Sunday, March 8, 2015

Konkon Reise - Netravati to Sabarmati: Part III – Mumbai, the Maximum City (Day 1)

Mumbai Express reached Panvel station on time. I pulled my luggage out and walked towards the platform, to step into India’s biggest city - Mumbai. Local train was standing on a platform on the other side, as if it was expecting me. I went to the ticket counter and bought a ticket to Nerul. Before getting in to train, took a photo of an electronic map of local train routes displayed there - this is the guide for travelling in Mumbai…

Train moved quickly through harbour line; after crossing Khandeshwar, Manasarover, Khargar, Belapur CBD and Seawoods I reached Nerul. It was here, Ammu chechi and Saju would come to pick me up.

Meanwhile, I bought a five day first class tourist pass (550 INR) from Nerul counter. If you are going to Mumbai and plan to use local trains, then better to take a pass.

Mumbai Local

Local is the easiest and jam free way of moving around Mumbai. Before going further, let me tell you something more about Local. It’s a network of approximately 200 hundred trains making 2000 trips over 300 km track. Local train system carries more than 88% of commutators (approximately 6mn people a day). A new train will arrive in every 3 minutes and leave the station within a couple of minutes. These trains are built for carrying some 1700 people, but in reality carries around 4500 people (carries more passengers/ km than anywhere on the earth).

Local train service is mainly divided into three lines,

Harbour Line - In Map you are see this in green colour. This line connects Panvel to CST (fondly called VT by old timers). This one intersects Central line at Kurla.

Central Line – In map you can see this in Red colour. Connecting Mumbai CST to Kalyan Jn. This intersects Western line at Dadar and Harbour line at Kurla.

Western Line - Grey in colour and connects Church Gate to Dahanu Road; intersects Central line at Kurla. 

There is one more line called ‘Trans-Harbor Line’ which connects Navi Mumbai to Thane.

If you remember this map (or have a photo) it’s quite easy to travel in local.

For e.g. if you want to go to ‘Church Gate’ station from Seawoods then board a train from Seawoods, get down at Kurla station and switch to Central Line (run to western side of the platform); now get down at Dadar and switch to Western Line (run towards west); Western line will take you to Church Gate. One addition quality you need is some physical power to get in to the train :)

By the way it’s not so difficult to use this system if everyone cooperates and fall into some kind of queue. Problem is commutators are jumping out of the train before it stops and hit the ground running. It looked like, they are completing some 100 metre sprint and it’s our (people standing on the platform) duty to stop them from falling down!!! While getting in also there is an unwanted rush. If you are in a local station, then you will feel like the city is always on the run.

I have to appreciate the system. Trains are always on time and operates probably more than 100% capacity. Like Mumbaikars, I also love local. As a side note; it’s not so dangerous or bad as some travelogues describes. It’s a mini Mumbai on the run.

CST and Colaba

After taking bath and breakfast from Ammu Chechi’s home, I went to CST. It took a while to reach CST. On the way there were high rise buildings covered in bright metallic glass structures; then comes big slum areas where instead of metallic glass, tin covers provides protection. While approaching CST one can see big old buildings - which might have played significantly higher roles during British days - struggling to stand on its crumbling foundations.

Contrary to expectations CST was different. From inside it looked more like a 19th century building deprived of any maintenance for a long time. After spending sometime inside I went out. From here CST looks majestic and proudly carries a tablet indicating that it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Muncipal building, which again a great building on its own right is located on the other side.

BSE - Dalal Street

I walked further down following Nokia maps. Target was BSE building – one of my long standing wishes is going to be fulfilled today. Till now I saw this one on TV only; but now, I was going to see it in front of my eyes.

This 29 storey building is located on Mumbai Samachar Marg. When completed, Jeejeebhoy Towers (then known as BS towers) was the tallest building in India. Following the death of Sir Phiroze Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy, chairman of the BSE since 1966, building was renamed in his memory.
This building (housing one of Asia's oldest exchanges) was a target of the 1993 Bombay bombings. The first of the 13 bomb blasts occurred at 13:25 hrs on 12 March 1993 in the basement garage of the building. Almost 50 brokers and traders were killed and 30 cars were destroyed in the attack.

I was expecting to see a crowded area, where a lot of traders always shouts some numbers. But what I saw was a calm and quiet area with a deserted look. By the way, it was Jan 26, India’s Republic Day anniversary. Ok, I would come back again on a working day.

