At Water’s Edge
The coastline of India spans 5000 miles and hugs three bodies of water, but a 3 mile span along that V shaped peninsula stands testimony to the true meaning of life on this planet, and the evolution of civilization in the past two millennia.
Memorialized as the ‘Queens Necklace’, to adorn the regal Queen Victoria and celebrate the mighty British Empire’s trophy, this stretch of crashing waves on the “Gateway to India” has seen the transformation of seven sleepy fishing islands, whose fisher folk worshiped the Goddess of Mumbadevi, into what is arguably the world’s largest metropolis.
Marine Drive, as all Mumbaikars know it, is no mere boardwalk overlooking a pretty ocean view, neither is it all times, pretty. That would be too frivolous a term to describe it. As the ocean waves crash against mega tetrapods of igneous rock, they bring life giving succor and strength to the 20 million people that live in its hinterland. People of all hues, age, economic status and occupational diversity converge here at whatever time frame their life allows them, to rejuvenate, revitalize and recharge to deal with the onslaught of life and its associated challenges.
Dawn breaks over a city that barely sleeps a couple of hours, bringing those in search of fresh oxygen, or a place to stretch into yogic pose, or walk a brisk 3 miles with the sea breeze in their face, flocking to this strip of land, that has a magnetic attraction. Starting the day in open meditation to the rising sun, housewives, teenagers, retired laughing club members and Bollywood stars all muster energy and inspiration from here, to go into the frenzied activity and buzz of Bombay.
As the day progresses, miles of shiny steel flash by to transact the business of the world, paying scant attention to the constancy of the waves. Yet, those that can, continue to walk the walk and marvel at its capacity to provide home, hearth, life and continuous sustenance, be it the Nike clad socialite or the coconut vendor hacking away to unleash its soft sweet malai and nourishing water.
The evening lights up the Queens Necklace, now a gold glow of beads, rather than the majestic line of halogen white pearls that it is used to be. Old wizened grandmas, romancing couples, fitness buffs, princely dogs, mangy strays, and anyone in need of interfacing with the world from crab catchers to billionaire tycoons, once again stop by, drop in, breathe and return to their fold, weary but content knowing that the life sustaining force will be there in the morning.
It is not the blue green sea of coastal resorts or the aquamarine white surf of beach sport fiends. It is the great equalizer between millionaire deal makers and the peanut seller, the retired journalist and the young marathoner, the social butterfly and the old yogi with outstretched arms, the cavalier, young, good for nothing and the diligent office clerk. It grounds each one with a sense of belonging, continuity, constancy and renewed spirit.
By Sonal Bhuchar