Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie

Travelogue: Kashmir to Mumbai

Travelogue: Kashmir to Mumbai
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Traveling is a movement of people between distant geographical locations for recreation, research, exploration, gathering information, etc. It has been rightly said that traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller as the world is a book and those who do not travel read one page of this book. Historically the earliest tourism destinations were religious shrines or trading centers but now a day’s tourism has become a part of everyday’s life and has developed into an industry. People now move frequently to different locations to visit and see new places of their choice.

Recently I along with my uncle got a chance for my first ever visit Mumbai during the month of January. We started our trip on 5th January to Jammu in a cab from Bijbehara bus terminus by 8 AM. It was bone-chilling cold and clouds were hovering over the sky. It took us two hours to cross the arduous and difficult road amid heavy traffic jams to cross over the Jawahar tunnel. We reached Banihal around 11:00 AM. As all of the passengers who were on way to Jammu with us were feeling chill and we decided to have a cup of tea before proceeding to our destination. We parked our vehicle on the roadside and went to a nearby hotel for a cup of tea. I and my uncle preferred to have salt tea. Here it took us almost half an hour for the tea session. After making payment to the hotel manager, we again boarded our vehicle and started our journey. Since the clouds were hovering over the sky we all decided to cover the maximum span of our travelling so that we should not get stuck in traffic jam due to land sliding on the way to Jammu as the weatherman had predicted heavy snowfall and we continued our journey and decided to have a lunch at Sarmooli, a favorite and famous place for salt tea and satu, (a dry powder prepared out of rice by grinding). After continuous traveling for three and a half hours, we finally reached Sarmooli at 2:30 PM. At this moment all of us were feeling appetite and all of us were eager to have lunch. We all came out of a vehicle and after getting fresh we ordered the lunch. It took us almost one hour here and after finishing lunch, we paid our bills and again started our journey towards Jammu. From here we witnessed frequent jams and noisy scenes until we reached Jammu by 5:30 PM. My parents were already in Jammu and we went to join my family and reached there by late evening. We stayed in Jammu for two nights before my friend Shakeel Ahmad booked our train ticket for Mumbai.

I met a Kashmiri Pandit while traveling to Mumbai. Rohit Koul, a graduate engineer who was doing an advanced course in computer in Mumbai. He was a good fellow at the time passed in the train; I had a long discussion during the two days of journey with him about the politics of Kashmir, the role of Jagmohan in Pandit migration, armed struggle, and some other issues. He was a nice fellow with whom I enjoyed a lot during the journey. We reached Bandra Terminus, Mumbai on 9th January by 10:30 PM. However, Rohit Koul reached his destination. Before he gets down from the train, we shared our contact info with each other at Borivali railway station, a coastal suburb in north-western Mumbai. After half an hour we reached Bandra Teminus. As I was searching for a taxi to move ahead to book a hotel, we met an age-old person, Haji Asadullah from Srinagar who had also come for the first time to Mumbai by the same train. My uncle asked him to join us which he agreed. We booked a taxi and reached the Hotel Noble Palace in Dontad Street, Damar Gali, Khadak. One of my cousins had already stayed here for a couple of days when he had visited Mumbai. However being a Kashmiri, the hotel manager was little reluctant to allow us to stay in the hotel and faced a usual problem. However, we convinced him that we have come here for a few days to see Mumbai. We handed over our identity cards and booked the room. Haji Asadullah also stayed with us in the same hotel. We were felling very exhaustive due to the twenty-eight hour-long journey. We went for dinner and were back soon for the rest.

Next day we booked a car and went to Haji Ali Dargah. Here we pay obeisance to the shrine of Haji Ali and spent a few hours in Dargah and had lunch on its premises. We took some photo snaps in and outside the shrine. Later we visited the Gateway of India, offshore, nearby Elephanta Island holds ancient cave temples. There we had a glimpse of Hotel Taj and stayed for some time. We took some photo snaps and decided to visit the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) approved World Heritage Site, Elephanta Island via ferry rides into the deep sea. Here we boarded the motor launch. It took us two hours ride to reach the Elephanta Island. It is originally known as Gharapuri, derives its name from a massive stone image of the elephant now displayed in the Veermata Jijabhai Bhosale Garden (Victoria Garden) in Mumbai. The cave complex of elephant comprises of a total of seven caves carved with square pillared halls with various manifestations and graceful figures of divinities, guardians. The other caves are plain. The antiquarian remains found in the Elephanta caves are 3rd century BC Stupa. At the top of the hillock, Kshatrapa coins of the 4th century AD and some sculptures including Mahishasurmardini, four-headed images, Brahma, Vishnu, and Garuda were also found here. This site was declared as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1909 and thereafter inscribed by the UNESCO as the World Heritage Site in 1987. The visit to this site was mesmerizing. We stayed there for two hours and by early evening we came back to our hotel. After dinner, we planned to visit some other tourist places and we were perhaps fortunate enough that the hotel we were staying was offering a Mumbai Darshan package at an affordable package through Inayat Tours and Travels.

