Tuesday, November 09, 2004
A month in Bombay and I have not yet been to the beach, be it Chowpathy, or Juhu or anywhere else for that matter. Dastardly thought, when you happen to live in a coastal city, my Lonely Planet conscience says. Compare and contrast to the Marina in Chennai, which I visited within a week of arriving in the city. True, it was over-crowded, teeming with candy-men and baloon-men and men frying vegetables served to you on greasy newspaper plates, and you had to walk furlongs across the polluted sands to finally get to the water's edge - but it was a beach, nonetheless.
People have actually warned me not to head down to Bombay's beaches. The reasons are the usual ones - dirty, crowded, and what-not, but sad to say, I think that is one aspect of beach-life that Indians living in other parts of the country are quite accustomed to. Bengalis like me dash down to that old favourite in Orissa, called Puri, quite habitually, to catch a glimpse of the Sun Temple, and everyone knows how utterly polluted that place has become! The rocks on the sea-shore of Digha, another Bong favourite, has plenty of plastic bags strewn all over. And before you start stoning every Bong you see in the name of environmental policing, let me hasten to add that so-called Pristine Pondicherry is hardly any better, and the Marina in Chennai, supposed to be the second-longest strip of beach in the world after Rio, is famed for its filth. So where does that leave Bombay?
A grouse I have against the city is the fact there is hardly a beach at all, where you can frolic and banter on the sands till kingdom come - apart from the strip in Chowpatty and in Juhu. You have walk-ways instead - Marine Drive and Worli Seaface and Carter Road, all with receding sea-lines, I may add. So one evening, say you want to walk down the Carter Road promenade and smell the sea-smells - after walking ten paces with your eyes closed and your heart sighing in rapture, you open your eyes to discover that the sea is a good distance away from you, and the smell is coming from the fishing village down the bend.
But I do remember Marve from my visit to Bombay a year earlier, when I was still not a bonafide resident of the city. I remember Marve's gorgeous stretch of sand and rock and sea and sun, and I'm hoping that a whole year has not changed Marve's character so completely. True, technicaly speaking, Marve does not perhaps qualify as a Bombay beach, but I'm counting on its proximity to nearby-and-yet-on-a-different-planet Madh Island to argue my case.
A Bombay sea-addict however will cock his head in the face of my arguments and say that the city has all the sea-flavour it needs, despite the receding shorelines of Worli and Carter Road, and he will exhort you to step gingerly onto the buoys of Nariman Point. I have done that, and methinks that Bombay sea-addict might well be true. Every Bombayite has gone up to the water's edge at least once in his or her life, to stand right there on a three-headed drone, and gaze out at the water, sometimes foaming and gurgling, sometimes a deceiving placid, and then, back to the towers that form Bombay's heart. The towers of silence, and the waters that speak.
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