Weekday afternoon, normally, in Mumbai means one can go to a coffee shop or pub and enjoy a quiet drink. One can also find empty sidewalks in certain quieter parts of the city, and if extremely lucky, find a seat in a local train as well. It’s a weekday, afternoon, summer; the odds are high in favour of the Prisoner. As long as he manages to escape. And as long as he doesn’t step into Juhu beach.
Juhu beach is the place, (calling it a beach would give the wrong signal I admit) where the “rest of them”, “none of the above”, “don’t know/ can’t care less” and the gang team up in. It looks more like huge bus stop, where in place of a bus, there is huge ball of fire, burning down sands to smaller specks of dust. Like a bus stop there are balloon wallahs, with their air filled elves tied to ends of a string flying in the stiff sea breeze, and chana wallahs, who lazily ambles around, dishing out paper cones of peanuts to sand-castle builders. There is a flute seller who plays distantly familiar and unfamiliar numbers, with a practiced lip, again with the atypical aloofness. In between there is a woman with a dozen cellophane paper swords, and an armful of silver bows, and golden arrows, who stops to pick up a parachute which has fallen from the sky. No one comes up to you, not even the chaiwallah. They flitter like butterflies from flower to bud, in the huge bustling market place of Juhu.
As the twilight fades further, and as the orange grays of the sky fuses with the somber deep blues of the Arabian Sea, far in the outline of waves, I see a few bathers still. Like crabs, the millions retreat, inch by inch. The neons, half-seductive half-mocking, flicker and light up, from the high rises behind me. The air carries a whiff of urine and lemon tea. The Mumbai toddler desert their sand castles into the comforts of their cars, the tourists linger on in the footpaths to grab some more of the city.
As the waters grow darker, and barely, the white foams of the crashing waves are discernable, Juhu beach is far from over. As one wave of people retreat, a new wave pours in…
Well, as for me, I give in to the neons, take a cab, and go in search of brun-maska and tea, under concrete lampshades of plastic lights!