As I sat at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport reminiscing those 2 days spent in Mumbai, I suddenly realized that I actually was in love with this city. Never had I felt so bad while leaving a place like i felt then. The persistent thought coming to this city for a next visit kept creeping inside me. I scanned through the pictures in my camera of my two-day visit to Mumbai and the memories came gushing by…….
I was here with my friend for an important meeting but never realized how that professional trip eventually turned into a personal vacation. It was on the occasion of Holi that we both planned to go to Mumbai for the meeting. The meeting was scheduled for the next day and we booked tickets in the Mumbai Rajdhani Express (12952). We could easily get the tickets for that day since very few people prefer to travel on the day of Holi.
We took the train that starts at 4.25 PM from Nizamuddin Railway station, Delhi. The train ride was a thrilling one as we both sat cross-legged talking and chatting and discussing about both our professional and personal lives. The next morning we reached Mumbai around 8, but instead of going to Mumbai Central (the final destination of the train and which have been too far for us from where we were putting up) we got off at Borivali station as instructed. Before starting off our day in Mumbai, we sat for a hot cup of tea in the station and we both discussed how to go about the day.
We took an Auto from Borivali East to reach our hotel Galaxy Comforts situated at Bhawani Nagar area of Andheri East. Taking an auto was not a good option as it proved to be a very costly affair. In spite of the driver taking many detours, we ended up paying Rs 290, which I think would not have been had we taken a radio taxi. After a few inquiries and taking directions over phone, we finally reached our hotel that is located in a residential area, at the top of a steep slope.
The Hotel was a good one, though I did not find the hotel staff too friendly at first. We soon got into an altercation with the Manager when he asked us both to produce a genuine ID proof, other than the PAN card. Since the room was booked in my friend’s name, I questioned the futility of asking ID proof from both of us, but the Manager would not let it go unless I show him mine. I generally avoid carrying my passport or any other ID proofs other than my PAN card whenever I travel, but when the hotel was not accepting my PAN, I realized that it is safe to carry at least 2 ID proofs along as trouble might come calling any time. As a safety measure, the Manager was saying that the Police in Mumbai has instructed every hotel to accept any ID proof but the PAN card. I had to finally give in to the demands of the Manager and sent him a soft copy of my passport from my mail.
We soon freshened up and got ready to go out for our meeting, which happened to be our first priority of visiting Mumbai. Nestled amidst the lush green Kanakia Rainforest, the view from our hotel window was a beautiful one. It also happens to be the most coveted residential property in Mumbai.
Learning from our mistake from our previous experience, we preferred to take a cab this time; in fact for the rest of our journey we relied entirely on cabs, and let me tell you it was not a bad experience after all. The meeting was at Goregaon, which is nearly 7-8 kms away from where we were staying and we drove along the road leading through the Kanakia Rainforest.
The meeting lasted for a long 3 hours and we were happy that our purpose of visiting Mumbai was fulfilled to the core. While in the office with our client we had a sumptuous meal of Vada Pav, my first tryst with the staple food of the Mumbaikars.
After the meeting, we set out to explore Mumbai, which is supposedly our second priority. It was Good Friday and most of the offices remained closed that day, and luckily for us we did not face the usual traffic snarls that Mumbai is so infamous for. We booked a cab again and first went to pay our visit to the Siddhivinayak Mandir at Prabha Devi. People willing to explore the Mumbai Sururban Railways can also take the Fast Local (train) from Goregaon to Dadar station, which is just 10 kms away from the Mandir.
It was already 3 by the time we reached and given that it was a holiday, there was a big crowd already queuing up to pay homage to the Lord. We got Modak Prasad along with flowers and the Lal ‘Chunari’ from the outside shops to offer to Siddhivinayakji and after handing over our digital camera at the gate (for security purpose) we went in. We also took a gate pass worth Rs 50 at the gate which prevented us from standing in the long queue and took us relatively lesser time to get inside the Main Mandir (You can also opt for the Rs 700 pass which can directly take you through the VIP entry). We marked our obeisance inside and though not contented with the way the crowd had been pushed out, I was feeling glad that I could finally visit the temple that I wished for a long time. I also tried whispering my wish into the ear of ‘Mushak’, the vehicle of Lord Ganesha placed just opposite to the Main Mandir after which we came out. We also got a few souvenirs from the shops outside the Mandir to gift it to our friends and family back home.
