As the train slowly started coming to a halt, I got down, not waiting for it to completely stop. I checked the time. It was 10:05 am. I needed to get there only by 10:45am. I was early, as usual. I took out my oh-so-dear phone, opened up my GPS and put in “Mumbai Esplanade Court”. It was 1.7 kms away. I started my 23 minute morning walk.
The thing I noticed about Mumbai was, everyone walks as if they are in a walkathon and they need to win. Nobody has time for anyone else. Everyone has earphones in, or they’re talking on the phone, in their own world. I walk along with the crowd past the Cross Maidan where some exhibition was going on. I always wanted to check it out, but never had the time because of the aforementioned walkathon !
I,then, take a left towards the fashion street. The shops are just being opened; almost all of them are still under the blue tarp. There are a few Chai shops open, with men drinking tea and reading newspaper or looking at their phones. There is very little human conversation between them. As I walk past them, avoiding all the Paan spits and normal spits on the road, I reach the first signal on the road. I have to cross that to reach the Azad Maidan.
Azad Maidan was a ground. What was its true purpose, I never found out. In the morning there were children playing cricket; their coaches yelling out for no apparent reason; some children sitting in the sidelines watching, eagerly awaiting their turn, others just least bothered. It is all fun and games to watch this scenario play out until you have to run for you life because some kid decided to hit the ball along your way.
But this Maidan was home not just for people who wanted to play, but also for street shopping. Everything ranging from earphones to second hand books to even clothes was sold there at different times throughout the day. This was the one thing that always fascinated me about Mumbai. Anybody can earn a living in this city as long as you’re down to do anything it is that will get you there. I got the feeling that even if you started selling cloth hangers, people will buy them as long as you market it well.
Azad Maidan connected the MG Road with the fashion street with the Hazarimal Somani Road (yes, i googled that). The road is a very small road, and always crowded. The footpath beside the road is even smaller and I assume there is a competition happening on this road on who can walk the fastest because people wiz past you, not stopping even when their shoulders use yours as a dandiya stick. At the end of that road, you see the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Railway Station or as people still dearly call it, the VT. You can never get tired of looking at this magnificent piece of architecture. Whenever I used to walk in front of it, I spend a few minutes staring at it because it would be a shame to the building if no one paid attention to it.
As, it stood tall proudly in the morning light, I continued my walk. There was the usual crowd on my left, where there were so many small breakfast corners that had a normal mumbai wala breakfast, you know, like Vadapav, Pav Bhaji, Sev Puri and all. Coming from a land of Idlis and Dosas, this was a pleasant surprise. Another amusing thing was that every shop basically sold the same thing and they were right next to each other but there was no shortage of crowd in front of any shops. All of them were equally crowded.
Walking forward, I finally see the Court. It’s only around 10:40 and the sessions start only by 11:00, so I’m in absolutely no hurry, taking my own sweet time. There were some advocates standing there as usual asking if I wanted anything notarized. I ignored them and walked in the old court building and found Court room #3 and settled myself in there under the fan, took out my book and started reading till it was time for the court.
This was just one morning during my 23 days in Mumbai. One of the main reasons I loved walking while I was there was because I was able to see a lot more of the places and familiarize myself with the city and its people. I had heard a lot of stories and experiences of the people who’ve spent their share of time in this city. And being there, I found myself falling in love with Mumbai. There was a sort of magic to this place that can’t be explained in words.
As a friend of mine always said, and I finally was able to relate, “Mumbai is not a place, it’s an emotion.”