Your flight has landed, and the meeting is still a day away. Time to collect your baggage off the conveyor belt, flex those shoulders a bit, and let the salty fragrance of aamchi Mumbai tingle your nose. Walk out of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, right past the persuasive taxi drivers and away from the cacophony of landing airplanes and shrill announcements.
When the airport is about 3 minutes behind you, stick out your toe on the road, and pull your trousers up to the knee. Autos will get drawn to you like bees to a pot of honey, and then you can hail one to Ville Parle Station (INR 20 ). Yes, we’re going the local way. No, taxis aren’t an option with 24 hours in Mumbai (Don’t be a spoilt brat, ok?).
Squeeze yourself into the local with your bag and baggage intact and get ready for the 45 minute ride to Churchgate. When you are zipping southward of Mumbai, reflect on what’s the furthest INR 10 has got you (No, the 90s don’t count for this one). This ride might just be it. When you get off at Churchgate, make sure your step has a spring, for Colaba awaits you, a 10 minute taxi ride ( INR30 ) away. Get off at Leopold’s, and feed your starved self some steaming hot, delicious pasta that goes down best with a chilled beer. After the paet pooja you’re ready to take on the Gateway of India.
The Gateway of India is a meandering 5 minute walk from Leopold’s, but it’s highly recommended to take stops along the way to admire the architecture, click a few selfies and just soak in the general atmosphere of the city. You’ll find the majestic Taj confronting you suddenly at a turn, and when you get your breath back, continue walking down the side towards the Gateway. You’ll walk by Pashupati Arts, and if your mom loves antiques (they rarely don’t), stroll in and pick something for her. With the shopping done, march on to the Gateway.
Touts calling out their offerings, hawkers selling masala channa (spicy chick pea concoctions for the fastidious ones), milling ferries and sea lashed boundary walls – the Gateway of India has an atmosphere that’s pulsating with palpable energy and activity. It’s easy to lose yourself in this organized chaos, and to find a sense of calm in all this action. It’s recommended you do just that.
After the sightseeing, you can either shop for some colourful clothing or junky jewellery at the street markets of Colaba, or head to your next stop. I’d do the former. Just saying.
Continue your seaside stroll to Marine Drive and let your eyes feast on the sights Mumbai presents you with. There’s a strange excitement in letting the cool sea breeze rustle your hair. Feel it. Be a child. Surrender yourself to the juxtaposition of the ancient and modern on this walk. And if this experience makes you smile, hop for just 5 steps on this walk. It will make you happier, pinky promise.
Find the Natural’s Ice Cream outlet on Marine Drive, and rediscover the joy of fruit ice cream. If you haven’t had Natural’s before, this is a MUST do. If you have had it, it still is. (I should charge them commission). When your batteries are charged and the ice cream is a yummy slosh in your tummy, make your way to Peddar Road. Watch the city’s elite sip and dine, and if your appetite for shopping isn’t satiated, there’s enough luxury brands to dent your bank account (nicely) here. From here, you can walk to Siddhivinayak Temple and make a wish.
If you’re in the city on a Tuesday, the place is going to be busier than usual, but the sense of unity with the higher one is unbeatable. Don’t forget to carry some prasad for your loved ones back home! Next stop, Haji Ali Dargah.
The view of the stark white dome and needle thin minarets of Haji Ali Dargah against the clear blue skyline, with the Arabian Sea stretching into eternity in the backdrop is one of Mumbai’s most striking visual icons. Don’t forget to capture the sight with your camera, it will never fail to inspire awe. When you’re done paying your respects here, take the local to Lower Parel, because now is Bandra time! When you get off, take a taxi to Bandra, soaking your eyes on the Bandra-Worli sealink.
When in Bandra, get ready to rub shoulders with the stars! Take a walk down to Galaxy Apartments, do the typical touristy thing and get yourself clicked outside Salman Khan’s home. Move along to Bandstand and repeat, only by Shah Rukh Khan’s residence this time. Upload them to your Facebook wall and make your couch potato, non-travelling friends jealous – all while grabbing a hot cup of coffee and enjoying the setting sun at the sea side – while the likes and comments are pouring in!
Stroll through the street market of Bandra, and when your eyes are fatigued with the vibrant market, hail an auto and off you go to Juhu. The ride is about 45 minutes, depending on the kindness of Mumbai traffic and should set you back by about INR 130. You could do some more celebrity-house stalking here, or simply wander to the Prithvi Cafe and let Bollywood come to see you.
There’s usually some show going on at the theatre here, each as remarkable as the other. Sink into the comfortable seats here (you’ve earned it!), rest your heels, and let the skilled artists blow your mind. Afterwards, sip an Irani Chai and indulge in a brownie (Calories? what’s that?), before you head back to your hotel and put the final touches to the presentation due tomorrow.
You had forgotten all about it, hadn’t you?
About the author:
Vaishali Singh is a traveller and shopaholic, but really a cook at heart. You can contact her on twitter at @vaishalisingh73 .