It was a sheer prepossessing city and still is. Only now, much of its grandeur is hidden away. Let us gallivant into the city, into its alleys and villages, into its temples and bistros, into its edifices and hovels, into its Gothic arches and art deco structures, into its very soul.
It is night, the shimmering sapphires, the glinting crystals and the gleaming gems are sprinkled on the dark, blue, dark blue sheet of darkness hovering over the city while the moonlight is swimming in the silvery water. Tucked away in a little corner on the far end is a tall needle pointed sphere. Shockingly beautiful and utterly unexpected with its wide Gothic arches and alluring lattices, an imposing structure made of basalt rock and limestone.
Standing by the twinkling lights and boulevards bordering the natural bay, you can see the unruffled and equable Arabian Sea, the waves splashing over the concrete rocks, fizzling and hissing. A group of teenagers sitting on the boulevard riveted by the view, dunking their glucose filled biscuits in lemongrass tea, the smoke of their cigarettes blending with the steam. A child running after a cup gliding due to the humid wind, toppling but still sniggering, not ready to give up.
On the other side of the bay, you can see people coming in groups and piles. What did you say? No, no it’s not a gang. They have come in peace. People flock over here to eat kebabs and wraps after drinking pints of alcohol and dancing until their clothes are soaked in sweat.
It is night in Balganga Temple that is incongruous for a city like this but yet mystic and ancient. It is a perfect example of traditional life coexisting with urbanised modernisation. The water here is considered sacred and thus you can see the Hindu priests and Sadhus plunging into the water, chanting and offering prayers in the traditional manner.
It is night in the harbour where the boats are preparing themselves for the early morning battle with the sea that can either be unforgiving and forceful or calming and tranquil. While the yachts are sailing in the middle of the sea, tingling and draggling with people on board. It is night on the road but that doesn’t damage the spirit of the traffic. They come in one or two, sometimes a cluster of them, every minute. They come in all shapes and sizes, a two-wheeler, a four-wheeler, a truck, a construction vehicle colored in cardinal red or tangerine orange, royal blue or chartreuse green.
As we move past the bay, we see the roads narrowing. On one side lay the shantytowns where a large sheet of plastic and two bamboos act as the homes of the homeless while some sleep under the blanket made up of the naked sky without a roof to cover them. Can you see the rats and cockroaches, yes? They are their frequent guests, while rains and the hot summer sun their enemies. On the other side lie the tall constructions made of stones and steel and red bricks filled with mortar, the humble paradise of the rich. Such is the diversity. Such is the city of Mumbai.
WORDS: ANAND JHAVERI
Now read what Anand thought of his travels in Leh and Ladakh.