Mumbai

Look at the size of that sidewalk!

2:00 PM

Sorry for the lack of update, August is all out to kill me with public holidays Ishita’s school has, holidays that of course are for the most part optional for DH. So these days I have one day a week with no school, errands to run because the school asked for specific outfits and items to be brought to celebrate said days, and the chores I have to do at home pile up while my energy to even think tackling them shrink.
So with this disclaimer, here is what we decided to do on Sunday morning a week ago.
DH heard of a bookstore in South Mumbai called “Kitab Khana” and wanted to check it out (we are book nuts…if you haven’t realised that already), so the plan was to go early in the morning, stroll on Marine Drive, have a breakfast in one of the cafes in Colaba, and then head to the bookstore before heading home.
We did it all according to the plan, no big twist in the plan.
Marine Drive even early in the morning still feel a bit sterile to me. It’s big, imposing, but always bland, I visited that place at several time during the day, and while I see potential for ice cream and chaat corners there are surprisingly not much, in the afternoon you can take a horse carriage ride along that stretch, there are a few snacks vendor, but coming from a country where we practically worship the outdoor and see a shore promenade as an opportunity to laze and eat food al fresco the instant the weather become pleasant I find the potential of Marine Drive in Mumbai seriously underexploited. Early in the morning that promenade is invaded by marathon runners in training, fitness enthusiasms and the healthy lot. As much as I love to walk this big crowd of spandex clad things running, huffing, puffing and jumping jacking around made me feel like I was committing a capital crime just strolling around in my cotton kaftan and leggings, these people who are out at 8am are taking working out super seriously there.
I turned my back to them facing the ocean and went crab watching with Ishita..ha!

We then headed to Colaba causeway, and had breakfast at Cafe Mondigar, nope not Leopold’s which is a few yards away. Continental hearty breakfast menu, quirky cartoons on the wall, cute plates, and a distinctive old world’s cafe feel.
Then we walked, and walked, and at one point DH said : “Wow look at the size of that sidewalk”

2013-08-11 10.51.18

Now bear in mind that we were there on a Sunday morning at around 10.30am, there is no traffic, no noise, no crowd. Should you visit the Colaba and Fort area during a weekday you will have a different picture, the road will be jammed with traffic, sidewalks will have more crowd, and a few stalls selling stuff as well. But despite all that it still retain some of that old charm you can only find there. South Mumbai has still lot of the colonial architecture remaining, and when you look at this picture above it looks very London-esque. Walking there without the traffic noise you would get during a busier time of the day let you imagine a less fast paced era,, when pedestrians still mattered, time still had a human value, and a time where people didn’t have so many gadgets and screens to keep them busy and away from a stroll on a big sidewalk lined by trees.
When I am in that area it never fails, I always end up wondering what life must have been when the city still had human proportions, wasn’t disfigured by flyover and chocked full with cars and smoke from being simply saturated with people, a time where the area I now live in was a Jungle and South Mumbai was called Bombay with people not having to wonder where the city end and where the suburb started. Because that’s what this city was at one point, busy but not frantic, a commercial nerve of the British Empire, and of early Independent India but still contained to human proportions. Now we have Mumbai, aka maximum city, that has suburbs that spread on distances as long as my good old lake of Geneva, packed with twice the population of Switzerland. A city of long commute, little free time, high real estate prices, tiny living quarters, a city of extreme contrasts in every senses. A city that at time feel like it’s more likely to eat you alive, in which it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, prone to agoraphobia. A city that make you feel like you are pretty much just there to work and sleep, sleep and work. A city where at time it is really easy to wonder if it is actually designed for human beings with human needs to actually live in it.
A trip to Colaba always end up recharging my batteries a little, sidewalks like the one above making me feel that yes there are still areas in this huge city that were meant for people be human and move at a human pace.

And then I end up wondering if people from that other distant era would still recognize the city today. How much of it was lost in the chaos of modernisation?
And while I was thinking that, my daughter was whining like a typical 4 years old fed up with everything saying “Mama I want to go home” The very think I used to tell my parents when they felt like strolling the old city on a Sunday in Geneva…sigh!

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