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  • Writer's pictureAvani Venkatesh Kumar

Mumbai, Meri Jaan

Mumbai is the city I grew up in. It will always be special to me. Even if I go elsewhere, no city can give me what Mumbai has. No city can give me ‘Marine Drive’.

Facts about Marine Drive can be googled. But what can't be googled is the experience of actually seeing it.

I visited Marine Drive on Tuesday, after two years. It is in South Mumbai, an hour away from where I live. My mother and I left at five in the evening.

Our surroundings changed upon entering South Mumbai. The buildings were older, the roads wider and lined with trees. The landscape seemed brighter with the blues, greens and greys standing out clearly. South Mumbai exuded an effortless, old-world charm.

However, a quarter of Marine Drive had vanished behind barricades because of a ‘Coastal Road Project’. But don’t get discouraged. 3/4th of Marine Drive is still as worth it as the whole of it would be.

Marine Drive is along ‘Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road’. It is a seaside walkway that forms a crescent along the coast of the Arabian Sea. The sea stretches infinitely into the distance, no visible horizon tethering its other end.

When we arrived, it wasn’t very crowded. Some policemen were present to ensure Covid Protocol was followed. No one was allowed to remove their mask.

People sat in twos and threes on the platform overlooking the sea. It looked the same as always, a massive, rippled expanse of blue water darkening to black.

Waves chased each other, forming white froth upon merging with the tetra rocks stacked up on the shore.

The setting sun’s golden rays were reflected in the water, giving the illusion of a thousand fireflies lighting up the surface from below it.

Wind blew in from the sea, carrying a faint smell of salt and sea water. The swishing of waves and whistling of wind reached my ears, accompanied by the distant sound of a car horn.

Everything felt blissfully surreal.

Until a voice broke my reverie. A middle aged, balding man stood behind me with a mask floating on his beard.

He was peering into his phone, video calling with someone.

“See how beautiful the samundar is,” he said, waving the phone around.

A shrill female voice emanated from it, presumably his wife’s. I couldn’t make out if she was equally excited or yelling at him to be careful with his phone. I was trying to discern her words, when my mother nudged me.

“Avani, look at the skyline,” she prompted.

I looked ahead and all other thoughts melted away. The sky had turned indigo with touches of blue, like ink mixing in water. Streetlights fringing the arc of Marine Drive flared up consecutively, creating a beautiful domino effect. The orbs glowed yellow-orange and receded to pinpricks in the distance. They resembled a looping string of pearls, justifying the other name that Marine Drive goes by – ‘Queen’s Necklace’.

Faraway skyscrapers shimmered with neon blue and red lights. The wind had reduced to a hum, black waves washed over the shore gently. A whiff of copper and night-time rode on the air.

Suddenly, a thought struck me. Marine Drive unites the people who visit it. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or what you have achieved in life. When you stand here, you see the same sea, sky and lights as everyone else.

Everyone needs a place in their city which can detach them from their worries. A spot that transports them to a world where nothing needs fixing, no one needs to change. In ‘Sapnon Ka Sheher’ Mumbai, there are few places to offer you that. For me, Marine Drive tops that list.

Samundar – Sea

Sapnon Ka Sheher – City Of Dreams

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