City of Dreams- Travelogue Day 1

The City of Dreams:Mumbai!

What a city! Words fail to describe it, and photographs cannot merely justify the sheer magnitude of its true beauty.

When I first started on this trip, I felt mellow; I didn’t have butterflies of excitement in my stomach or any feeling of anxiety as if the lizards were eating up those butterflies. It had nothing to do with the city i was visiting but more to do with the state of my mind.

I’m more of a nature lover, rather than a city bird. You can throw me into a deep jungle and forget all about me, until the day you start wondering if I’d survived after all. Nevertheless, I would live in bliss with little or no resources.

So, spending a few days in the middle of a big city, crowded with people, enduring the tropical summer heat was just not my cup of tea. But, you know what they say? if you want to write well, you’ve to travel, and then travel a little more.

Travelling opens your soul to all sorts of experiences, people, and emotions. It just paints a whole new picture on the canvas of your mind, when you have just adjusted yourself to that one picture that you’d been carrying all along.

Learn, Adapt, Transcend;

The journey continues, so on and so forth! This is what travelling has taught me!

It was a 3 day trip, with 3 of my girlfriends whom I had known forever. The outline for this trip was more of a bachelorette party, rather than just another outing. A friend would be getting married soon, and we wanted to show her the city and present her with a big basket full of memories, that would be a prelude to all the other great ones to come.
Day 1: The trip started with my friends catching an early morning flight, while I headed to the airport to catch a different one. I had booked a different flight taking off on a different time, owned by a different company, and as I realized after a lot of running around, and a dozen phone calls, that we had landed on different terminals of two different airports.

Yes! Apparently, their flight had landed in the international airport, but I walked out of the domestic airport terminal.

Sure, the day had begun pleasantly!

I’d witnessed the magnificent sun rise above the horizon, colouring the sky in hues of orange and red, putting everything else out of perspective. As my flight soared to a height of 27000 feet above ground, gliding through the skies, and cutting through the oddly shaped fluffy clouds, the sun seemed different from that height. It appeared real, closer (obviously!) and gloriously a lot more bright!

We all dream of the sky, the stars, the moon, and the mysterious universe that is set in continuous motion. We aspire to witness the cosmos; we want to reach out to all the heavenly bodies that are beyond the atmosphere of our planet, and in that particular moment, in that flight, I felt closer to that magic!

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Flying in a plane could be considered as the least interesting of all the fantasies in life. But in my case, every single time I take a train, or a flight; I feel the gap closing between my dreams and the reality. It bridges those two divergent worlds, helping me find the balance.

I wonder if the people who fly through the skies on a regular basis, ponder about such things. I wonder if they consider it mundane, or feel lucky to fly a little closer to the sun than 99% of the people on this planet do!

However they perceive it, I witnessed 80% of the folks in that flight catch up on their morning nap, missing out the clear blue skies, which kept me intrigued throughout the entire journey that lasted more than an hour.

So, once the clouds of confusion were cleared, on which coffee shop was nearer to the terminal, which part of the terminal we were in, on which airport we’d landed ; we decided to meet halfway at Ville Parle railway station.
(FYI: We had no itinerary per se, just a list of places jotted in the back of our mind, which we wanted to visit within the short period of 3 days.)

As the excellent packer that I am, I’d carried a trolley suitcase, which had enough space to stuff a baby elephant in it (or a baby panda, if you’re into pandas;  never mind, who isn’t?)

So, as pleasant as the day was, I had a peachy time, carrying the suitcase, up and down the stairs across various platforms, amidst the crazy crowd.

(Why not just take a cab, you say? Yeah! We did that after i felt like Varun Dhawan from the American tourister add, chasing a bus, but ultimately losing the challenge miserably. Yes, all this was just on DAY 1)

After the imaginary treasure hunt in the railway station, we ended up having a relishing breakfast at a restaurant that co-incidentally belonged to a gentleman, who hailed from our native town, during which we received special treatment from the waiters who let me open my suitcase on one table as I dug out my power bank, camera, and all the cords that refused to be untangled. They let us sit at another table, and confuse the remaining waiters with witty remarks in our native language that they didn’t understand!

We even offered a friendly meal to the owner instead of paying the bill like normal customers. An offer he couldn’t refuse, yet he politely turned it down.

