Morning Walk to Sewri Fort and Jetty in Mumbai

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On way to the Sewri jetty, located at the eastern edge of South Mumbai.

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Flamingos and other migratory birds, arriving from Gujarat, are usually spotted here during the second half of the year.

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Beholding the sea…

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Inside the 17th century Sewri fort built by the British as a watch tower.

The fragile wilderness of Maharashtra Nature Park

The Maharashtra Nature Park, more popular by the name of Mahim Nature Park, is a modern-day achievement of a landfill site transformed into a green haven.

As you follow the meandering trails of this mildly dense forest, you wonder if an animal is lurking behind those tree barks. There are various kinds of reptiles in this park though, which is also a habitat of a large species of trees, birds, butterflies and spiders.

Indian conservationist Pradip Patade, known for documenting marine life along Mumbai’s coast, is credited with identifying a large number of species of butterflies there.

This man-made forest, located by the Mithi River, is spread over an area of 37 acres in Dharavi. The park was inaugurated in 1994, but it was proposed in 1977 by a group of Mumbai-based employees of the World Wildlife Fund. The first set of trees and mangrove saplings were planted in 1983, which led to the process of converting the dumping ground into a park.

For its watering needs, the park has developed a rainwater harvesting system atop their main office building, and inside the courtyard. The collected rainwater is diverted to a pond, which supplies the water to the rest of the park.

Located between the neighbourhoods of Dharavi and Sion, the park is a getaway for seekers of natural surroundings, photographers, and wildlife experts/enthusiasts.

I walked into this park without any expectations. Twenty minutes into following one of the pathways, I found a spot under a tree and began writing about this green wonder, with child-like curiosity. A gentle breeze continued to blow, often varying in intensity; and, as if on a cue, the branches and leaves swayed. Birds chirped, competing against the distant city noise.

A couple of Mumbai cops arrived in their jeep. One of them stepped out, spread his mat on a wide walkway, and prepared for a siesta under a tree. A bunch of security guards kept an eye on some out-of-bound trails, where the reptiles were found. But the park was all but deserted.

The city, however, is inescapable. On the other side of the Mithi river, office buildings at the Bandra-Kurla Complex can be seen, with the NSE logo never fading away despite the distance from the park. That distance might be bridged, once the park’s redevelopment kicks off — and that might cost the park its characteristic anonymity.

Here’s what Hindustan Times reported on July 30, 2017:

“The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) wants to redevelop the park and beautify it with a pedestrian-cycling bridge — connecting Bandra-Kurla-Complex with the nature park — a water-front promenade all along a one and a half kilometre stretch of the Mithi river, a multi-storey parking lot, build new office buildings, play area for children, library, watchtower, cafe, bird walk and a butterfly park.”

The contract for the park’s makeover has been awarded to Mumbai-based firm Sameep Padora and Associates (sP+a), The Hindu reported earlier this year.

Here are some pictures from my visit to the Park:

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The park is open to visitors from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, with a fee of 10 rupees applicable per person. Photography charges may apply.

Alibag – a holiday destination for art lovers

It was an advertisement of an art exhibition that led me to Alibag, a sleepy coastal town south of Mumbai.

Famous for its scenic beaches and sprawling properties of the rich, Alibag is also a holiday destination for art and culture aficionados, besides being a weekend respite for Mumbai residents. I spent a day looking at — collectibles and contemporary art-works at The Guild gallery, the multi-disciplinary repertoire of artist Dashrath Patel, and a permanent showcase of Vinayak Pandurag Karmarkar’s sculptures.

IMG_0800The Guild art gallery, Alibag

IMG_0805Collectibles at The Guild

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IMG_0806The Guild courtyard

IMG_0845Dashrath Patel Museum, Alibag

IMG_0842Painting by Dashrath Patel

IMG_0831Sculptures by Vinayak Pandurang Karmarkar

An elaborate brunch awaited us at Bohemyan Blue, a garden café nestled in the wilderness of Alibag. Sitting in the verandah, we gorged on a large meal, which comprised of scrambled eggs, aloo paranthas, chicken sandwich, pots of coffee, and carrot beetroot juice. It poured heavily; there were no other guests to be seen, besides a friend and myself. As we ate, we beheld the luxuriant foliage of the property, and found ourselves captivated by the stillness of Alibag.

We walked towards a patch of wild vegetation, near the café, which hosted the stay area of a dozen luxury tents for tourists. The land had a swimming pool and an al fresco restaurant, where the radio was playing. There were no listeners, however.

IMG_0765Bohemyan Blue café

IMG_0771Bohemyan Blue café

IMG_0767Bohemyan Blue café

IMG_0799Bohemyan Blue gift shop

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The Alibag spell was soon broken when we reached Mumbai the following night. We grabbed a table at Café Universal, one of the city’s famous Parsi restaurants. The century-old café’s charming interior was a sight of redemption amid the stadium-like boisterousness of the guests.

That night, on my way back to my apartment from the café, I thought of the early morning in Alibag. It was a little before 6 a.m., when I had woken up to the sight of palm fronds soaked in rain. The morning felt crisp and tranquil, as if I’d never been tired. The short trip made me realise what we’re missing out on by living in cities like Mumbai and Delhi, and the harm they are causing us.

IMG_0756Drive around Kihim village

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IMG_0859Sasawane village 

IMG_0856Varsoli beach

IMG_0852Varsoli beach

IMG_0860Varsoli beach

In Pictures – British-era Rani Bagh, Mumbai’s green haven

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If you simply like looking at the trees, their twirling branches and the shadows they create, this is the place for you! This historical botanical garden, more than 150 years old, is Mumbai’s largest open green space and home to hundreds of species of plants and trees. This green haven in central Mumbai, spread over an area of over 50 acres, has multiple names. The garden’s original name is Victoria Gardens, which was renamed to Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan. It is popularly known as Rani Bagh, and has survived its original glory despite a multi-crore plan by the BMC to redevelop it.

A successful campaign to save the Bagh by a group of women culminated into a book, Rani Bagh: 150 Years – Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo. Released on the 150th anniversary of the Bagh, the book chronicles the Garden’s historical journey, the campaign to rescue the area from being destroyed, and its relationship with Mumbai. Given the fact that the Garden has been named after women, it is only befitting that a group of women decided to save it from extinction.

The Garden, adjacent to the Victorian-style Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla area, also has a zoo, a Sufi dargah or shrine, and some quaint spots to escape the overwhelming city humdrum. The best time to visit is, of course, during the monsoon season.

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