As I first looked over a map of Mumbai, I spied a word that held a strange magic for me – Malabar. In my childhood, HMS Malabar was the name of the Royal Naval station in Bermuda; the last remnants of its dockyard were part of a boy’s paradise of real and imagined dangers, amongst the abandoned buildings and rusting cranes, deep moats and empty magazines of Britain’s fortress of the Atlantic.
The view South East, to Old Mumbai.
So, before I even really knew what it was, I was determined to visit this other Malabar and discover what might have linked the two places. I have to say that I haven’t yet discovered that link – it may after all have been no more than (navy) gin fuelled whimsy – but my afternoon walk provided some intriguing glimpses of life in one of the oldest parts of greater Mumbai.
The “Hanging Gardens” lie close to the summit of Malabar Hill, which turns out to contain the highest natural point above the city. Here, young and old stroll through flower beds and winding paths that give haze filled glimpses of the heart of the former capital of the Raj, below. The first steps away from these summit views took me through a children’s playground – there were certainly children around, but the swing area was entirely occupied by a group of young women, thoroughly enjoying an afternoon amongst friends.
Girls on the swings
A roadside cobbler – to his left the entrance to the Government guesthouse – a huge palace.
The main road down the hill is a broad avenue between huge buildings, each with high gates and very serious looking security guards. Aware of how tense city police still after the terrorist attacks in 2010 and the riots in 2011, I refrain from transgressing public rule number one – no photographing government buildings. So, I have no pictures, save for this of a roadside cobbler.
But, with the help of a passing cab, I eventually reach the entrance to a narrow alley that I am told leads to the Banganga Tank, a large, open fresh-water reservoir, reputed in some local stories to be the centre of the earth, itself.
This gave me another small set of photos, making too many for this single posting, but see my second post of this series – “By Banganga Tank”.
Then, as I skirted around the side of the tank, I saw this small alleyway off to my left, through which I could just see the sea. As I walked down it, an older man, sitting with his family, caught my eye. Instinctively, I performed a Namaste, bowing slightly. At first surprised, he returned the traditional greeting to the spirit, and then rose to shake my hand, welcoming laughter in his eyes.
The alleyway to the sea
This mutual ceremony of dignity respect was, I think, the reason why no further heed was paid to either me or my camera as I took these last shots in the failing light of my first day here.
Sunset at the bottom of the hill
West along the shore