Andheri is that kid in a joint family who everyone thinks is up to no good, the one who lives in the shadows of the over-achieving older siblings. In the eyes of the family elders, this kid has no future but they love him/her anyway. For most of the people living in the city, the only good things about Andheri are Lokhandwala Market, the metro, Fun Republic, The Little Door and the thousands of cheap delivery outlets. We can’t see Andheri beyond that. We go to the Art district in town or the grafitti lanes in Bandra to fuel our imagination or to document the creative expression in Bombay. But most of us can’t imagine Andheri as being beautiful.
While there are way too many forums putting up itineraries for day-trips in various areas, I’ve come to know the hard way that not many of them are genuine. One of my recent favourites, though, is The City Story. I used some of their suggestions for my Andheri itinerary and this is what it looks like:
3pm- MAJOR GOA FEELS ALERT!
We walked through Amboli Gaothan, which starts in the lane next to St. Blaise Church. There were chapels at every alternate turn, quaint homes, friendly dogs and semi-friendly cats, small trees with beautiful flowers, families playing with their babies and interacting with their neighbours. The settlement was very utopic and just for a moment, I forgot that I was in Bombay.
4pm- Bombay to Barcelona Library Cafe has been on my list since long and it should be on everyone’s list. Here’s why- a) It’s run by a guy who used to be street kid, grew up and wrote a book about it, b)The cafe follows a no-discrimination policy c) They have a subsidized menu for street/slum kids, d)They hire people who were street kids but had to leave their orphan homes/care centres as soon as they turned 18. The politeness with which the staff at this place interacted with us was the kind that comes from within, not the kind they receive money from. That, in itself is an experience.
5pm-We made a quick stop at this patisserie named Cocoamaya since one of my friends had been raving about it. While it’s slightly tough to locate, it is totally worth it. I’d surely recommend this place to any person looking for a sugar-fix in Marol.
5:45-The highlight of our day was venturing into one of the least known parts of Andheri West in order to explore Gilbert Hill. It is made of black basaltic rock and is one of the 3 mountains in the world of this kind. It was formed approximately 65 million years ago. The area around the hill is terribly maintained, with residential buildings being constructed very close to it. The roads leading to the entrance are also very narrow and I wouldn’t suggest visiting this area alone. Nonetheless, it is worth a visit, since it’s not overcrowded like most of Bombay’s other attractions. There are proper steps leading up to the hill and it won’t take you more than 10 mins to reach the top. There’s a 550 year old Hindu temple at the top which is simple but well-maintained. You can simply sit in the temple and enjoy the wind or you can walk around it and wait for the perfect sunset. The sunset was beautiful and its beauty can only be understood by someone who cannot experience such peace in the noise of the city. I’d surely suggest a visit to Gilbert Hill for its sunset. Those with more will-power can also visit it to catch a sunrise.
7pm- Everyone likes indulging in clichés once a while and ours was ending our day at Joey’s Pizza. One of my friends had never been there and it was time to make her experience what can be called an Andheri tradition.
My Andheri exploration reminded me of something I’d read some time back:
Travel begins in your backyard
Those 6-8 hours of exploration within my city gave me the same happiness that travelling 100 miles away would’ve given. It reminded me that the bottom line is to not make excuses and to make the most of each opportunity. It also taught me that it’s important to explore without expectations. In a country like India, you cannot expect every place to be as well-maintained as the Taj Mahal or the Red Fort. Less expectations lead to more happiness. But most of all, this exploration taught me to see the beauty in an area which I earlier visited only for dinners and night-outs. It showed me the अंधेरी within Andheri. Nahi samjhe? Try the itinerary, you’ll know.