By: Mrinalini Shinde, NLSIU.
The Colossus. The Mecca of urban glory. A city that never sleeps. A city that never stops. Where the stench of unfulfilled dreams makes a heady mix with the overpowering scent of endless hope. Money everywhere, in ways that its absence pronounces its dominance across the thoughts of the populace. A city fiercely proud of its homogeneity; a concentrated concoction that keeps adding unto itself, every single moment. I am not a Mumbaikar. But geographical proximity to the island has shaped a certain awe, warm familiarity and unadulterated affection in me. What a city. It could as well be a little self-sustaining planet of its own…
If I were to fixate upon one single aspect of the great city from the myriads, that is at the heart of my love for the island, it would have to be, the walk around Fort.
‘Fort’ short for Fort St. George, the protective fort around Bombay Castle made by the East India Company in the 1700s. Now, the business precinct in modern Bombay. And the ‘Fort walk’ was love at first sight. And if there’s one thing that the Brits did right, it was their gorgeous architecture.
The walk begins from my favourite building in the world- The Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria, honestly.) The collection of gargoyles, arches, columns and domes is an epic in stone. Walk down the Dadabhai Naoroji road. Bordered by camera and electronics stores, the shaded stone archways transport you to another time. The massive and quaint Khadi Bhandaar, the Chatrapati Shivaji Museum, and the gorgeous Jehangir Art Gallery. The awesomeness that is Kala Ghoda. The beautiful David Sassoon Library. And you’ll see a glimpse of indisputably the most iconic symbol of the city- the BSE building.
Oh, and the Headquarters of the Bombay Police. Immortalised by every crime movie worth the name, it houses the Number Two after Scotland Yard. (Suketu Mehta; Maximum City).
Till you reach the pinnacle of the Fort walk- The Flora Fountain. Nothing has looked so fitting and incongruous at the same time. The extraordinary fairy-tale like characters of the fountain sculpture might anachronistically clash with the hundreds of vehicles bustling around the intersection. But then, that’s Fort for you.
Turn and walk a bit further along the edges of Azad Maidan, and you shall be privy to the setting for many a case, lost or won- The Bombay High Court. The greatest theatre and stage in Maharashtra. With so many players milling around, in obeisance to its power. The sight of the panorama always sends an initial chill down my spine.
After a shot of ‘special cutting chai’ from one of the innumerable tea stalls around the court, maybe you’d grab a vadapav to find completion.
Perhaps it’s time to head back to Churchgate Station to board the next local back. Bombay locals. Aah. But that’s another story. 🙂
All images are copyright of Mrinalini Shinde.