You have seen this picture many times, year after year, during Diwali, haven’t you? Yes, you have. It is said to be the satellite view of India during the festival. I don’t know whether to believe this, but I do agree that my first glance of Mumbai through the not-so-big window of an Indigo flight was so much similar to the satellite picture.
Finally, I was visiting the city that Sunita had always desired for. I was super excited, so was she.
The sun had already set in, hence making way for the colourful lights of the streets, vehicles and towering buildings to dazzle and sparkle, creating a festival-like scene. In my mind a lot of things were happening; after all, it was one of those first trips I made in recent times. And peeping through the window in the midair at the effervescent, vivacious Mumbai city, filled me with vigour, keenness and a sense of ceaseless excitement.
First Day at Leisure, a Gourmet Meal & the Night Adventure
While you have a giant suitcase to carry and a tiny human creature to hold with the utmost care, getting completely exhausted is what you would experience by the end of the day. I was feeling the same way as our flight landed in the city that is often termed as Mayanagri.
It was 9 pm by then, and the fast-paced life (the office hour rush – terming it alternatively) seemed to have slowed down as we (my wife and our daughter) drove past the Vashi Bridge, connecting Mumbai and Navi Mumbai (my brother’s residence). “Rome didn’t fall in a day” a poster that caught my attention was one of the first sights to witness in this new city. As our cab rolled in, I was utterly wowed by the roads lined with high-rise buildings, skyscrapers, ocean and hills. Everything was so sublime, and all were wrapped in a cloak of silence. ‘The city that never sleeps’ – this fits aptly as I came across some of the most astonishing commercial architectures, colonial buildings, the bustling beaches, fancy hotels and chic nightclubs. The one and half-hours’ cab ride set a perfect platform for us.
Not only did we receive a wholehearted welcome by my brother and sister-in-law, but also we were warmly greeted by a wide gamut of delectable homemade Odia delicacies, prepared by my sister-in-law (she’s a damn good cook). There were so many things to talk and gossip about, and the conversation started right from the dining and don’t know when it got ended (I remember the chat show was still on as we retired to bed).
Second Day – A Stroll amongst the Celebrities in Film City, Goregaon
A new day, a fresh start! The rejuvenated soul got up to a bright morning that promised a day full of activities. The parks and footpaths were jam-packed with morning joggers, walkers and parents of the kids trying their best to make their little champs achieve the unachievable. After a short session of badminton in the park, we set out to explore the most coveted attraction for any budding movie or television star– the Film City Tour.
Owned and operated by Maharashtra Film, Stage and Cultural Development Corporation Limited, the Mumbai Film City, known as Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari, is an integrated film complex located at Goregaon. Sprinkled with manicured grounds, lush greenery, parks, fountains, lakes, and famous daily soap sets, the complex nicely sets up for the Hindi film and television industry.
Yes, we made it just in time. I was wondering how come this time Indians were so punctual. We would have missed the tour bus, had we been late by 5 minutes. The wife whispered in my ear, “Are we going to see the film stars?”. “I’m very optimistic, and we may spot Salman Khan”, encouraging her to stay curious. We were endowed with packets of chips, water bottles and ID cards as we boarded the bus.
The AC bus was power-packed with visitors of all ages – couples, kids, older people, and the women taking their respective seats. And guess the most excited people on the bus? The WOMEN. Yes, they are the most loyal viewers of the shows, and no one can deny their contributions to the TRP of the daily soaps, particularly. From Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata hai to Chidiya Ghar, from Kasam to Saath Nibhana Saathiya and from Yeh Hai Mohabbatein to Thapki Pyaar Ki – not only did they quickly brush up the recent episodes, but they didn’t forget to reveal their favourite characters also. I was not surprised to find the ladies remarkably talented with exceptional memory power since I hold personal experience in it (married man, you know :D).
A smiling face with a lot of dynamism and vitality exuded as an earnest ‘hello’ from Pankaj (our guide) broke the momentum and it brought me back to reality (I was also dreaming about the Biggies). Diminutive in size, this man had come to Mumbai from Lucknow many years ago. Like many, he too nurtures Bollywood dreams or a good break-in TV at least. He’s tried his hands at many popular serials, including Taarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma and has materialized opportunities that have come his way.
He had something quite hypnotic in his voice that made us inquisitive and keen about the tour. He explained the rules saying that tourists (the visitors on the bus) are not allowed to create a turmoil on the sets, and requested everyone not to get down and loiter here and there without his permission. As the bus rolled in, he switched on the TV that showed a video which further explained the history and geography of each TV set and film location, simultaneous to our current tour.
Third-Day – Exploited High-Speed Internet Broadband
The third day was complete rest. Rest – what? Well, I’m not the kind of person who would love to laze around and do nothing. Since our abode was embellished with high-speed internet, I exploited it my way. And my way was taking up freelance projects and accomplishing maximum. I needed instant bucks, and I had this only option at which I was the best. Also, I wouldn’t lie about watching a few videos that I’ve subscribed to.
Fourth Day – Exploring the City as If I Wouldn’t Come Back
How long could you confine yourself to the cubicle when there was a whole new world full of amazing sights waiting to be explored? My heart was beating faster and faster as I was inching towards the tour culmination. Before we flew back, we had just one day and I made certain that I was not leaving any stone unturned to cover as many places as possible; hence, boarded a local cab and kicked off to an eventful day.
‘City of Dreams’, ‘City that Never Sleeps’ and ‘City of Firsts’, Mumbai was always on my bucket list. Boasting all the ingredients of a top-notch holiday destination in India, Mumbai, previously known as Bombay, offers an electrifying vibe, conducive climate and a plethora of amazing places to see.
It was a 12-hour city tour that included the majestic sights of the five-star Taj Hotel, the stunning architectural beauty of the Gateway of India, an afternoon stroll along the pristine beach of Chowpatty, an evening ferry ride on the Arabian Sea, witnessed the paramount religious site of Haji Ali, drove past towering buildings along Marine Drive, captured an awe-striking Bandra-Worli Sea Link, clicked photos in front of Bollywood stars’ residences and splurged on mouthwatering street foods.
Plenty of Memories to Cherish
Though it is different from my current city i.e. Delhi in many ways, Mumbai unquestionably became one of my favourite destinations. I can now say that I would love to come back here and go a little off the beaten path to discover more life that I missed on this trip. The short span of a halt here accumulated plenty of memories that are not going to get erased from my memory anytime soon.
Mumbai Travel Tips – Some Handy Info
Best Time to Visit:
Spring is the best time to visit Mumbai (January to March). The temperature hovers between 20-degree C to 28* C. By the end of March and the start of April experiences high temperatures. Avoid summer travel in the city and escape the scorching heat. Be prepared for monsoons because the city receives heavy downpours that cause road blockages.
How to Get in?
Mumbai is well-connected to domestic as well as international airports. Home to the second busiest airport in the country – Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, it is a major international gateway to the country. It has a strong railway network that is well-linked to all major Indian cities.
Count on public transport –local trains, taxis, buses, metro, ferries and cars – hire them as per your travel plans.
Where to Stay?
Accommodation in Mumbai is pretty expensive. It will make think twice before booking even the cheapest hotels. In other words, finding a hotel within your budget is not easy stuff. But yes, if you go a little away from the bustling town, places like Navi Mumbai has some good accommodation choices. That further increases your travelling hours. If you are lucky like me and manage to find a friend or relative’s place, you don’t have to spend your fortune then.
From upscale restaurants serving Italian, Japanese, Sushi and Lebanese to street food stalls tempting visitors with vada pav, bhelpuri, rolls, etc. – you get a wide variety to munch on.