This Sunday, I decided to tour the scenic Malabar Hill along with my friend. Located ahead of Chowpatty and Walkeshwar, Malabar Hill affords an excellent bird’s eye view of the Marine Drive coastline. My itinerary included three main attractions – Kamala Nehru Park, Hanging Garden and Banganga Tank. I’d been to Hanging Gardens as a child (who hasn’t?) but I was eager to see the gigantic shoe from the Mother Goose nursery rhyme again. I’d also earmarked two cafes for our food and drinks – Cafe New York and Cafe Ideal, both near Wilson College.
We embarked on our day-long picnic from CST a.k.a. VT station. At the depot outside the station, we hopped on to bus number 108 (fairly frequent) which courses along Marine Drive to end its journey at the Kamala Nehru Park stop. The tickets cost us 18 rupees each. Alas, hunger pangs struck mid-way and we decided to alight at Chowpatty stop, which is right next to the beach. Bang opposite the stop stood Cafe Ideal. Next to it was a fancy-looking restaurant called New Yorker which had us fooled initially. But one look at the alcohol-less menu told us that it wasn’t the Cafe New York we were looking for!
If you enjoy wine, then you’ll love the fact that at Cafe Ideal, you can get a 90 ml glass of Samara red for 130 rupees. That’s right. It beats even the 250 per glass offering at Ballard Estate’s Cafe Universal. I’d found my new wine joint all right. After a couple glasses of that heady stuff, we headed to Sukh Sagar snacks on the opposite side of the street for a plate of sumptuous pav bhaji – a bit pricey at 90 per plate but well worth the amount in terms of taste, quantity and hygiene.
After that, it was time to board bus number 108 again for our intended destination – Malabar Hill. A short ride later, we disembarked at Kamala Nehru Park stop. Here we were confronted by the Phirozeshah Mehta Garden. Momentary confusion ensued. Was this Hanging Garden or Kamala Nehru Park or a different park altogether? Turned out that our first guess was right. This was a beautiful, green garden with many fllowers in different colours and shapes such as this charming specimen:
After having our fill of the idyllic and beautifully landscaped Hanging Gardens (so called because it overlooks the rest of Malabar Hill), we fortified ourselves with some ice-cream and proceeded to the Kamala Nehru Park or Shoe Park. Luckily, the weather was cool and breezy thanks to the clouds that had descended upon the summer sky. At Kamala Nehru Park, most of the crowd made a beeline for the famed shoe:
Although the sign board clearly said that only children under twelve could climb the shoe, we saw adults of all ages cramming in. Try as we might, we couldn’t get a picture with an undisturbed view of this shoe-shaped house. But here are some of our attempts:
The other attraction of this park is the marvellous view of Marine Drive, snaking along Chowpatty beach and framed by gulmohar trees and a few white buildings.
A little ahead, we were able to find another less-crowded spot which offered a similar view of Mumbai’s signature panorama.
By now, the effects of the wine had started to wear off and we felt energetic enough to walk down Malabar Hill and check out the lesser known Banganga Tank. It turned out to be a long walk indeed. If you plan to visit this ancient water tank located inside the labyrinthine Walkeshwar Temple Complex, take a bus till the bottom of the hill and then turn right. Keep going right once you’re inside the complex until you reach the flight of steps leading to the mossy tank. The lake is called baan (arrow) ganga (holy water) because according to local legend, it sprang forth when Lakshman shot an arrow into the ground to procure water for an exhausted Ram who was searching for his kidnapped wife Sita.
The first thing you’ll see (apart from the water) and hear is the flock of white and mottled grey ducks along its banks, quacking to each other and occasionally dipping into the water for a quick swim.
The next thing you’ll see is the bunch of local boys playing a merry game of afternoon cricket. My friend was quite appalled at their lack of bowling and batting skills but they didn’t seem too keen on instruction! I managed to capture this boy while he ran back with the ball which had fallen into the tank:
Finally, one of the ducks (all of which were lounging at the top of the staircase) made its way to the banks of the tank. We hoped that he/she might decide to go for a swim but in vain. It seemed that the boys were also waiting for it to do the same because one of them mischievously nudged it into the water. Plop! The duck fell in, but almost instantly regained its poise, shook the water off its feathers and swam gracefully into the middle of the tank. My friend caught the whole incident on video, which I’m thinking of uploading on Youtube!
By the time we exited Walkeshwar Temple Complex, we were utterly exhausted and in need of some reinforcements. We got into the first bus we saw (most of them pass by Wilson College) and alit at the Wilson College stop. A little ahead of the college is a gem of a restaurant called Cafe New York. If you’re a sports fan, you can catch the latest cricket match on their TV screen. And if you’re not, you can be regaled by the techno/electronic music they play. We gorged on burgers (80-120) and beer (220 for a bottle of strong beer, 430 for a pitcher of 5 glasses). By then, the sun had begun to set. We dipped our toes into the water at Chowpatty beach (be warned, it’s very dirty) and made a hasty retreat when plastic bags and whatnot wrapped themselves around our feet. After a leisurely stroll along the coastline that is Mumbai’s pride, we made our way back home.