one afternoon at the Nehru Planetarium soothes the soul and rejuvenate the mind. The state of the art architecture, cylindrical shaped building and the aesthetical dome is reminiscent of a tale concocted in heaven.
The Nehru Planetarium boasts of an art gallery, marble paneled auditorium replete with acoustic sensation, a wealth of diversity and knowledge in the library as well as exhibitions that make us discover the great Indian culture and heritage. As one is led to the vicarious discovery of astronomy, space science and the entire gamut of planets and gliding through the planetarium, equipped with Digistar 3, the planetarium projector transports us in a ubiquitous world, far removed from the earth. There is a certain sensation that draws one in this gibbous universe. It’s enthralling and mysterious, at the same time.
From the entire gamut of cubicles to be enthralled by the wonder of the solar system to the ‘Discovery of India’ science exhibition tracing the artistic and academic journey of India and the motley of activities such as science quiz contest, astro poetry and science elocution, tramcar, railway engine and supersonic jet demonstration the place is truly a one-stop-shop that has something for everyone.
Haji Ali Darga
One of my favorite spots in Worli that gives the glimmer feeling of divinity and evoking spirituality is the Haji Ali Darga, the abode of the Iranian saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. Constructed in 1431 to honor the saint, the tomb is covered with brocaded red and green chadar enmeshed in silver and coated with a pattern of colors, green, blue and yellow chip of glasses which emblazons tiny mirrors like a dotted pattern. The colorful myriad beautifully represents the saint’s spiritual magnificence and the divine form the Indo-Islamic architecture.
Sprawled over an area of 5,000 square meters where the 85-foot minaret is rooted, the Haji Ali Dargah houses a Masjid, Sanatorium, and Dargah that showcases the vibrant Mughal architecture. The large main gate is coated in pure white marble and at the entrance visitors, seekers and devotees thronging in numbers can get everything under one roof, from Chaddar to flowers, incense sticks and caps or tabeez (holy thread) from hawkers as couple of street urchins and beggars could be seen hollering near the entrance. The human clutter and chaos surrounding this heavenly and pristine beautiful place rekindle hope in everyone seeking the Baba’s blessing.
The pathway is less than one kilometer where it is flanked by sea on both sides and witnessing life flowing in peace and removed from the hustle bustle of the city. I would regularly visit in quest of peace and walk at the pathway wherein the monsoon you would schlep your way is a spiritual undertaking. Sitting in peace and watching everyone seeking the blessing of Baba where everyone, irrespective of their religious faith is seen tying the sacred thread on the huge plinth and pillar structure or women praying from outside. It’s only recently that women are allowed inside the sanatorium which is good news.
I remember visiting during the Monsoon where I was completely drenched and sat outside the mausoleum facing the sea water and feeling the cool breeze. It brought so much peace and inner confidence. One of my favorites was the canteen where I would gorge on piping hot samosa and child that warms the stomach.
On the main road, the Haji Ali Juice Center offers exquisite taste of fruit cocktails from New Zealand Kiwi Juice, Watermelon or Pineapple, and chilled milkshakes. After a trip to the shrine and offering prayers at the dargah, you deserve a treat at the juice center. Of course, the Falooda is top class always.