Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Maharashtra Nature Park

When I was in college, I often travelled to Bandra by bus to meet a friend. One evening, as I was returning home, a lady sitting next to me pointed to a vast stretch of green on one side of the road and said, "This is the Mahim Nature Park. Have you heard of it?"
I shook my head indicating a 'no'.
"It's a pity that people in Bombay are unaware of the green spaces that exist...They just complain about the pollution and the cramped spaces but they do not take the effort of finding and visiting parks and gardens that are around," she grumbled.
I did not tell her anything but I decided to pay a visit to this place whenever I get time. Since we were relatively free from work this week, Sanika and I decided to explore this nature park. It is now known as the Maharashtra Nature Park. The location is particularly fascinating - it is situated right in between the over-populated, crowded slums of Dharavi and the highly industrialized area, that is Bandra-Kurla Complex.

Reaching the park is not a hassle - you can take any bus that goes to Dharavi Depot; or you could commute there from Sion Station. As soon as I reached the place, the words spoken by the woman on the bus echoed in my mind - apart from the two of us, there was only one other person present. The Nature Park is not very big - one can see the Mahim Creek alongside it. There were lots of butterflies and many flowers in bloom. It was fun chasing butterflies and trying to capture them on camera! I really felt like the child in me had awakened!
There were bushes that had wild berries. We discovered an oil tree and a peepal tree.We even spotted a reptile which, according to Sanika, was a chameleon. We did not spot a lot of birds but towards the end of our trip, as we were walking out of the gates, we found a few storks. 

Later I came to know that in order to spot a lot of migratory birds, one ought to visit the place between October and March. The park also has an open-air amphitheater, an audio-visual hall, a library - all these are powered by solar energy. There were also four friendly dogs who continued to follow us wherever we went.
The Maharashtra Nature Park is only open till 3:30 p.m. I wish it would remain open for longer hours. It is a place which I would recommend to all nature-lovers and people who are fond of photography. Just be sure to rub a lot of Odomos to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes!

This week I enjoyed visiting some new sites in Mumbai - it was a lot of fun and it rekindled my love for exploration and travelling. I hope to continue this journey of discovering new destinations all around me - what's the point of touring the world if you are clueless about the beauty that is already around you?

The Dolphin Fish Aquarium

There are so many places to see in Mumbai and, in these past two years, I have never managed to find the time to cancel off some of the items on my bucket-list. This week, I decided to awaken the touristic spirit that was sleeping inside me and set off to explore those parts of the city where I had never been.

I had come across a list of #41 things to do with your child in Bombay (malls not included) and the third item on this list had caught my attention - The Dolphin Irla Aquarium. The name really fascinated me - I really thought this was a place in Mumbai where there were dolphins and I wondered why no one had bothered taking me there! I was even more surprised to learn that no one knew where this place was! Despite a number of Google searches, I could not get much information about this place except an address. Finally, Sanika and I decided to just set off on our own and uncover what this place is really about!

 Reaching the place was an adventure in itself! For starters, even though we were in the vicinity, not a soul knew where the Aquarium was - even the auto-walas had no idea where this place was! My gMaps application was also not helping much! We tried calling on the number listed on the site which had the address, and we were fortunate enough to get the correct directions to the place; although, in hind sight, we were luckier to, finally, get an auto-driver who knew where the aquarium really was!

 It lies tucked in a corner, away from the madding crowd. There were no dolphins there - thankfully, I had unravelled this bit of information a day before setting off for the aquarium; hence, I was not too disappointed!     The Dolphin Fish Aquarium has a boating pond and an aquarium in the middle of the pond. In addition, there are lots of ducks, some rabbits, white mice, turtles, love-birds and even emus! We even found some glorious cats and a friendly dog named Twincy!
The collection of fish is not magnificent - you'd probably find more variety at the Taraporewala Aquarium - but it is a place that children will definitely love. They can ride the toy-train, go boating, and the animals and birds will not fail to amaze them!

I really had a marvellous time and, if I get the chance, I would love to go there a second time. It's a pity such serene places are not known to the public - most people spend their weekends in malls or movie-theaters!

So, all those people who live in Mumbai, do visit this place. It is at Tanaji Malusare Road, Irla Chowk in Vile Parle (West).

Are there any places in your area that you love visiting? It need not be a popular tourist-site but I am sure we are all surrounded by places that are spectacular even if they aren't very well-known. Let me know - I would love to pay a visit!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Marine Drive

Lately, there has been a lot happening at my end. In the course of a week's time, my life has changed gears drastically. Whenever I find myself in the midst of a lot of turmoil, I rush off to Marine Drive to seek refuge. Last night was no different except for the fact that there were hardly any people in sight...

I walked down the road and sat down at my usual spot. As I sat there, I observed the waves lashing against the rocks. The sea is always in a state of disarray, all the time creating bubbles and ripples...I stared at the sea and found that it was talking to me. It pronounced something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; and no matter how hard I tried, I could not make out what it was that the sea was trying to say.

I have always been in love with the sea. I love the smell of the salt-water. I love the fact that the sea has the potent power to make me thing things I like to think about...I love the fact that the sea makes me believe that I can achieve all the things that I want to achieve...The sea is my friend - whenever I feel restless and disturbed, I find the sea to be as disturbed and as restless as I am.

