A couple of years back, I happened to travel in a cab whose driver was very chatty and unusually boastful of his knowledge of the city. About 20 minutes into the journey, I had enough of his tales and asked him:
“Since you know so much about Mumbai, tell me how does one get to Sewri Fort. I want to visit it.”
“Sewri Fort? What Sewri Fort? There is no Fort at Sewri.”
“Of course, there is a fort there. I read a report about the Fort in the newspaper only last week.”
“Newspaper? Bah !” said the driver in a dismissive tone. “Don’t believe everything that they print. Listen to me, I’ve been there so many times that I know the area really well. I know Sewri Jetty, all the automobile service centres there, the Port Trust Offices, the dargah… everything. I can tell you confidently that I have never come across any Fort there.”
And that was the end of the conversation.
Last month, I visited Sewri Fort. Yes, there is a Fort, but after visiting it I could understand why the cab driver and many others like him are neither aware of its location or existence. Incidentally, it is located right next to the dargah that the driver mentioned. Just see the view outside the Fort in the photograph below. Is there any indication that there is a Fort anywhere in the vicinity?
My brothers tell me that I visited the Fort as a 4-year old in 1975. Our family had just shifted to Mumbai from Bhopal that year and the first few months were spent in settling down and of course, exploring a new city. I have absolutely no recollection of that visit, though I remember other visits made at that time to the Gateway of India, the zoo, the shoe house at Malabar Hill, etc.
Over the years, hearing my brothers talk about the visit to the Sion Fort has always made me want to visit it. But somehow, every planned trip to the Sion Fort has never worked out for one reason or the other. One can even say that it was jinxed. There was one instance when I had gotten off the bus at Sion and had just started walking towards the Fort when I got a call from office asking me to report immediately for a work-related emergency! That was about 4 years back and my last attempt to visit the Sion Fort.
Till earlier this month, that is. When I casually mentioned about wanting to visit the Sion Fort to Rushikesh Kulkarni, a fellow blogger and the guy who runs Breakfree Journeys, he said, “Let’s go.” Before I knew it, a date and a time had been fixed for the visit. And just like that it worked out. So on a weekday, about an hour before sunset, Rushikesh, my friend Neena and I met at the entrance of one of the lanes leading to the Fort from the Eastern Express Highway at Sion.
“And this is the view from the bedroom,” says Rama, throwing open the window and gesturing at me to look out. “It’s not the same as the view of the sea from the living room, but it’s lovely in the evenings, when the sun is setting and the whole place takes on a soft orange glow.”
Rama is a friend (and also a fellow travel blogger) who has just shifted to Mumbai from Delhi, and she is giving me a tour of her apartment on the 15th floor of a building in Bandra, and also the accompanying views from the various windows.
“Hmm…,” I reply, as I look at the view. The sun is a long way from setting and the light is quite harsh on the buildings, slums, the Mahim bay, and… then, something else. Something I had not expected to see. Was it what I thought it was?
“My camera ! I need my camera. Where’s my bag?” I rushed to the living room to retrieve my bag.
“Why? What happened?”, asked Rama in a slightly alarmed voice. “What is it?”
“Wait. I’ll show you,” I said as I switched on my camera and zoomed in to show her this.
“Rama,” I announced rather grandly, “meet Mahim Fort, one of the 8 existing forts of Mumbai.”
Last Thursday, I had a mid-week holiday and that upset me very much. I am probably in a minority when I say that I hate mid-week holidays, but give me a long weekend, and I’m probably the happiest person on earth. But I digress from the theme of my blog post…
Shalini, a ‘teenagehood’ friend, had been saying for a long time that work and home routines were turning us into crabby old women, and something had to be done. So this mid-week holiday presented us with the perfect opportunity to do that ‘something’.
The outcome—a visit to the Bandra Fort.
The Bandra Fort or, to use its more impressive sounding official name, the Castella de Aguada was built by the Portuguese in 1640. It later passed on to the British, who lost it to the Marathas in 1739, and gained it back from them in 1761. You can read more about the Bandra Fort’s history here.