Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A Green & Unsettling Morning - Maharashtra Nature Park & Mahim Fort 2015

It’s not quite often that you're told that there’s no point of visiting a Fort, because it's been taken over by slum dwellers and localities. Cause it’s dirty, locked up and damaged, you’re asked not to waste your time or even bother dropping by. But I never like just “listening” to things, and treating them like experiences. So I locked on a day the 3rd of May to do a trip to Mahim fort (Nearly just 15 or so minutes away from my place) to see for myself, if it’s really true what people say and to have an experience of something so upsetting myself.

Also, after my recent visit to Kaneri Caves, and the nature park my sudden interest for visiting nature hotspots and reserves, has suddenly peaked. So I decided to pool my Fort visit with dropping by at Maharashtra Nature Park (Best decision ever!) close to Mahim and Dharavi. So I called Sheldon told him, “Let’s go, broo.” And like everyone else he didn’t seem interested or pro the idea of volunteering to come to Mahim Fort. He was all in for the park though. (But don’t worry, I made him come around coming to both places. Haha!). It was a sunny Sunday morning, it started off with my taking a rickshaw and heading to the park. The minute I got out, I see this really adorable dog, making faces at me who then I hug and pet. Later I entered, and soon Sheldon joined me, we payed the gate pass entry fee (Rs. 20 or so.) and were then inside the vicinity of the green long forgotten reserves of nature.

The minute we entered, we first found a squirrel nibbling on a thread. When we turned our eyes up we saw a beautiful parrot hiding away in the leaves. It was bliss, the feeling like being in a jungle, even though you're in a city. The peace, the hot summer breeze, the chirping of birds and the blue skies. It is quite unfortunate, that people don’t really appreciate nature and its beauty as much anymore. I was really disappointed, that even though I live so close to the park, this was my first visit, and that it took me a lot of looking up to do, to be able to know about the park. Its an amazing place for bird watching, morning walks, meditation, butterfly watching and just cutting off from the fast life and reminiscing the green pure world. We kept following the trail and ended up completing the walk through the park the other way round (This is maybe, why they should start giving us maps at the start I guess.) We walked through the short and narrow path, explored through various plantation patches, and saw a lot of woman and other workers cleaning, and maintaining the park, which was comforting to see. As you walk towards the end of the park, you’ll see a huge banyan tree and it merging into a small open locality of sorts (Quite, dirty and unclean the last patch.) that will make you a little sad, cause you wouldn’t really want the beautiful protected natural patch to end. The park off lays the Mithi River, which is quite dirty and not well kept. We were able to walk aside the river as one of its paths lays directly aside it. It was good sharing conversations, looking for birds and butterflies.

Soon we reached the end of the park. We stepped into the library for a bit, where so old books related to nature, environment and the wild life. There is also an art gallery, that has exhibitions put up on a monthly or so bases (Mention in local newspaper listings, usually as per the authorities there.) There is also an open space with steps, a stage and plants where a environment themed poetry session was on when we were there. It seemed like a great place to hold small sessions and activities. The authorities told us that it can be taken up for show and events related to environment and nature. (Surely gonna make a note of this, you should too!) It was a nice visit to the park, they usually open up at 7amish on the weekends, which I’d suggest will be the best time to visit the park and take photographs too, if you like too. Sheldon, loves watching and clicking birds, so he was a little let down (Actually a lot more than little.) that we just kept seeing crows, and didn’t catch glimpses of other birds. But on a whole, I felt it was a lovely morning.

We soon done with the park and head out to the fort. After not a lot of convincing Sheldon agreed to come show me where the fort was too. We first cabbed it out to the bridge and then went to the small beach like opening that Mahim offers towards Mahim Creek. (Mumbai being a mixture of 7 Islands, this beach and Creek have a lot of significance for how Mumbai came up and together in the early days.). Your soul will not wither away, it will wander aimslessly seeking happiness and peace all day.In 1516, Portuguese officer Dom Joao de Monoy step foot in Mahim Creek and conquert the fort. The fort was a site of frequent turmoil between the Portuguese and the Ali Shah, before the island of Mahim was taken away from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat by the Portuguese in 1534. In 1661, the Portuguese offered the island of Mahim as dowry to Charles II of England. It was later strengthened by Sir Thomas Grantham and became a strategic defense tower against possible Portuguese and Maratha attacks. According to older records, the fort had 100 soldiers and 30 cannons at that time.

You’d think a Fort with history, culture and some amount of significance, will be taken care off and be kept well. But the insides of me hurt and cried. Cause it was dirty (filthy) and not cared about. If you like Forts, you’ll wonder why people don’t care. I understand people face problems, and at times this is the way out. But it's just upsetting to see the way it's maintained and not even cared about. The closer you walk to the fort you’ll smell feces and garbage. You’ll see people walking around doing their chores, kids playing cricket (which is fine!) and you’ll find clothes hanging to dry everywhere. The entrance is blocked with a huge ladder and the dwellings of people on both levels of the fort. No, you won’t even be able to enter. The lady there told me that people live all across the fort there is a thin staircase to climb during low tide, but the people won't let you go see the fort. The entire, fort has now basically become a colony where people reside. I am all for poverty, finding your space and making do, but at the cost of a historical fort being tucked away and hidden. I am not sure. A lot of people will say “I told you so.” But for me the problem here is deeper, I know. You know. But what can we do? Write letters? Try talking to these people? Try doing something ourselves? Well I don’t know the next step. But I promise you I will get back to this in time, and make sure that something is done at least from my end to change the present situation. Even if it is in a little way. Cause I don’t like our country being looked down at, but because of instances like these I see why we give people an opportunity to look down at us, and for us to look down at ourselves. I am sure, there should and will be a better alternative to this. You’ll find a bamboo loading and moving area at the beach near the fort, which is still okay cause it doesn’t dirupt the fort directly like the people there do.

So a solo, or two man trip is always fun (Thanks, Sheldon.). It was nice to head out to the park and fort. Have a beautiful and bitter taste of life and its challenges. And realise that knowing isn’t good enough, you need to go out there feel, experience and do  your part. Hoping to do more short halt trips and exploration escapades in the future.

Pictures of the Fort & Park (Maharashtra Nature Park & Mahim Fort 2015) :

This is Mr. Happy Captain (Or you can call me Al) signing off, until next time.
Have a great day, and an adventurous weekend! :)                                                                                                                                                 
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Thank You

Alvin Anthony


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