The Arabian Sea is Mumbai’s best feature, as Juhu and Girgaum Chowpatty’s teeming crowds, even during the summer, will attest. Not the best spot for a lunchtime picnic, but you can follow the coastline to arange of places and events over this summer.
At the tip of Worli is one of the city’s oldest and most visible fishing villages. The Koliwada has been called a slum, perched on the edge of the hyper-urban, new Worli, which includes the local passport office and Atria mall, but it is an ancient neighbourhood. Local tour operator Shriti Tyagi conducts informal sunset walks through the area, starting from the Golphadevi temple, dedicated to the traditional deity of the Kolis, through the bylanes of the village, exploring its food, religion and politics, ending with tea on the ramparts of the historic Worli Fort. For details, email email@example.com.
Photo Abhijit Hatlekar/Mint
On Mumbai’s starboard side, the flamingo walks organized by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) at the Sewri mud flats may be over for this season, but the “flats” still offer a wide variety of birds and flora to see, including the common greenshank, common redshank, curlew and green sandpiper. BNHS will also take a nature trail to Elephanta on 22 May which will focus on the island’s fauna—yes, more than just monkeys and other tourists—rather than its history. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org
All outdoor activity is best undertaken early in the morning, before the sun and traffic intensify. To escape indoors, remember that the National Centre for the Performing Arts and Prithvi Theatre are both on the coast—at Marine Drive and Juhu, respectively—and have summer performing arts festivals through the season. For details, visit www.ncpamumbai.com or www.prithvitheatre.org
For some people Gorai Beach is best known as the landing point for the ferry to EsselWorld amusement park. While it’s no longer a proto-Goan paradise, part of it remains one of Mumbai’s cleanest and quietest beaches. As with most of north Mumbai’s coastline, its currents make it an unsafe swimming hole, but its walks are exhilarating, and the adjacent east Indian village of Gorai includes a real gem: the late 16th century Portuguese church of the Holy Magi.
As the mercury crosses the 40-degree Celsius mark, head to Hailey Road. Tucked away behind the high-rises of Connaught Place, it is a traffic-free stretch with tree-lined pavements, old world bungalows, mossy brick walls and a 14th century ruin. In May and June, Hailey Road glows on both sides with a spectacular display of yellow. These are the flowers of amaltas, which bloom only in the summer. The yellow flowers climb up the electric poles, crawl around the metal plaques and entwine the branches of an occasional peepal or neem tree. All through the day, the flowers keep dropping (reminiscent of snowfall), turning the road into a thick yellow carpet. Even those who have never heard of Monet might feel transported into the world of an Impressionist painter’s canvas. Start the walk early.
Clouds of green
Twelve kilometres from Delhi lies nature’s miraculous gift to a dry, dusty city. A 100-hectare jungle, Mangarbani valley turns a glowing green in peak summer. This forest in the Aravallis has dhau trees which grow on dry rocky terrain. Unlike most trees in and around Delhi that remain bare throughout the dry season—from December to mid-July—dhaus sprout new leaves in May. “It’s one of the most beautiful sights in Delhi,” says Pradip Krishen, author of Trees of Delhi. “Standing at a cliff with the valley below you, it’s like looking at a giant cloud of green.” To go to Mangarbani, take the road to Chhattarpur and drive down towards Faridabad. A few minutes after crossing the Delhi border, you will spot a large dumping site on the right. Turn into the rutty track and keep driving till you reach a dead end. Go there at 6am.
Photo : Mayank Austen Soofi/Mint
Mangarbani also has a temple dedicated to an invisible mystic called Gudariya Baba, who is believed to strike terror if somebody cuts a tree. Tourists can learn more about him from children who live in the valley’s sole village. They recite poems on the baba every Sunday under the village’s banyan tree.
Mayank Austen Soofi
At 5am, walk the streets of Chennai. It’s safe to do so: The heat does not set in at this early hour. This will be about the coolest the city will get for the next four months. Notice, as you walk, that Chennai wakes up pretty early. Newspapers are being sorted, the milkman’s already done his round, trucks roll by. Walk (or drive) to Purasawalkam. It’s easy: Follow the smell of fresh sambhar.
Udipi Welcome is a little, old world Chennai restaurant that serves one of the best things to eat in the morning: hot idlis drowned in the hottest, freshest sambar. Get yourself a newspaper, order your breakfast and dig in. Two idlis or 20, no Chennai breakfast is complete without a little pongal. Order a plate of the good stuff, and begin working on the crossword.
Haven in home: (clockwise from top) History lives at the Worli Fort; amaltas trees bloom only in summer; and the quiet of the Ganga; Photo Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan
Purasawalkam, a busy market area, is in north Chennai. It’s known for quaint, tiny streets with old houses, and the Gangadeeswarar Temple. Just down the road from Udipi Welcome, Gangadeeswarar Temple was built by the Chola dynasty, and pretty much left to its own devices. With shops hedging in on its space, and its tank hidden by new construction, Gangadeeswarar remains a quiet, cool place to puzzle over 15 Down: Disturbed new sect seen growing old (9).
The Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI) is on Greenways Road, not far from where the river Adyar meets the sea. A sprawling, green campus, KFI is ideal to spend an afternoon. An Art Deco, two-storeyed building houses books, lectures and discussions of the KFI, and writings of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Pick one up, find yourself a spot under a tree (there are many) and read. Or listen to your music. There is no formal membership and no agenda for the foundation, and great stress is laid on doing your own thing in search of truth. As the day cools, regulars and newcomers meet on the lawn and talk philosophy, religion and Krishnamurti while the birds come home to roost. KFI is a good place for birds; and if you are a birdwatcher, for you too. The kingfisher, the parakeet, the cuckoo, the spotted owl and many more come here, to this large park on the banks of the Adyar.
Close to the KFI is Eco Café/Anokhi, a coffee shop that makes superlative espressos and pretty good food all day. Walk in, order, and spend as long as you want. The Croque Madame is a personal favourite. Wash it down with good coffee and some French vanilla ice cream.
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