We then took a cab to Siddhi Vinayak temple, which surprisingly, wasn’t crowded that day. The main thing that I noticed about the temple was that, it was a small temple, glorified by its architecture and sacredness.

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Where I come from, there is a certain pompousness associated to temples that are traditionally famous; Though there are exceptions to this  rule.

I never understood the necessity to consecrate idols made of gold and jewels, or to surround them by other glittery arrangements, which ultimately will be kept safely behind metal bars.

Temples that are painted in gold dust every year, temples that hold more financial reserves than the entire state government, they don’t make sense to me, no offence!

But, if you take all that away – the glorification, the unaccountable richness and the mysteries and myths associated to each of them; ultimately what remains is faith in its purest form! And that’s something, isn’t it?

There was a white marble hung to the wall like a board, and a bunch of people were writing something on it using their fingers, and the only explanation we could fathom was that it was a wish board.

It’s funny how logic kicks in at certain situations, because when it was our chance to write on the board, our primary concern wasn’t regarding the wish. Instead, we were wondering what language do we write in? Which language would be comfortable for GOD to understand?

Once we were done exploring the temple, we marched out to the nearest railway station to catch a train to Byculla! (Oh and by the way, American tourister is the classiest suitcase one can ever use! Because it can be dragged anywhere, literally anywhere! The wheels of my trolley have kissed every part of Mumbai)

The only upside of travelling in a train or wandering mindlessly on platforms, was that I met the cutest, nicest guy, who volunteered to save our day by helping us reach the correct platform, and catch the right train from Dadar! (Yes, I know that I’m shamelessly glorifying his existence, but it was like a scene out of a movie, where I blankly survey all screens, talk to every other stranger in order to find the right platform, and he walks into the picture out of nowhere, and helps me out! Okay, Helps US out!)

After helping us into the right train, he went off to catch a different train, and my friends make a secret wish to the universe, so they’d run into him again.(psst, I did too! )

At the hotel after freshening up, and having a decent meal, we headed out to explore the city in the evening. The buildings that mark the city have a wonderful history and a beautiful architecture.

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We set out to CST in the local train, and then wandered aimlessly across the city, marvelling at the spectacular terminus. The Former Victoria terminus with its ancient Gothic style architecture blended with the perfect madness of a modern Mumbai, is a wonderful place to start the exploration. Strolling around the city, we then chose a cab driver to show us around the local beaches and other interesting places. As it turns out, the cabbie was the sweetest guy you’d ever meet.

His name was “Sharmaji” (the ‘ji’ came with the name is suppose, I didn’t question). He had been working as a cab driver since 1979 in Mumbai (“Bambai” as he liked to call it). Sharmaji spoke Hindi in a dialect that could be probably heard only in Ramayana and Mahabharata serial, but on on a logical front he was from banaras, and hence the kind nature. He explained a lot of things about Mumbai in a way only a son would talk about his mother. (I won’t go into the details, mostly because I don’t remember it all) The love and respect he held for the city was so pure that it could turn even the biggest cynic into a fan.

He drove us through the streets of chow Patti beach, marine drive, describing bits and facts about the city in which he’d spent more than half his lifetime, finally dropping us off at the hanging gardens. I don’t know if it was the splendid evening, the overall glorious experience or just my good mood, but the day turned out to be more magical, than I’d had imagined.

I felt a deep connection to the city, and for the very first time in my life, I felt like I belonged there. The city had so much to offer; the glorious architecture, the simple-minded people, the wide beaches, the lavish lifestyle and the intense poverty; all encompassed in one city.

Khwabon ki nagri, Mumbai! (The city of Dreams)

If you ever want to taste a slice of the real Mumbai, at its age of transformation from Bombay to Mumbai; if you want to taste the unadulterated, pure and ethnic version of this city, in all its nakedness, roam the city late at night, or early in the morning. This I have realized, is true for most of the cities, because at such times, the city is exposed of its own harsh reality and subtle beauty. People are people, without any pompousness, or façade. Just pure, real and refreshingly themselves!

Be a Traveller and never a tourist. For, a tourist only explores the places he has on his list, but a traveller explores everything that comes along his way

The city has so much of history, it makes you wonder. You have to turn into a child to see the magic that it holds!

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To be continued…

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