Mumbai from the Eyes of a Delhite: Part 8
[This is the eighth in a series of blogs about Mumbai]
Once the rains gave way to an unbelievably hot October, it became conceivable to consider going out for regular walks and jogs without having to pull out one’s umbrella every few minutes. While jogging has always been one of my favourite work-outs, I was yet to discover a place conducive to the activity. It happened one day that I overheard the mention of Joggers’ Park in a conversation. My ears pricked! I was struck by the realization that the term I associated with the eponymous Bollywood movie must actually exist in reality!
Google Maps was consulted and I was astonished to discover that I would have crossed the park a gazillion times on my way to Carter Road- I just never knew it was there. As you head from Turner Road towards Carter Road in Bandra, the road takes a natural right turn near Otter’s Club. There is, in addition, a not-so-significant road turning to the left as well, one that I had never given a serious thought to. That, I learnt, was where the famous park was tucked away.
Excited, I landed up at the gates at 6am the next morning and began making my way in, only to be told I needed a ticket to enter! While it cost a measly Rs 2/-, I had set out that morning without a penny. Disheartened at the thought of returning home from the gates, I mentioned to them that I was new to Mumbai and hadn’t known there would be an entry ticket. Without flinching, the smiling guard welcomed me in and so Alice found her way into wonderland.
And a wonder it was, indeed! Ordered, clean and well-maintained, three concentric circles run around this park: two concrete and one of earth. With palm trees dotting the border, the park is exquisitely situated at the tip of land, with one entire side adjoining the sea, which stretches endlessly till the horizon.
From another side, you can look out at Bandstand and further away, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link partially lost in mist. In the middle of the park, encircled by walkers and joggers, is a duck pond with the birds flapping in and out, as well as a house for parrots. What really stole my heart though, were the little white and grey rabbits hopping around the park and even on the tracks! Where in Delhi, pray, would one ever have the luxury to be jogging beside rabbits in today’s day and age?
For the rest of my stay in Mumbai, I made it a point to rise and shine every single morn to run at Joggers Park. The writer in me was fascinated as much by the humans in the park, as by the wildlife. While the cooing couples that could be found at Bandstand even in the early hours of the morning stayed away from Joggers Park, one nevertheless got to see a wide variety of people come by.
There was an entire ‘Senior Citizens’ group, for instance, that walked shoulder to shoulder so that between the seven or eight of them, they blocked the entire width of the track. Attempting to overtake them used to require intense strategizing. Then one would see the yoga enthusiasts perched on their mats right at the edge of the park, overlooking the sea. Huffing and puffing into their breathing exercises, they would frighten away even the crows from nearby trees. Yet another category was the rich Mumbaiya, who would arrive in an expensive Mercedes or Audi with a private trainer in tow.
Most entertaining though, was this politician who used to come for a walk with his wife. Two men ahead of him, two men on either side and two men behind, all holding rifles- the entire entourage used to walk round and round the park. A few more guards would be stationed at various corners of the park, suspiciously viewing every innocent visitor for hidden bombs in their jogging gear. When it would be time to leave, walkie-talkies were pulled out, a couple of cars would appear at the gate and the couple would be whisked off at God speed, leaving behind the rest of ordinary humanity to enjoy their morning strolls without feeling like hostages under watch.
Joggers’ Park no longer rings up the image of the movie in my mind. It has now been replaced with my very own special cluster of memories of the place and I recollect it fondly as another of my favourite haunts in Mumbai.
Have you read about my rendezvous with Bandra in Mumbai yet?
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Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.