We walked our way up from Bandra station to its coastline instead of taking a taxi, auto or bus. The Sun was shining over the Arabian Sea in a somewhat unromantic way when we reached the shore. Without my sunglasses I couldn’t dare to look in its direction. I wasn’t particularly enjoying the little beads of sweat which accumulated on my skin. So I called it a day and lounged on a vacant seat under a shady tree. The husband forgot to bring his shades. Of course he was having a tougher time.
Life on The Bandstand Promenade
Sitting under the tree in the promenade we observed our surroundings. Bandstand was taken over by romancing couples and photographers- both the overexcited amateurs like us and the calm professional ones. The moment the waves splashed against the boulders a photographer clicked the button of his camera like a maniac; his subject, a young lady dressed in a beautiful blue gown gave the best fake smile that her lips permitted, her man on his knees held her hand in a kissing gesture.
At our back were houses of high-net-worth Indians. The broad street was the only divide between the mansions and the promenade.
I learnt from Wikipedia that the promenade used to have a ‘walk of stars’ section – a tribute to the great artists that Bollywood has ever produced. An idea lent from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However, post December 2014, this section was discontinued. I guess while removing this section they left some of its content as a memento.
There are well built steps to take one down from the fancy walkway to the boulder zone. I believe these boulders become completely submerged under water during high tide. We went down the steps and walked over the rocky beach. The rocks were moist and slippery. Moss grew on most of them, the density of it increasing the closer we got to the sea.
The harsh rays of the Sun subsided and became softer as the clock ticked on. The sea breeze was enough to soothe our fatigue. We sat on the boulders and watched the rain-less clouds float by.
The romantic couples cuddling up between the random boulders of the stony beach were given company by the locals who reside in the makeshift shacks perched atop the boulders, closer to the promenade. The boulders are where they soak their clothes and chillies alike. The kids were running about playing with their friends and chasing hens. The unevenness of the ground didn’t matter to them.
We walked south balancing ourselves on the boulders following the shore. We wanted to see how far we could walk without the sea and the rocks throwing us off. Finally that limit was reached. I am not sure if we were more concerned about our own safety or our camera’s when we took the left turn to return back to the broad street. We ditched the steps and took the little ‘alley through the boulders’ to reach the promenade. The alley turned out to be a very busy one. The two sides were lined with huts. Men carrying goods and vegetables on their shoulders passed us. A black cat almost flew from the door of the left hut to the right one. A dog came rushing in between me and Sayan, probably he smelled the biscuits we were carrying!
Castella de Aguada : The Bandra Fort
We crossed the plush luxury homes of the rich Indians and reached the gates of Taj – Land’s End. We took a quick picture of myself and kept on moving to reach the actual land’s end!
The gate of Castella de Aguada remains open to the public from 6AM-7.30PM. It clearly says drinking and eating inside the compound is not allowed; though outside the gates a bunch of street food sellers can always be found. There is no entry fee to the fort.
We had been to this fort once before but it was well past 6.45 PM then. Since that day I had yearned to return.
On our left was a cute garden maintained by the Bandra Bandstand Resident’s trust. We passed under the semi circular leafy gate of the garden and climbed up the stairs. The greenness and the ocean view almost led me to believe I am walking in the gardens of King’s Landing from the Game of Thrones. The step garden was cut into different levels connected to each other by staircases.
The garden is entirely taken over by intimate couples. Our freedom of photo-taking was cut short by the entwined couples in every little corner of the garden.
The last time we came here we spent most of our time on the fort waterfront, people watching and awing at the iconic Bandra-Worli Sea Link. We stood on the rocks and saw a boy trying to net some fish. The Sun had almost set and the last light was all he had to guide him, yet, he was not afraid of getting into the water.
And then there was THE couple: the boy who brought his girlfriend to the scenic spot to woo her, and apparently did not inform her about the right shoes that would be needed to walk on the slippery rocks. Both were trying to be romantic when she fell down. Hurt, embarrassed and enraged, the girl bashed the boy real hard and we all can guess what happened next!
People watching can be really entertaining at times!
This time we ditched the rocky beach of the fort and explored the fort instead. The Portuguese had established this fort way back in 1640 at this strategic point to keep a watch on the open sea and Mahim Bay. The Archaeological Survey of India is the present owner of the fort and the fort is taken care of by the hotel Taj – Land’s End. After all if the fort gets dilapidated people would have less incentive to stay in a hotel near it!
On the very first level of the fort we found tales of confused love of some random Ankita scribbled on its walls. Defacing heritage buildings is not romantic in any way.
The fort offers an excellent vantage point to enjoy the view of the sea and the Bandra – Worli sea link. The stone staircases smell of the by-gone era. The walls of the fort are wide enough for people to sit over it, the taller the person the more convenient it gets. We perched ourselves up on one side of the wall and watched the world go by.
There we saw yet again another couple busy with their pre-wedding photo shoot. The photographers were standing on the wall and photographing the couple who were down on the boulders! There was no dearth of the over-enthused selfie-takers who happily hopped on and off the walls with their gang of friends. In this crowd, we were the tamest ones.
The water of the ocean was partially lit up by the few sunrays which penetrated through the cloud. The huge man made structure — the sea link — stood upon the water in all its glory. The tint of the sky kept changing as twilight dawned near. We saw many small boats moored to the rocks of the beach. I wondered about the watchmen who guarded the sea during the Portuguese rule from this very fort. Kings change, people change, but elements of nature don’t. A place with history is always so intriguing.
It was time for us to return home. We tried to capture some photo ops before leaving.
I tried the ‘samosa-pav’ for the first time in my life and absolutely loved it. But then, how can you go wrong with a samosa, right?
While leaving the gates, on the opposite side of Taj – Lands’s End we were greeted by numerous auto and taxi drivers who were vying for our attention, hoping to take us to various locations in the city, most commonly Bandra station. We took the bus to Bandra station which took forever to reach thanks to the infamous Mumbai traffic jam!
We may once again return to Castella de Aguada; this time early in the morning just to skip the crowd and have the fort all to ourselves, to experience what the Portuguese watchmen felt like guarding the city in 1640s!
Have you been to Bandra as a tourist? Are you a local in Mumbai and Bandra happens to be your hangout point? Comment below and let me know of your good and bad experiences!
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