Mumbai Darshan is a package tour to cover some tourist destinations at Mumbai. It starts by picking up tourists from different parts of the city in the morning. Tour ends at evening 8 PM after dropping tourists on respective locations. Haji Asadullah stayed back at the hotel as his sole purpose was to pay obeisance at the shrine. Next day we were escorted by the office boy of the hotel to a nearby chowk wherein the minibus for Mumbai Darshan was waiting for us. We boarded the bus and left to tour some important places in Mumbai. We had a chance to see various places in Mumbai. The culture of Mumbai is a blend of traditional festivals, food, music, and theatres. The city offers a cosmopolitan and diverse lifestyle with a variety of food, entertainment, and nightlife, available in a form and abundance as compared to that in other cities of the world. Mumbai is the financial, commercial and entertainment capital of India. The city houses important financial institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India, the Bombay Stock Exchange, the National Stock Exchange of India, the SEBI and the corporate headquarters of numerous Indian companies and multinational corporations. The architecture of the city is a blend of Gothic Revival, Indo-Saracenic, Art Deco, and other contemporary styles. Most of the buildings during the British period, such as the Victoria Terminus and Bombay University, were built in the Gothic Revival style. Their architectural features include a variety of European influences such as German gables, Dutch roofs, Swiss timbering, Romance arches, Tudor casements, and traditional Indian features. There are also a few Indo-Saracenic styled buildings such as the Gateway of India.  Art Deco styled landmarks can be found along Marine Drive. Beaches are a popular tourist attraction in the city.

As a part of Mumbai Darshan, the first place of our visit was Orama 5D Magic Show at Atria Mall in Worli. The show was a wonderful experience as well as the horrifying due to its magic show on screen with some live insights seen in the show. At Orama 5D, you can indulge in everything that you could. Here you can not only watch on screen but you can enjoy a snowfall or feel the rats running through your feet! You can also smell the oranges being thrown at you or feel the splash of water when the cat jumps in the puddle. Orama 5D still goes one step further! Not only can you experience all of the above at Orama 5D but also get the feeling of sitting on a live roller coaster. The 15 seat simulator takes you on a rough ride through haunted mines and forests and a lot more. The Orama 5D theatres aim is to offer you a sensory adventure of a lifetime with mind-blowing 5D movies. The magic show was a good experience while in Mumbai.

The second place of our visit was Bhaucha Dhakka: A short trip on the Arabian Sea through a ferry ride. You may choose the roof-seating of the ferry boat so that you can fully enjoy the sea and the surroundings as well as the Mumbai city from the sea without any obstruction or disturbance. If you prefer to seat in the roof of the boat then you have to pay Rs.10 extra per person. Once on the boat, it will be one & half hour ferry-ride on the Arabian Sea towards the lighthouse and also the fort. We saw a number of ships floating on the sea. Overall the surrounding is very amazing. View of the city from the sea is also awesome like watching Gateway of India, Hotel Taj Palace, chain of big buildings and some tallest buildings like twin towers, etc. from the Arabian Sea.  The sea view from the ferry is also so amazing that one may not understand how the total time passed on the sea and feel the ride time definitely short. As the same time, the guide on the boat tells about the various characteristics of the lighthouse, fort, floating ships, sea link, etc., how & why the name of the city changed from Bombay to Mumbai and what makes it different from others. The trip was a fascinating experience to see this place. Parking and maintenance of all the ships are being done in this dockyard. Bhaucha Dhakka is the second biggest dockyard in Mumbai. Here we toured the whole dockyard and for the first time, I had a chance to see all the major Indian warships and other commercial ships parked in the dockyard. This is also a port for the local fishermen who go to the sea on a daily basis for catching fish and bring those at this terminal. Bhaucha Dhakka alone handles over 2000 metric tons of seafood per day.
After Bhaucha Dhakka, as a part of Mumbai Dardshan, we had a chance to visit again Haji Ali Dargah, then went to Nehru Science Centre at Worli. It is the largest Science Centre in the country sprawling over eight acres of land. The science park has varieties of plants, trees, and shrubs. More than 500 hands-on and interactive science exhibits on energy, sound, kinematics, mechanics, transport, etc. are installed in the park. The Nehru Science Centre building, with its unique architecture, houses several permanent science expositions on various themes.