No one is allowed to photograph this building, as if taking photographs will melt it to ground. I stood quietly in front of it for a long time, looking at its digital screen and then slowly walked towards 
Gateway of India.

National Gallery of Modern Art

This three storey building is located near gateway and Police building. On that particular day, exhibition theme was Sachin Tendulkar. On the top floor, there were 100 gloves placed in wooden panels and pasted to wall. This indicates the first 100 centuries in Sachin’s life. In the background Sachin’s retirement speech slowly flowed in to visitor’s ears.

Caffe Leopold, Cafe Mondegar and Fasion Street

I went outside and had some vada pavs. By the way, Mumbai is also famous for its street foods, never leave the city without experimenting with Vada pav, Pav bajji, Kulfi etc. Two famous cafes of Mumbai - Leopold and Mondegar - are located on this road, Colaba causeway (aka Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg). Leopold is a popular restaurant and bar; this was one of the first sites terrorists attacked during November 2008 Mumbai attacks. This caffe also find its place in the famous novel Shantaram.
Both sides of road have numerous stores located on footpath selling dresses and other fashion items.

Afghan Church

This Anglican Church is located at other end of Colaba Causeway, inside a defence area. It was indeed a very long walk to Church.

The Church of St. John the Evangelist (aka Afghan Church) is to commemorate the dead soldiers of First Anglo-Afghan War (1838). This war was a part of the Great Game in which British and Russians tried to get influence over Asia.

At the end of this disastrous war – in which East India Company suffered their most humiliating defeat – only one person (surgeon William Brydon) came back alive out of 16,000 men (4,500 military personnel, and over 12,000 camp followers) went to war.

William Brydon returned safely to Jalalabad (Captain James Souter, Sergeant Fair and seven soldiers were taken as prisoners and rest were killed).

It's another matter that 'Great Game' didn't end there. Britain (British India) fought two more wars against Afghans (fortune favoured the British in both wars); then came Russia followed by USA. Till this day, US is not able to get out of that nation. Only future can tell which great power will go there next...!!!

Photography is not allowed!!! I think Indians are very good in issuing prohibitory orders. One guy who some way linked to the church came and told me,

“You can’t take photographs without Father’s permission”.
“When the father will come?”
“Tomorrow morning”
“I can’t wait till that time”
“From where you are coming?”
“ok. take photos quickly”.

Suddenly some English tourists came and he opened the church’s door for them. I also sneaked in.
On the left side of the church building, there is a small memorial for the fallen soldiers of First Anglo 
Afghan War.

Tajmahal Palace and Hotel

I was not at all in a mood to walk all the way back. Hence took a BEST bus to reach the Gateway. This hotel - victim of 2008 Mumbai attacks - is located next to gateway.

Gateway of India

Gateway? How come? Is this the question just came to your mind? Well let me tell you the story then,

this memorial was erected to “commemorate the landing of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary at Apollo Bunder, when they visited India in 1911. Built in Indo-Saracenic style, the foundation stone for the Gateway of India was laid on 31 March 1911. The final design of George Wittet was sanctioned in 1914 and the construction of the monument was completed in 1924. The Gateway was later the ceremonial entrance to India for Viceroys and the new Governors of Bombay. It served to allow entry and access to India.”

Interestingly King George and Queen Mary never able to use this gate to enter in to India, as the construction was not completed when they came for attending Delhi Durbar in 1911. By the way that was the last Delhi durbar (Edward VIII abdicated the throne before any durbar and George VI didn’t get a chance for durbar due to World War II).

I remember reading somewhere that, after Indian independence the last column of British soldiers went through this gate. There is a lot of pigeons - fearless - on one side of the monuments. Numerous boats and birds, along with huge crowd and its symbolic meaning give a different colour to this monument

Azad Maidan

I took taxi to reach CST from here and then walked through Azad Maidan and lot of other streets to reach Church Gate Station.

Marine Drive

Close to evening I reached Marine Drive. After finding a comfortable position in that lengthy concrete structure I simply sat there for half an hour. I was really a beautiful moment; Mumbai was standing behind me in arch shape; on the other side, orange red coloured rays of sun is painting Arabian Sea; on my both sides huge number of couples – both young and old – are sharing some of their beautiful moments.

After some time, I woke up and started walking towards the other end. By the time, I reach the other end it was almost night. Hence I boarded another local and went back to Ammu Chechi’ home.


No comments:

Post a Comment