A dreamland for some, financial capital for others and a destination to enjoy some personal space for tourists like me.
It was past 11pm and I was enjoying the lights on Marine Drive. It was something I could never do in Delhi or even Chandigarh. Mumbai was well, Mumbai…a land of dreams and no-stare locals, where life moved at its own pace. The traffic was passing by. An odd horse carriage trotted past. They had joy rides from Gateway of India to this last point where the land ended and sea began. Some more people sat on the wall along the sea like me, eating chanas or peanuts, couples cuddled. We were there for work and the night was the only time left to enjoy the city’s hush or should I say slight rush.
The city never sleeps and we were staying in a hotel in Churchgate. The pavement outside had trees and that was a recall to greenery in Delhi and Chandigarh. Mumbai did offer respite, I thought. One evening, we went to a famous Tea Centre gorging on, tea, of course, and some cakes. The old-world setting and cutlery was a sophisticated affair. And had some mind-your-own-business kind of people. The crisp table cloths and the lovely ambience, it made for a nice place for high tea.
A short walk along the pavement and I saw a board saying Parsi Agiary aka Fire Temple. I so wanted to go inside but others are not allowed in. I just peeped through the gate, a little hastily and walked away, scared of being arrested for breaking the rule. A little dramatic but then I was new to Mumbai.
The ambience in the area was so charming. The neo-gothic structures and art deco style buildings, I could have been back in the 18th and 19th centuries, living the times when Mumbai was a walled city. With the St Thomas Cathedral nearby, this gate into the city came to be known as Church Gate. Obviously, then my next stop was the cathedral.
Among the oldest churches in India, its foundation stone was laid in 1676. With stained glass windows and memorials paying tribute to the East India company officials, the church was empty. The walls commemorated a ship lost at sea, recumbent effigy of Thomas Carr (first Bishop of Bombay by British sculptor Matthew Noble) and memorials to Rear Admiral Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland and Captain George Nicholas Hardinge. Well, St Thomas might have been called doubting Thomas, but the church left no doubt to his connection with the divine.
Back on the road, I walked down Fashion Street, checked out the Jehangir Art Gallery, had gol gappas at the Gateway of India, walked down the Colaba Causeway and enjoyed time at the Horniman Circle garden. So much more in that historic area, including the iconic Taj hotel. I would have liked to go to the Leopold Café, watched the boats come in, explore some more shops, but then everything can’t be done in a short span. My time at Churchgate was coming to an end, and I wanted some more moments at Nariman Point, watching the waves crash and recede on the jagged black rocks. I got only a few minutes here for we had to head for dinner at the luxurious JW Marriott hotel before heading towards the airport.
The hotel could have been a destination in itself with chic décor, located close to the Arabian sea and offering varied cuisine at its many restaurants—Arola, Lotus Café, Mezzo Mezzo, Saffron and Spices. I wouldn’t have minded a spa session for sure. But we were late and had to speed to the airport to board the Mumbai to Chandigarh flight, where more adventures lay.