It is only 9.30 am, but the sun is quite intense and if not for the sea breeze would have been quite unbearable. I am on the upper deck of a launch berthed at the Gateway of India in Mumbai trying to peer through a haze that has dulled the shimmer and sparkle of sunlight on water. In front of me, and as far as the haze-driven visibility allows, are ferries, fishing boats, luxury yachts, launches, security vessels… The sea looks like one big parking lot. 🙂
On board the launch, my co-passengers indulge in some gentle jostling for prime spots to photograph, discuss whether the haze would play spoil sport for photography, and generally chat about what is it that we are likely to see in the next couple of hours. As we wait for the launch to leave the jetty, anticipation for the upcoming trip grows. An anticipation for the first of its kind tour of Mumbai’s Port and Harbour organised by the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2014, in association with the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT).
Our tour guide is Dilip Vishwanathan from the MbPT and his narrative takes us through the pre-maritime history of Mumbai, its natural harbour, the seven original islands of Mumbai, the coming of the Portuguese, then the English and the East India Company, construction of the docks, and present day Mumbai Port and Harbour. Mumbai’s natural harbour and port was known to seafarers and traders from as early as eighth century BC or even before. Though it wouldn’t have looked like the view in the photo above to them !
Though I am familiar with some part of the history, it is always nice to hear it from someone else’s perspective. As the tour guide outlines the route for the trip, I am excited to find that we will be passing through areas that are out-of-bounds to the public.
Join me aboard the launch for this tour. I must confess that it is going to be a long one that will take you Mumbai’s maritime history and my own memories.