Most coastal cities have a marine drive or a marina, which is set up as a beautiful promenade and is full of walkers and families and dogs being walked. Mumbai also has one which may be similar to any of these but with the distinction of being immortalized in so many songs and movies that none of the others can lay claim to!
This is a photo I took of the Marine Drive in Colombo where they have this gorgeous train track running literally on the beach !!
Marine Drive is close to 4 km long and was constructed by late philanthropist Bhagoji Keer & Pallonji Mistry (trivia—his son Cyrus was recently nominated as ‘heir’ to the Tata empire). It is a concrete road along the coast, which is a natural bay.
I always find it the most beautiful during the early evening even before the lights came on, where the swaying palm trees also added to the romantic feel. (ruined forever by some crazy people who dug out the coconut palms fringe and planted some ugly short trees) On the increasingly rare occasions that I go into SoBo I always make sure I return by the Marine Drive and enjoy the sight of the sea, the people, the space in which Mumbaikers make their own quietness, holding hands, walking looking at the sunset, sharing an umbrella.
During the monsoon , the sea lashes and strains against the edge, barely keeping it from swallowing this megapolis whole…
The official name for this road, though rarely used, is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road. The promenade is lined with palm trees. At the northern end of Marine Drive is Chowpatty Beach. Most of the buildings which were built in the 1920s and 30s are in a unique art deco style.
Of all the ways in which Mumbai has been called a city of dreams, at least one is literal. It is sometime in the late 18th century, and the engineers of the East India Company in Bombay are losing a battle against the sea. They’re dumping boatloads of stone into Worli creek to build an embankment, but it has collapsed once and it collapses again. That’s when an engineer named Ramji Shivji Prabhu has a dream: the goddess Mahalakshmi and two others inform him their stone idols lie submerged in the creek. Can some space be made for them on land? Prabhu has them fished out and installed in a shrine built nearby on land gifted by the administration. The wall holds! That embankment – the Hornby Vellard, completed in 1784 – was very real and can be said to have given shape to the modern city. Over the next few decades this was followed by the construction of causeways to link the seven islets separated by sea and swamp.
Another dream in which it played a part was that of a tall young man who came to Mumbai in search of a job in the film industry. He had no place to stay and slept a few nights on one of the benches on Marine Drive. He still stops by sometimes to take a look at it.
Prior to 1940, the area was part of the Arabian sea. A popular leader of the Congress, Khurshed Nariman (affectionately called Veer Nariman), a Bombay Municipal Corporation corporator, proposed to reclaim the area from the sea near Churchgate. To accomplish this task, the shallow seafront was filled with debris from various parts of the city. Reinforced concrete cement was also used, the steel for which had to be purchased on the black market at higher prices due to World War II. The entire cost was estimated to be ₹300,000 (equivalent to about ₹99.4 million in 2017). Additional reclamations were carried out in the 1970s.
Some charming and beautiful songs have been picturized along the Marine Drive (and I found that there is apparently even a movie named after it! )
- SRK makes a super dramatic entry in (super hit!) Deewana, riding on top of a whizzing block of ice
2. AR Rahman composes the perfect peppy bike ride song for a carefree, sunny morning. And at that point we hum along since we don’t know yet what Vivek Oberoi has in store….
- One of the many delightful songs from CID, with the instant recall opening bars on the harmonium
4. Young women wearing sarees and singing and dancing along the road, free as birds, playing a cheery tune. It could have happened and continues to be possible (hopefully!) only in Mumbai!
5. Has the joy and romance of the monsoon ever been captured more naturally and beautifully than here? It can make you so nostalgic for those carefree days of one’s youth….when Mumbai was really so beautiful and the monsoon truly so magical….when the skies were darker, the rainy days quieter and the evenings colder…..
6. This mellifluous Kailash Kher song is from one of my all- time favourite movies—Waisa Bhi Hota Hai part 2 (there is no part 1. Yes that is how crazy it is). It’s a bit of a cheat cos this is not on Marine Drive but it is shot on one of the sea-facing areas of amchi Mumbai so it’s being snuck in here!
7. A stark, biting political story and Mumbai flashing past in black and white. Has anything changed in the way politicians behave and the common people suffer?? (I want to do an entire post or even a series on the wonderful films made by Jabbar Patel)
8. Finally, even Coldplay seem ‘magicked’ by the spirit of Mumbai in this hymn for the weekend