While traveling via bus we had a chance to see a number of running points like View of India Government Mint house adjacent to RBI, Old, and new Reserve Bank of India (RBI) buildings, Asiatic Society Mumbai (Central Library), Naval Dockyard, having cheetah, elephant and lion gate, Bombay Natural History Society, Maharashtra State Police Headquarter, GPO Mumbai, Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), Bombay High Court, Club Tower, The Ambassador Hotel, Oberoi Hotel, Marine Beach drive, Wankhday Stadium and Wilson college. The view of these historical buildings of national importance only reminds us of the British legacy and her colonialism. Finally, during the last leg of our Mumbai Darshan, we had a chance to visit Bandstand, Bandra on western Mumbai suburb to see the apartments of Bollywood film stars like Salman Khan, Rekha, Pran Krishan Sikand, Shahrukh Khan, Aditya Pancholi, Jackie Shroff, Pooja Bhat etc. While coming back we faced a lot of inconvenience due to the messy traffic jams and we finally reached back to our hotel by 9:30 Pm.

On next day Haji Asadullah went to book his ticket for home due to some domestic issue. We booked a car and left for Hanging Garden and Kamla Nehru Park. Unlike Delhi and other Metro cities here mostly autos and rickshaws ply roads but in Mumbai, one can mostly find black/yellow color cabs as the most convenient means of transportation to visit different places. The Hanging gardens in Mumbai, are terraced gardens perched at the top of Malabar Hill. Next day we went to Mumbai central and booked the ticket for Sirhind. We went to Taraporewala Fish Aquarium. The aquarium has 12 feet long and 180-degree acrylic glass tunnel. 2,000 fishes of over 400 species have been kept in the aquarium in large tanks which are lit with LED lights. On next day, we packed our luggage and cleared our rent bill and left for our next destination.

The weeklong trip to Mumbai was memorable and mesmerizing which put deep imprints on my mind. As the journey continues for days all of us reached our destinations. We reached Sirhind on 14th January by 4:00 PM. We booked an auto rickshaw and proceeded towards the shrine of the revered saint of the medieval period, Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi. It took us half an hour to reach the shrine of a saint of the medieval period, Mujadid Alif-i-Sani Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi. The saint is known for his work in rejuvenating Islam and opposing the dissent opinions prevalent in the time of Mughal emperor, Akbar. Once we pay obeisance at the shrine we immediately booked a room nearby to the shrine and take some rest till evening. In the evening we again visited the shrine and met a number of devotees mostly from Kashmir. Here the management of the shrine is running a community kitchen for dinner inside the premises of the shrine. We had a chance to taste the dinner too. Here I had a chance to meet a number of devotees from Afghanistan. One among them was Haji Ahmad Nabi from Kandahar, fluent in the Urdu language, who along with his other relatives and friends had come to India for the treatment of his relative in Delhi and had come here to see the shrine of Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi as well. We had had a long discussion about the political situation in Afghanistan, Kashmir, Palestine and he was the staunch supporter of the Taliban. He informed me that during the Taliban rule there was no bloodshed, theft or loot and killing spree and there were peace and a sense of security during their tenure but that peace in Afghanistan was disturbed by the USA and her allies after they invaded Afghanistan in the name of so-called war on terror after the 9/11 attack. After a brief discussion, we were served dinner in the community kitchen and we left for the hotel. We stayed in Sirhind for one night and on the next day we proceeded back to Jammu through bus and reached Jammu by late evening and joined my parents again in Jammu. We stayed in Jammu for a couple of weeks. My uncle left Jammu for home and I went to Pondicherry to attend the 26th annual convocation of Pondicherry University to receive my Ph.D. degree. Although I completed my Ph.D. long back from a couple of years, the University could not conduct the convocation.

The author is an occasional writer and poet has done Ph.D. from Pondicherry Central University.

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