Chhota Kashmir, Mumbai

Chhota Kashmir means “small (or mini) Kashmir”. Simply put the person who named it looks inspired from the crowning glory state of natural beauty, Kashmir, the heaven on Earth. Looks like a complete trap to me, but why be judgmental.

Located in the vicinity of Aarey Milk colony, Goregaon in northern region of Mumbai city, it sits in the vast expanse of a 4000 acre lush green space. Immediately after you enter into the Aarey space you will feel the best sensuous trigger-a tingling temperature drop.

The roads are narrow and due for maintenance. Abutting these roads are some fields on either sides but not sure what grows in them, maybe just grass or weeds. Random shanties in those fields with their blue tarpaulin seem to be slowly and silent capturing the scene.

I am told that there was a time when schools used to take kids on educational excursion to the Aarey milk factory and the garden closeby. Our destination is this garden, the so called mini Kashmir which is on a small hill top. There’s of course the lake which is sort of ok. The google map indicates it to be a considerable size at least couple of acres. You can go on a boat ride, only if you have company as these are self rowing ones. There are also these joy rides- things that whirls on its own axis and around. Toy train and merry go round, all the usual stuff.

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Young males are looking at you eagerly to buy tickets for these rides. We also find an enthusiastic goose, quite well mannered in the queue.

Towards the hill top, people have parked just anyhow on either sides, maybe quite reasonably so as the garden closes at 6 pm. The garden itself is a complete downer. The landscape is not attractive. Its full of trees and lush greens but no character. There’s an avenue of sorts with huge tall cactii which have become as large as trees, must be several years old. There are these random meanderings with stone paths which lead no where. I spot couple of gazebos with benches in them but they look rather ruinous to me. I try to find a calm place to sit and gaze into the sky but immediately feel uncomfortable in the company of couples who form silhouettes in every nook and corner.

I am not at ease and walk hurriedly through the garden space as if on some kind of surveillance. I observe that the whole place is dotted with plastic, packets and disposable water bottles. There are also toilets in this garden which is rather rare, but a word of caution before entering or you might just convulse due to the stench.

Walking out I try to write in the complaint book but there isn’t any. I talk to the security guy at the gate, but it might have sounded preachy. All in vain. I think about this person who named this garden, must be some sarkari babu. Completely delusional.

 

 

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Pherozeshah Mehta Garden or Hanging Garden, Malabar Hill, Mumbai

Sir Pherozeshah Mehta Garden is popularly known as Hanging garden. I think the word hanging signifies its geographical characteristic of being located atop the Malabar Hill. It almost feels like you are walking in an elevated park and all the surrounding towers seem to be at par with you. This is an extremely well kept garden. There are numerous hedges at corners in shapes of animals and lots of walking tracks. There are speakers placed intermittently along the tracks, which soothe your mind while you are working hard to burn your calories.

This garden is known to be constructed in 1881 over a main reservoir. The primary purpose of which was to secure the water from the nearby Tower of Silence’s activities. (information courtesty: Wikipedia)

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This stone placard reads this “The reservoirs beneath this garden were constructed in 1880 and extended to hold 90 million gallons in 1921. The garden has named by the Corporation after the Late Sir Pherozeshah Mehta.”

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Mud walking tracks are laid for walking enthusiasts.

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Many of the street lamps are solar powered.

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It was getting dark so I couldn’t figure the time using the sun dial.

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There is also a 2nd Innings pavilion specially meant for senior citizens. The park is usually crowded  on the weekends. You can see an army of kids buzzing all around the park with their frisbees, balls and bats. While their mothers and fathers stretch themselves on the blankets. Overall it is a must-go garden.

Non-Dolphin Acquarium, Irla, Mumbai

It is called the Dolphin Acquarium which is an utter deception. I felt cheated, like going to an Udipi restaurant and being denied Idli and Wada. But after visiting the place I could reason, it is probably a business strategy. The BARC dome like looking structure is the aqcuarium which is surrounded by a man made artificial pond. You can take a boat ride here for about 15 Rs./person, and scores of ducks or geese (what’s difference between them, btw? Need to go through a pre-school library) along with turtles give you company.

