Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mumbai Rediscovered

I’ve spent almost sixteen years of my life in Mumbai and the city still doesn’t cease to amaze me. I love it. Just like any other Mumbaikar would. From the vada pav’s at every nook and corner to the throbbing night life, it’s alive at any given point of the day. Having lived in different parts of the city, I thought I knew every inch. Only a couple of months ago did I realise how wrong I was. Thanks to my interest in photography.

J and I take off every two weeks to explore some aspect of the city through our lens. We usually end up getting some fabulous street and slum shots (considering good old Mumbai has so many of those). The other day, bored of the increasing number of these and the lack of knowledge on any interesting and different  place, we resorted to the reliable Google. The first few options that popped up were the usual – Gateway of India, Chowpatty beach, VT Station and so on. Somewhere in between, there was the Zoo. Neither of us had been to a Zoo since we were kids so off we went.

The Mumbai Zoo a.k.a Jijamata Udyan Zoo is grossly underestimated by all. I am sure most of you don’t even know where it is and never thought of visiting because you didn’t expect much. You-will-be-amazed. Not so much by the animals, but undoubtedly by the premises.  
Getting there wasn’t tough. Any cabbie knows Jijamata Udyan. Just make sure you don’t go on a Wednesday because a closed ticket counter and a big lock on the gate is all you’ll find. Housed within the Botanical gardens, spread over 48 acres in Byculla, the Zoo boasts of numerous exotic trees, some of which are age old. We were bowled over by the greenery all around, huge and exceptionally well maintained gardens, manicured lawns, clean paths, and most of all, no city din. Just the sound of nature. I have never (in Mumbai) seen so many shades of green, all in one space. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, within the city. Besides the few who were busy watching the animals, we saw a couple of old men and foreigners resting, reading books sitting under trees whose branches spread across till your eyes could see. A school for the underprivileged had organized a trip for their tiny tots. It was amazing to see the excitement in their eyes and hear the glee in their voices every time they saw a new animal. There’s nothing more endearing than a child’s innocence.

There are approximately 250 animals and birds ranging from elephants, crocs, alligators, bears, hyenas and monkeys to different species of deers, rhino, hippos, lions, snakes and at least fifteen species of aquatic birds, along with numerous others whose names I don’t even know. While they aren’t really kept in the best of conditions, I was quite taken in by the entire place. A little bit more money, effort and support and we could have a Zoo our city will boast of not just for its beauty but also for its animal.

Apart from the Zoo, the premise also houses a Museum that hosts an array of local archaeological findings. Rushing through it would be an insult to the priceless collection of over 2000 miniature paintings, artifacts from all over the country, decorative Tibetan and Naplese art and a glass and jade collection like no other. Take your time, look around and soak in all that it has to offer. It’s an enriching experience.

How the two hours flew by we didn’t even realize. Honestly, I didn’t want to leave, I wanted to sit under a tree, put my feet up and just relax. If nothing else, every Mumbaikar should make a trip just to breathe in some fresh air instead of all the pollution and dust we are subjected to. I don’t know if it was the freshness, the fact that we went to a Zoo after ages, the feeling of having discovered something interesting in our own city or the fabulous photographs and moments we managed to capture, but when we walked out, we had a smile on our face and a bounce in our step. That day I knew that there’s so much more to a place than just what you know or hear about.

Discover your city.
You never know what you might find next.


  1. oh wow! haven't been to any of the places being in Bombay for some time now...

    Post some 'Banganga' pics?

  2. You should. the Zoo is a lovely green place. You can see more Banganga pictures in my Flickr photo stream on the main blog page.

  3. Oh Wow.... Once I did stroll inside the zoo on a very hot afternoon after my class 12 board exams, and only found couples trying to find their corner. But I should revisit it sometime early morning...!

    Banganga, have been hearing about it since childhood, though never been there! I need to explore Mumbai too! Nice Post!

  4. hey aditto, yeah maybe you should go now, early in the day. its empty and nice. and banganga is a pretty place (when its not got any work happening there that is). do try and visit when you can manage it.

  5. Have heard of Banganga but never been there and as u said, It is a shame indeed. The Zoo was actually surprising for all the stories I have heard, they do not post a pretty picture :(...

    will visit and report back! ;) :D... Thanks :D

  6. Hey Nishant, well you should visit both the places then. The zoo was rather interesting, more for the place than the animals like i said. LEt me know what you thought of both.