I had taken up this project of discovering Mumbai. It started with my taking up cycling as an exercise...but just going round and round in circles was boring, so I started going to specific places on cycle. I would look up interesting places and then ride out on Sunday morning to go and check it out - exercise, adventure and exploration… all in one!
But there was no need to be so strict about the cycling thing - not all places are open early on Sunday morning - and definitely not all places wanted to see a fat, sweaty and mud-splattered cyclist in tight clothes clump around their premises! These places would have to be explored in the traditional manner!
And with my usual urge to kill multiple birds with one stone - I decided to take the brat along to some of the kid-friendly places in Mumbai - some of which I remembered fondly due to my having visited them as a kid myself! The kid will have an outing, we will have some father-daughter bonding - and I will get to continue my Mumbai exploration project!
The first destination on my kid list was the Nehru Science Centre in Worli.
This is a very cool place - it is situated in a nice little campus of its own, with some small gardens and a building full of very cool scientific exhibits.
I looked it up - and found that the Nehru Science Centre was inaugurated in 1977, with a ‘Light and Sight’ section. Fascinating!
And why is that fascinating? Because ...just think of what was happening in 1977! Complete political turmoil! The country had been under two years of ‘Emergency’!
Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter - Indira Gandhi - had declared ‘a state of Emergency’ across the country in 1975 because "there is an imminent danger to the security of India being threatened by internal disturbances", and this gave her the authority to rule by decree, allowing elections to be cancelled and civil liberties to be suspended.
Most people think of Mumbai as a collection of humans - a teeming megapolis of millions of people - people people people everywhere, and nothing else. And why not - the population of Mumbai has crossed one and half million people packed into a pretty small area.
But what we tend to overlook is that the isle of Bombay was once a beautiful set of islands with creeks and mangroves and forests and beautiful virgin beaches. The British used to go tiger hunting in the jungles of Bombay, and citizens of the original villages happily led isolated and tribal existences and the jungles and seafronts were full of migrating birds.
And the amazing thing is that a lot of this still survives even today!
The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a dense jungle in the middle of Mumbai, the mangrove forests have been declared as wildlife sanctuaries, and birds still migrate to Mumbai to spend the winter in the mangrove wetlands.
I read about an interesting mangrove wetland - which was the area behind the Bhandup pumping station along the Eastern Express highway connecting Mumbai and Thane. This was well within my cycling range - so I set out on my Sunday morning ride
One of my favourite features of Facebook is the ‘Memories’ feature - where FB pops up old posts which you had posted on the same day - but years earlier! I just love it!
My memory is legendarily bad - and when FB throws up an old pic or post of something I had talked about years back - it brings back forgotten memories! It is simply magical.
Today FB popped up pics of our visit to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco - which we had visited 8 years ago. I had forgotten this - obviously - and this suddenly jerked me back there.
The Golden Gate bridge is an iconic structure of SFO, and one that I had always wanted to see! It is as important a landmark for SFO as the Empire State building is for NY, or the Washington memorial is for Washington DC.
It is so beautiful - one can say various facts about it...like the fact that it is almost 3KM long, or that it was opened 83 years ago, or that it was an engineering marvel which really opened up access to the town etc etc - but for me, the major takeaway was how beautiful it is.
The Americans realise that it is a beautiful structure - and they took pains to ensure that people can enjoy the bridge. While it is an important driving bridge - with more than 100,000 vehicles crossing it everyday - they ensure that it is open to cyclists and pedestrians, and was built with walkways on either side. They have a visitor center and a gift shop - with a cafe, exhibits and rest rooms. Lands and waters under and around the bridge are homes to varieties of wildlife such as bobcats, harbor seals, and sea lions - and the bridge and areas around it are used for wildlife spotting.
Compare this to the behaviour of our Indian bridge builders - take the Bandra Worli sea link … pedestrians and cyclists are strictly not allowed...no stopping anywhere to see the beauty...no walkways or pathways...just drive over and get lost! They don't care about beauty, or tourism, or wildlife, or culture - or anything at all. Just pay the toll - and drive away fast, before I challan you!
I blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!