There's a road I'd readily show anyone in Mumbai - except for those who have cynophobia, as I learned earlier this morning. Lesson learned. But phobias aside, easily one of the most beautiful roads anyone could view in the city of Mumbai.
If you like small roads. If you like trees. If you like scenic views of fields of green. If you like ill-kept roads where no major traffic flow is possible. If you like local residents who live in padas, many of which have no electricity, who commonly walk their routes doing their errands. If you like relatively clean air. If you like serenity. If you like summer morning sunrises, which cast golden sheen through the leaves and branches. If you like igrits. If you like one million unwritten haikus, inspired by an unique urban oasis, expressed by every footstep you take here. If you like Aarey Colony. Then this is the most beautiful road in Mumbai.
This road has no name on Google Maps. This fact annoyed me at first because I didn't know what to call it. But a local resident informed us that the road was named after a temple near the Aarey Rd. junction on the eastern end. That temple is Gaondevi Mandir. Gaondevi Road.
Let's back up one second. By "us" I meant me and my friend, Raghav. He's the one with the severe case of cynophobia, a fact I somehow forgot before suggesting a morning stroll through Aarey and Gaondevi Road. A road packed with small packs of dogs. They're actually quite harmless and extremely mellow by contrast with some of the more rude dogs on Versova Beach.
Raghav had asked me on Twitter a few days back, what's the most beautiful place in Mumbai? A friend suggested that he take a stroll and relax, not think of anything and just decompress from the daily grind. I thought about it and suggested Worli Koliwada and Uttan village. Then it struck me how obvious the answer was - and I suggested we explore Aarey and my favorite road. Most favorably, it was only a 15 minute journey at 6:30 am.
Unfortunately for me and fortunately for Raghav, our stroll was cut short to make an escape from the dogs. We did manage to walk the entirety of the road but there was to be no double-back to the beginning. We miraculously grabbed a rickshaw less than a minute searching (by mid-morning the task is nearly impossible due to traffic and lack of empty rickshaws) and then made our way to an unnamed, internationally-known mega corporate coffee chain whose name begins with an S and ends with an S. And rhymes with "scar fucks."
This road and the people I meet along the way fascinate me as much as the scenery I love to photograph just off the road. It's become my secret place to get away to in a city of over 18 million residents. I suspect I may even be including this road in future workshops because the kinds of scenes that I get largely repeat themselves. And sometimes, repetition is a sacred thing.