The Bombay Report presents its second hit single, ‘On a Bombay Beach’, written and performed by Derrick, our Intern. On a Bombay Beach is a soft rock ballad, a tale of a young man from Bombay wrestling with the urge to kick off his sandals and visit one of his city’s great beaches. Are we writers who can play the piano or are we rockstars with a food blog? Click below to find out.
Every great coastal city of the world has an incredible beach life where locals can indulge in surfing, chasing seagulls, and looking at ladies in tiny bikinis sunbathing. As concerned citizens and advocates of Vitamin D in women, we decided to take on this issue at last week’s Bombay Report board meeting at Burger King. The plan was simple; we would send scouts to all of Mumbai’s great beaches (and the one in Dadar as well), to ascertain whether any of them were worth visiting for a romantic date or an upper middle class day out on the town.
Anyone with a reasonably good thesaurus could describe Mumbai as elegant, resilient, hospitable, and vibrant, but to call it clean would be untrue. Yes we could blame the BMC and people from Bhayandar for everything, as we rightfully should; but they’re only part of the problem. The fact is that we’re quite literally living in our own filth, and nowhere is this more apparent than on our sacred shores.
Imagine a Mumbai where your children and grand children could play in the sand without the risk of getting AIDS from a used syringe; that’s the future this country’s founders envisioned, and it is the future we deserve. We chose four of Mumbai’s major beaches, but excluded Gorai because it’s not technically Mumbai (and if it is, it shouldn’t be) & Carter Road because it’s rocky and full of mangroves where people hide dead bodies. We also excluded anything they might have in the East for personal reasons.
Chowpatty surprised us by not being as dirty as we imagined. Yes it has a few rats here and there but so does the kitchen at your favourite restaurant. It wasn’t particularly lively and most of the people there seemed to be as clueless as we were as to why they were there on a Sunday afternoon, but it might have had something to do with all the gola shops. Of all the beaches we visited, Chowpatty is easily the cleanest, and most ripe for gentrification. It has a beautiful view of the South Bombay skyline, connects seamlessly with Marine Drive, and there aren’t many jagged rocks that will wreak havoc on your flip-flops.
Dadar Chowpatty was the underdog of this whole assignment, and despite its location, was surprisingly not the worst of the lot. You wouldn’t expect something lonely, calm, and almost serine in Dadar of all places, but that’s precisely what we were greeted with. Honestly, if they’d just clean it a little, Dadar Chowpatty would actually make for a nice place for a cold beer on a warm summer afternoon. If you look very closely you can actually see parts of Bandra from across the bay, knowing full well that the people there are happier than you.
Juhu Beach is undeniably Bombay’s signature beach. It’s the biggest, by far the most crowded, has the best hotels and is in one of the most affluent parts of the city. Yet it’s the filthiest thing we’ve ever seen. The whole beach was covered in some sort of black liquid that’s crude oil at best, there were semi naked men digging holes in the sand and ruining our epic photographs with their incessant questioning, the heads of deities we’d never heard of poking out of the sand, and worst of all, an old man who scammed us out of 80 bucks on channa chor. No amount of teenagers picking up plastic bags could make Juhu beach fit for middle class amusement, we recommend surrendering the entire territory to the Gods of the sea.
Versova Beach reminded us of what Juhu Beach used to be in the early 2000s. We witnessed sights of immense animal cruelty in the form of horse drawn carts, but that cheered us up only slightly. There was a bearded old man, who looked like a homeless Poseidon giving children horse rides on what appeared to be a two wheeled cart, which means either the Greek economy is even worse than we imagined, or the heat made us hallucinate beyond reason. Apart from the horses and a couple of slum kids playing cricket, Versova Beach was dead. But not irredeemable; as far as we could tell, it has the greatest potential to be an amazing beach, being much bigger than the rest, and with an excellent view of the lush fields of Gorai.
Mumbai has a long way to go before we can take back our beaches. All it needs is someone to start somewhere. Someone, please start somewhere.