After some time, it started to drizzle. I allowed the little droplets of rain-water to fall on me - I made no attempt to wipe them off. I looked at the sea again. This time, the sea reminded me of a wild beast roaring and raging in its den. It reminded me of my everlasting efforts to be free and how some of the struggles had been in vain. There were times when no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up being just where everything began. This time, I hoped, things would be different...

I tried thinking of the times when the sea is peaceful. On some sunny afternoons, one finds the sun rays brightly reflected in the water while the waves create gentle ripples. At Marine Drive, the land is always well in sight even if you sit with your back turned to the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced city behind you. I never realize the immensity and awfulness of the sea when I am there - the vastness of the sea never appears to be a threat to me. The buildings, the lights, the people sitting and walking around - all of them are different, integral parts of a glorious, joyous, glittering scene.   

Marine Drive is one of the places where I always feel alone even if I go there with a good friend of mine. It is, however, one place where I never feel lonely. Whenever I am feeling agitated or distressed, I am most likely to be found sitting at Marine Drive - sometimes with a book in my hand and headphones plugged to my ear...Marine Drive gives me a sense of belonging...It is my cure for all the ill happenings in my life...It is the one place where I always am at peace... 

Thursday, 9 August 2012


Friendship is one relationship that I never get tired of writing about; so much so that I wrote my Masters dissertation on this topic...The sole credit for this most probably goes to the numerous friends I have made at different stages of my life-span...

My definition of a friend has always been simple: a person with whom I have a good time, whenever I am around him or her, is my 'friend'. I have a lot of friends - and believe me - when I say 'a lot', I mean A LOT! I may have had a conversation with someone for just 10 minutes while waiting for my turn at the doctor's clinic; or I might just have exchanged pleasantries with a person at a random party; but I would have no qualms in acknowledging them as a 'friend' the next time I get a chance of interacting with them. It is perhaps this trait of mine that makes people describe me as being a very friendly person.
Of course the levels of attachment and comfort would differ from one friend to another but I don't think that level depends on the amount of time I have known them. Unlike some of my peers, I have never had a person who has been a constant feature in my life - even when I was in school, I think I was friends with different people at different points of time. In college also, I never really belonged to one particular group and had quite a mixed bag of friends. Like everybody, I made friends in school, college and neighbourhood. Apart from that, I have online friends, friends that I made on a plane journey; and I am even friends with the dogs that I met, fed and played with on my college campus!

I do not know if it is a flaw but I have never managed to maintain friendship with someone for a very long time. I have a tendency of getting bored easily - sometimes I think that the concept of permanence just does not exist for me. I change organizations if I feel the place has nothing new to offer; I get bored of eating the same kind of food - and for each meal, I demand variety; I have never lived in one place for a very long period of time and that is something which does not even bother me because I like changes and the entire array of things that come with any change excite me. Sometimes, I wonder if I outgrow people in the same manner in which I outgrow things...In school, I think I had a new 'best friend' every academic year! Of course in college I managed to have a stable set of friends with whom I still keep in touch - though not as frequently as I would like it to be...
I am definitely not a person who has even had or been a 'Friend Forever' but I value my friendship with each person...While the quality of interaction differs from one person to another depending on a number of factors, I really feel that with each friend, I am a different person because each of them have been exposed to different sides of my personality. The conversations that I have had with each one of them is special and it is this uniqueness that makes me appreciate each person who has been a 'friend' to me - even if it was for a span as short as fifteen minutes or as long as seven years.

There was a time when I harboured rather idealistic notions of friendship until reality played its part and made me realize that not everyone functions the same way or perceives a relationship in the same way as I do. I may have had one perfect friend but that does not mean the rest of the friends I make are also going to be perfect! I make mistakes and so will the others...At the end of the day, it is all about accepting the person as he or she is, and looking beyond the flaws. If the flaws cannot be overlooked, it is probably best to part ways because harnessing false hopes and unreal expectations only causes hurt to both parties.
Like every other relationship, friendship is also built on trust and lots of love. When there is a betrayal, it is as painful and tormenting as is the case in any other relation. People focus a lot on issues in the family and in their romantic relationships but the issues in a friendship are always sidelined. I do not know the reasons for this peculiar phenomena - perhaps, I am the only one who over-analyzes this relationship!

Having lived away from home for a period of over five years, I rely on my friends immensely for a lot of things. In the short course of my life-span, I have made a lot of friends - with some, I have just lost touch; some are people I manage to catch up with on and off; there are some I meet frequently...Then there are those friendships which just did not last - there were some where I made mistakes; others where I felt betrayed and let down...I have had friends who have made my life beautiful and there were some who struck terror in my life while they were there a part of it...

Carl Jung had rightly said, "The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed."
It does not matter if it was a fleeting friendship or a permanent one...It does not matter if someone was a 'good friend' or a 'bad friend'...With each person I have interacted and spent time with, I have learnt something and it has helped me become the person I am today - be it good or bad. We may have only been friends for a few weeks or our friendship may be going strong since seven years and counting, but I would like to thank each and every friend of mine for shaping my life the way it is today - thanks to them, my life is beautiful!