A hurried, short notice trip to Mumbai a few days ago, was just the kind of travel I am not comfortable with. But the request came late, and it was a meeting that I did not want to miss. And so airport – Nariman Point- airport all in 18 hours!! The trip was over the week end and so I did not have to face the usual South Mumbai traffic chaos. I landed in the early evening, and got to the hotel in 50′. Since the meeting was the next morning, I had an evening to myself. Room service is never very exciting, and when I decided to venture downstairs at 9pm, the in-house restaurants looked deserted and pricey! So, I decided to step out and explore the other options.
I have not strolled along Marine Drive for decades, and in the night time was even further back if ever, and alone was definitely a first! My aim was to stroll a bit, and catch a pav-bhaji/ vada-paav road-side dinner. The total sense of security when I stepped out onto with the wide, well paved esplanade was amazing. It was bustling with people, singles, same sex and mixed groups of all ages (mostly the young and the elderly, families with kids, kids in prams and the elderly in wheel chairs, in jeans and shorts, sarees and burquas ………it was not noisy, there was no jostling, just quiet enjoyment of a Saturday evening with family and friends. I can only say that ‘I love Mumbai’.
I kept walking, and there were no vendors at all anywhere in sight, on the sea-side of the road or on the other side, not even a strolling ‘chana-jor-garam’ wala or an ice-cream cart. I can only guess that the BMC is fairly effective in implementing some rules. The whole stretch was spotlessly clean, helped I am sure by the lack of food vendors. But it must be more than just that, as I could see people eating stuff that they had probably carried with them. There were other interesting observations – the famous Victoria carriages had acquired fluorescent lighting, all traffic stopped at red lights – behind the pedestrian crossing, the renovated Saifee Hospital had acquired a most ghastly permanent bedazzlement that diminished the ‘Queens necklace’.
I suddenly realized that it was almost 10pm, I was hungry and I was almost reaching the Gymkhanas stretch, just before the aquarium. So I did an about turn, and since I had not seen any restaurants on this stretch, turned towards VT and found a place called Salt Water. And as the name suggested, fish was their strong point – so a glass of white wine and grille ‘fish of the day’ was a great ending for the evening.