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Once we entered the gate, there stood two large birds walking around as if patrolling. If you don’t pay attention, they might just pick pocket you, so beware of (Ostrich?) No, its an Emu. One of my friends corrected me humbly. There were lots of other birds, ofcourse in their cages.

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The dome structure of the acquarium looked a bit rickety to me. There were tarpaulin sheets tied up at various places and the cement-filled cracks looked prominent on the ceiling. Once we got the kids inside, they began squealing with excitement. At the peak of their reverberation, I took a serious look at all the glass cases with wriggly and wiggly stuff. I heard the crackling and just like in movies the gush of water came through the glass boxes violently carrying along the exotic species with it.

Just then in between this 2 sec movie in my mind, K shouted in my ears…”Amma, nokku nokku Nemo!”

I paused the movie and told her sweetly, “This is a clown fish, baby.”

“No, its Nemo!”, K said getting herself geared up.

“Well, sure it is then, sweetopie.” I said thinking of the greater common good. I thought to myself how humble and adjusting I have become. Gone are the days of this fierce argumentator, I have outgrown it!

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Oh yes, how could I forget the toy train? It was rather parked permanently on one side. The kids didn’t ask why it wasn’t moving so we didn’t inquire.

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All in all this is a place to be, yeah ofcourse. Do we have the luxury of choice? It should be a change to see something besides people, buildings and cars.

 

Amarsons Garden, Breach Candy, Mumbai

This is probably the best maintained garden in Mumbai. It is situated in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city. This area including the adjacent Tata gardens were originally a construction dumpyard. Cranes, trucks and bulldozers were abandoned in these places. This entire garden is commonly known as the Amarsons garden, though the childrens’ park is named as Harish Mahindra Childrens’ Park. They have an entry fee of 10 Rs. and is very neatly kept.

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There are these life sized animal dummies which get the kids very excited.

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Chess boards

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Excited mother and baby on the Rhino dummy.

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I just can’t get enough of the setting sun.

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This place is worth visiting frequently. There is a library at the exit where in case you live the the area, you can take the membership. There are lots of eateries on your way out which can captivate anyone. After a long walk or a jog at the park its a leeway that anyone would be willing to indulge in.

 

 

 

Ranibagh or Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan, Byculla, Mumbai

Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan was formerly known as Victoria Gardens. The entire garden is spread out on approximately 42 hectares. This whole property was owned by the wealthy Jewish businessman called David Sasoon. He later donated it to the Municipal Corporation of Bombay. The garden was laid out in 1861 and possesses one of the richest flora, some of the trees are known to be very old and endangered. It also houses the Bhau Daji Lad Museum and the Mumbai Zoo. Information courtesy: Wikipedia

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Jijamata and her son Shivaji’s statue at the garden

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The clock tower at the entrance

Victoria and Albert Museum was also built by David Sasoon which was renamed as Bhau Daji Lad Museum in 1975. The construction of this Victorian style building was started in 1862 and was completed in 1871. It underwent renovation from 2003 to 2007. It contains a large number of archaeological artifacts. At the entrance of the Museum lies a stone elephant which was picked up from the Elephanta caves and sent to Britian in 1864, then later brought back. Imagine the haul it must have taken! There are clay models, old maps of Mumbai, silver and copper wares, ancient jewelleries, etc. It also has won the UNESCO Award for Excellence in 2005.

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Blooming gulmohars

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This is the Baobab tree. It is a native of the island of Madgascar. It looks weird with huge trunks that stores water and slender branches. This garden is a botanical treasure.

This zoo is one of the oldest in the country. Animals activists have often complained about the sorry state of the animals and the utter carelessness of the zoo officials. The animals in captivity have known to be dead because of lack of hygiene and adequate care. There are only few animals in the zoo and they don’t look happy. It has taken me six visits to finally see the one-horned Rhino rising from its tank. The single Rhino was sulking along the fence and avoiding the limelight, definitely not people friendly. Don’t know if you can blame the zoo officials for this. I haven’t yet seen the Lion, who is known to be there but have to see it to believe it. There are plenty of monkeys and deers.