We next headed to the Gateway of India, the iconic structure that gives Mumbai its identity. We took a cab again and on our way crossed through Haji Ali Dargah, Girgaum Chowpatty and drove across Marine Drive. The nearest station to Gateway of India is Churchgate, which is again 10-15 minutes of walk. The old Gothic-styled buildings in the South Mumbai area brings alive the by-gone British era and tell a hundred stories of the Bombay that used to exist a few decades back.
Overlooking the Arabian Sea, the Gateway of India is not-to-be-missed tourist attraction point that needs no introduction to our readers. The majestic Taj Hotel standing tall just opposite to the Gateway is the next historic structure of Mumbai that never ceases to lose it charm. The Hotel is also a remainder of the gruesome 26/11 terrorist attacks that had brought the whole country to a standstill. We spent a couple of lazy moments strolling around the area and clicking pictures, before having tea and sandwich at the busy food joint nearby.
It was evening when we decided to head back to our hotel. We planned to visit the Juhu Beach later at night as it is during that time that every single thing in Mumbai comes to life. By paying a toll of Rs 60, we even took a ride across the cable-stayed Rajiv Gandhi Bandra-Worli Sea Link, from where the evening skyline of Mumbai looked just very amazing.
After resting at the hotel for some time, we ventured out to enjoy the night life of Mumbai. Its aptly said that this is the city that never sleeps, unlike most of the other metros in the country. We took a cab from our hotel to Juhu Beach and reached it within no time.
I looked into my watch and it was 9.30 at night, but you cannot easily make out the time after seeing the huge crowd that still kept coming in large numbers to eat out at the Chowpatty and enjoy the cool breeze at the beach. We had Vada Pav again to our heart’s content, along with Mumbai-styled noodles, bhelpuri and lastly Kulfi Faluda. The Chowpatty shinning bright at night looks so tempting that you cannot possibly miss trying out its food. We also had a word with the Secretary of the Juhu Chowpatty Traders Association, who told us that the piece of land on which the traders have set up shops has been given on lease by the Government and it is as old as 70 years.
We took a walk at the beach later. Far in the distance we could see the motorboats of the Marine police patrolling the coastline at night which we could not make out at first. Not distinctively visible, a man standing next to us told that such patrolling has become common at night after the 26/11 attacks. At around 11, the police on guard came in asking the shopkeepers to put down the shutters. We then headed back to the hotel.
The next and our last day in Mumbai has been kept dedicatedly for shopping. Since we had our flight back to Delhi at 4.30 in the evening, we decided not to lose much time and checked out of the hotel right after taking our breakfast. We visited the Bandra Linking Road and the Hill Road market, just adjacent to each other and spent our entire afternoon visiting the shops there. We also took a short trip to Bandra Bandstand, a kilometre long walkaway along the sea and another popular hangout spot in Mumbai. One should visit this place in the evenings to catch the cool breeze.
I suddenly heard the last boarding call for the flight to Delhi. And that’s when our Mumbai trip comes to an end. As the flight took off, I sat back to enjoy the beautiful evening coastline below of the Arabian sea and bidding a pleasant goodbye, I thanked the city for giving such wonderful memories to muse upon.
I find it worth mentioning a few of the places which we had missed visiting this time because of paucity of time but cannot be overlooked altogether –
Haji Ali Dargah – It is a popular landmark, placed on an islet around 500 yards from the seashore in the Arabian Sea. Visited by people of all faiths and walks of life, this dargah consists of the tomb of Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a merchant who denounced all worldly matters and later became a saint.
Mahalaxmi Mandir – Built in 1831, it is one of the many religious siltes in Mumbai worth paying a visit. The temple is dedicated to Mahalakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, it attracts in huge numbers, especially during Navaratri.
A Ferry ride to Elephanta Caves – Elephanta Ferry services operate from the Gateway of India (also known as Apollo Bunder). There are two types of boats/ferries – the Luxury Type and the Economy Type. The former cost Rs 150 while the later cost Rs 120. The 5th-6th century Elephanta Caves are an UNESCO World Heritage Site, 11 kms away from the Gateway of India. Please do note that the caves remain closed on Mondays.
A Double Decker bus ride – Take a BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking) open upper double decker bus ride in the Fort area of Mumbai that operates from Backbay depot to CST station via Churchgate station. You can see many old buildings in this area. There are also special heritage routes organized on Saturdays and Sundays in the evenings from Apollo Bunder.
– Samrita Baruah / Anjali sethi Joshi