Next January may be my last in Bombay. After having shocked my senses by the sharp contrast between spirited Goa, sleepy town in Himalayas to the constant humming of mechanical Mumbai, I realized than it would soon be time to pack bags. There will be no more hum from the streets of the traffic, no more distant cheer of kids playing in Xavier’s during breaktime and no more view of Azad Maidan with the Victoria terminus beyond, lit up, sometimes garishly…but lit up. And..no more getting caught in traffic snarls on the Esplanade.
I have crossed Prince of Wales museum many times while traveling to Colaba. It is situated near Gateway of India and Taj hotel. Winters are a time when you would see huge colorful butterflies which may have escaped over its stone walls to the green patch between the road dividers. Never did I feel like visiting across the walls… until today. I have had a rather high overdose of museum visits in India to every city or town I’ve been. The museum manages to fit into ever itinerary planned to the point, I started avoiding it altogether. My impression of a museum is a dusty, lonely and empty place with bored people strolling through with a sleepy guard for company. Today that changed. The guard at the counter was the sweetest employee I’ve come across in a public place. He asked whether I wanted to take the audio tour as well, which I refused for today, but decided to note that for future.
My first stop was the sculpture galley. After having seen the sculpture gallery in National museum in Delhi countless times, I wasn’t so impressed by the collection, nor were the sculptures as ornate as the ones in Madras. The “Saraswati” was the one that caught my attention. Limestone, basalt, sandstone and marble, explained a note about the collection. I moved next to the prints gallery, where “Carla Caves” drawn in meticulous perfection in perspective left me gaping for a while. Mentally I decided to give up teaching how to draw! How does one reach this perfection, ever? J Forbes. 1700s something. Just ahead a table and a placard announced a print making session. Some of us caught an artist etching on a piece of sun board with a triangular tool. Another person was applying print ink onto a mould, making a mess of the table and his hands.
“Today’s the first day.” said the boy at the counter.
I followed the crowd into the next gallery which was an assortment of a personal collection. Many family photographs were placed above the pieces. The strong silent gaze of a strikingly stunning man seemed to follow me around. Below the photograph was written “around 1940”. Before stepping out of the gallery I read the name: Karl Khandalavala.
I breezed through the coin exhibit and that of Baluchari saris. My next stop was the exhibition of Alice Boner, a Swiss sculptor who had once lived in India . Her marble sculpture of a visage of a man she admired, resembled very much herself. I felt she gave her own forehead and chin to that form. Her connection to India was evident through a series of photographs of Uday Shankar dance troupe, among them a still young Ravi Shankar. Most interesting was her journal of work on display along with her camera and notebook. In an interesting painting, she had managed to breakdown a complex Indian sculpture into its basic geometric form, a pentagon in this one and a hexagon in another.
The next floor was dedicated to china and fine porcelain. Most of the collection seemed to be donated by Dorab Tata. I drifted through admiring the pieces, a relief of a king and his soldiers in fine ivory; fine Wedgewood; the cameos and then reached the jade. One could but visualize an opulent setting amongst which these pieces would have once rested. Could it have been the Esplanade house; that forgotten carved beauty across the gym? Would visitors coming from various parts of the world have also admired these pieces? Maybe brought some? I looked at the jade collection contributed by Sir Ratan Tata. I tried to imagine why a man would want to share such objects of beauty with rest of the world, when it could give eternal pleasure in solitude. I looked at the asymmetrical intricately carved green jade at the end of the display. And then my eyes followed the amethyst still in the rough, the malachite pieces and the rock crystals…
I was lost in the reverie when I suddenly noticed the clock. This impromptu visit had to be cut short. I quickly made way out of the gates fast in steps with another tourist; he turned towards Colaba, perhaps to explore rest of the city, while I turned in the opposite direction back home.
This jetty point , which I spoke about in my earlier post, is rarely visited by many people. I said people, but not birds. Lots of birds know about this area. Some travel distances across continents to reach it every winter. I hear the Flamingos have arrived, though that trip is still on my “to do”; but there are many more species which have made it their “vacation home”. You can see them all “talking” to each other in the picture above.
Black tailed Godwits in Flight.
A Painted Stork in flight.
A Common Redshank foraging for its breakfast.
A Black Headed Ibis in flight.
I didn’t mention the egrets, cormorants and other birds which inhabit these surroundings and don’t mind these yearly visitors. As I said, I saw them “talking” to each other.
Remarkably sensitive post about birds, fashion and feathers by Words We women write.
The feet of the heron,
under those bamboo stems,
hold the blue body,
the great beak
above the shallows
of the pond.
Who could guess
–from Many Miles by Mary Oliver
Little blue herons are tear-one’s-heart-out gorgeous. These two are getting to know each other, hanging out at my pond.
Every day I scan the trees, shrubs, and thickets looking for their nest of sticks.
The little blue heron is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a state species of special concern by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule. But it wasn’t always this way.
Walking the streets of Manhattan in 1886, ornithologist Frank Chapman spotted 40 native species of birds. But the birds weren’t flitting through trees or foraging in the leaf litter. They had been killed, plucked, disassembled, stuffed, and attached to women’s hats.
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For the first post of the year, I wondered whether I should be sharing all that happened last few months when I hadn’t been blogging.
The last day of the holidays I took this guided tour from a ferry point to a nearby island called “Elephanta Islands”. Ok, I’ve been living in India all my life and been in Mumbai for a couple too, living not far from the southern tip, but this trip hadn’t happened so far.
That morning armed with my zoom lens and enough cheese and juice in my rucksack to last the journey, I took my a bit (very) reluctant kid on this trip. I won’t bore with you pictures of the Gateway of India, but here is lovely view of Mumbai from the sea, through the famous structure. If you look carefully at the stone carving, you will notice the intricacy.
Our ferry took us on this 45 min journey traversing through the Arabian Sea. Sea gulls moved with us, gaining thrust from the moving boat. I have some sea gull pictures, but none of the Naval Regatta which was being held the same day, as that was restricted.
The island has a toy train to transport tired commuters to the main island, but instead we enjoyed the walk through the village and commercial area for trinkets and souvenirs, which hadn’t opened yet luckily.
Instead, we saw a regal Goat occupying its owner’s vacant bed.
Our guide took us on the less trodden path to watch birds. It wasn’t such a great idea. We were perhaps too many and too noisy to listen for birds.
At the end of our trail was a lake. Enterprising women had set up small shops to sell tea outside the gate.
While on our way to watch the famed caves and some species of bats that live there, I suddenly noticed that I was all alone on the path. I looked back and saw the group of three dozen huddled in a space, quiet and some aiming and focusing with their extra zoom lens at a tree. I quickly turned and rushed back to see what I had missed.
This was it. A spotted owlet. Poor thing must be wondering where its mom was and what the fuss was about. But it posed.
The caves were lovely, dark and cool. ( personal note: But do remember that Sunday is not a day for photography.)
On our journey back at midday, I noticed this ferry worker preparing chutney on a stone crusher. They make their meals on board.
Finally the view of reaching “home” back to the Gateway and beyond.
There are very few open spaces for wildlife and birds to live in Mumbai, but those are eyed very closely by developers. The best places to spot birds are now being considered for “redevelopment” which is actually an entertainment zone with Ferris wheel and other stuff that comprises a “marina”. So I am in rather hurry this year to go around and spot all the birds in the coastal areas around Mumbai before they start cutting down the trees and start “redeveloping”. If you live in Mumbai, so should you.