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The ornamental archway entrance

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The fake one

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White Pea hen

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The big blobs of black are actually Bats

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Hopeful to see the crocodile which isn’t there

The number of empty cages are much more than occupied ones. These cages seem to wither away under the vast canopy of the trees.

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The black stone statue of King Edward VII was also made by David Sasoon when the King was visiting. This statue was shifted to this garden after the Indian Government’s ruling that none of the British leaders’ monuments were to be kept in the public.

The Central Zoo Authority has sanctioned the revamp of the zoo which was underway since the last few years. After the revamp, the zoo is planning to exhibit 18 Indian animals like hyenas, jackals, wolves, sloth bears, wild dogs, porcupines, mouse deer, sambars, common otters, Asiatic lions, Bengal tigers, leopards, jungle cats, and five exotic species like emu, hippopotamus, jaguar, zebra and Humboldt penguins. The renovated zoo will be open to public in March 2015, if at all the works start like planned in September 2013. Information courtesy: Hindustan Times

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This is the approved plan for revamping the zoo, that is put up at the entrance of the zoo. But I have my fingers crossed!

Horniman Circle Gardens, Mumbai

This is one of the oldest gardens in city of Mumbai. Construction of the garden started in 1869 and was completed in 1872. Then, it was a unique design to plan an open space with buildings all around it. Trees were planted at the periphery with wide walkways for public use. This place was originally known as Elphinstone Circle, named after the Governor Lord John Elphinstone. A huge ornamental fountain was placed in the center of the garden, which later was changed to an Art Deco iron pipes design as of today. After the independence, it came to be known as Horniman Circle to honor Benjamin Horniman, editor of Bombay Chronicle newspaper, who supported the freedom movement. During the pre-independence times, this place became the favorite meeting place of the elites and cultural events were held here. Information courtesy: Wikipedia and a plaque at the garden.

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This board at the park narrates its story. Surrounding this park stands heritage office buildings like The Asiatic Library, Reserve Bank of India and The Times of India.

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This fountain is the signature symbol of this garden.

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The archaic entrance gates from the Raj era.

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Today this is just like any other garden in the city. Lost, battered and beaten! Though the garden is quite green. The credit for which don’t go to the BMC because it is not something that they had planted, but they did the least to not screw it up.

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Flora in the garden is quite varied, with gulmohars and copper pods

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The lone duck in the fountain, looking for company

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I don’t understand what it is about see-saws particularly. They are never seatable.

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No seats at all.

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If they can’t repair it, they can remove it atleast, so that it won’t hurt anyone.

This garden often is the venue of the annual Sufi concert called Ruhaniyaat. There are several other cultural programs held here throughout the year. Most of the times its open for public, but sometimes we have seen the gates closed, like the one below.

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I wonder if its legally correct to use a public property on a public holiday for private purposes and not allow the aam aadmi inside? This calls for a PIL, what say?

Central Park, Khargar, Navi Mumbai

It is a long way to get here. If you live in Mumbai Suburban this might feel like going for an excursion. Central Park in Khargar is around 100 acres partly developed and yet to be. Abutting this property is the extravagant Khargar Golf Course. When I visited last monsoon, it was surrounded by greens and was relatively new.

The main building was still under construction. The park has lots of play areas for children of all ages. There is one specifically meant for toddlers with rubberised flooring. All the play equipments look new and unique. There is a huge amphitheater waiting to be rocked by a concert. At the entrance is a huge water fountain where kids seem glued.

Now this blog is not really about how good this place is. But it is about how long this place is going to remain good. Here are a few pictures.

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Toddlers’ play area

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Women sitting on children’s swings

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This is called stliding, which is standing + sliding

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A middle aged man (looks somewhat on a heavier side) sitting on children’s car.

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I understand she might have been deprived of the childhood fun

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Heres a close up

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Yes they all want to slide!

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Saree and burqa laden women taking turns with their toddlers in the lap

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I don’t know if you see what I see…heres another close up

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He is swinging with a baby in his lap

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I won’t be surprised to see the slides broken and empty swing frames next time I go here. But I will be disappointed to see how fast it would have been degraded. It almost seems like gluttony of a different kind. Finishing it off before anyone else can have it.