Mumbai (nee Bombay), the city that never sleeps, has several delightful places, which are well –known across the nation. Among these, the Mumbai seafront needs no introduction. This stretch of over 1 km, from The Gateway of India to the Apollo Bunder, has seen history, drama, the ups and downs of India’s fortune , daily vagaries of the life of its inhabitants, and does not fail to charm everyone, be it a casual visitor, serious tourist or long-term resident of Mumbai.
The Gateway of India towers tall at the Northern point of this stretch, and was the entry and exit point to India, to many generations during the days of the British Raj. This imposing building, built in Indo-Saracenic style, was meant to commemorate the visit to India by Emperor George V and Queen Mary in 1911. However, the interesting thing is that they did not get to see the actual structure, but only a cardboard replica, since construction started only in 1915. This imposing Gateway, which saw the arrival and departures of successive British governors and viceroys, also saw the departure of the Britishers post-independence. Indeed, it is through these very portals that the Britishers exited, and the last Bristish troops to leave India, the First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, passed through the Gateway on their way out in a ceremony on 28th Feb, 1948.
Today, the Gateway of India is the top tourist attraction of Mumbai, and is thronged by crowds at day and night. Just opposite the Gateway is a statue of Shivaji unveiled in 1961, possibly to assuage Maratha pride.
No less significant is the Taj Mahal Palace & Towers hotel. Built 21 years before the Gateway Of India, this Baroque –Anglican – Indo- Saracenic landmark building is one of the favorite hospitality destinations in the country , and one of the most favorite destinations for the discerning traveler. It was also the site of the first licensed bar in the city. The hotel has seen numerous dignitaries, royals and heads of state. Probably keeping this iconic status in mind, and to damage the spirit of Mumbai by targeting its favourite location, the Taj Mahal hotel was a prominent target of the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, in which scores of people were killed and wounded. However, it bounced back in true spirit, and was operational barely one year after the attacks.
As one looks out over the Arabian Sea, one can see an assortment of ferries( some headed towards the Elephanta Caves), yachts, fishing boats , bobbing gently over the waters, the rippling waters of the sea providing the perfect background. The afternoon breeze is salty and cool, and helps to combat some of the perspiration that is a feature of life in Mumbai. The Mumbai seafront looks so far , far away from the grime , strife and struggle for existence in this bustling megapolis, providing a perfect escape from all that, probably explaining its perpetual popularity as a favorite destination, and a must-do if one is in the city of Mumbai.