Mumbai’s pride, lively Marine Drive hits a century

Mumbai, Dec 18 (IANS) Flanked on one side by Nariman Point and on the other by Chowpatty beach with art deco buildings en route which hazily melt into the colonialist Raj Bhavan, Mumbai’s pride and the iconic Marine Drive turned 100 on Friday.

To mark the momentous occasion, the Marine Drive Residents Association (MDRA) succeeded in getting the General Post Office here to come out with a commemorative postcard which was released at an event Friday evening.

“In due course, we are requesting the authorities to issue a special postage stamp on Marine Drive highlighting its uniqueness to the city,” Marine Drive Residents Association vice-president Vinay Somani said.

Stretching over 4.30 km from Nariman Point and ending at the historic Chowpatty beach from where the officially known Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road begins, Marine Drive encompasses Charni Road, Marine Lines and Churchgate stations in its unique ‘C – arc’ – a pleasurable drive.

Depending on the season, the Arabian Sea waves either lash the thousands of concrete tetrapods strewn beside the promenade to stop soil erosion in monsoon, or appear like a near-still quiet lagoon in the dry seasons of winter and summer.

At nights, it transforms into a dazzling, bejeweled spectacle with golden street lights and other lights at regular intervals giving an impression of one huge, pearly string. The best sight of this “Queen’s Necklace” can be had from one of the skyscrapers at Nariman Point or from the Malabar Hill.

Whatever be the time of the day or the season, a walk along Marine Drive is a favourite of domestic and foreign visitors to the city, watching ships on the horizon quietly sailing into the Mumbai harbour towards the extreme south.

They love to savour the sights of the big and small eateries, the omnipresent Chowpatty bhelpuriwallas, a few old hotels, a women’s hostel, a college, several open gymkhanas and clubs in between the unending residential buildings which came up in the 1930s, and a wide promenade with palm trees that make the walk memorable, and in recent years, captured in millions of selfies by the unending crowds…

Marine Drive’s birthday was announced on a stone post near Chowpatty with the simple inscription: “Kennedy Sea-Face commenced 18th December, 1915. Completed 1920.”

Recently, Marine Drive has been nominated for a Unesco World Heritage Site for its stunning neo-Gothic structures from the 19th century and 20th century art deco style buildings.

This involved construction of a sturdy 20-feet high wall stretching the entire length of Marine Drive, and protected by the weighty tetrapods which came around four decades later while traffic zoomed both ways on the six-lane concrete corridor.

The MDRA now plans to hold the centenary celebrations from January with tentative plans to illuminate one art deco building every week, special decorations for some of the landmarks, plays, musicals and ensuring participation of the locals and tourists, says Somani.

On days when luck favours the visitors, they can catch a glimpse of Bollywood movies or Tellywood (TV) serial shootings, filmy-style car chases, hero-heroines crooning in the rains and drunk heroes ranting nonsense at night that keep happening frequently at Marine Drive… er, Queen’s Necklace.

Until recently, after the crazy daylong business and VVIP traffic ceased by sundown, the promenade would awaken to the musical sounds of ‘clippety-clops’ of scores of quaint horse-drawn Victoria carriages that tourists enjoyed riding for short distances.

Decades ago, a tall lanky man who hoped to make it big in Bollywood settled for spending a night on the Marine Drive wall – today he is known as the global legend Amitabh Bachchan…

Similarly, the stunning actress Suraiya reportedly threw a ring presented to her by evergreen hero Dev Anand into the Arabian Sea from the Marine Drive parapet after their real life love-saga ended decades ago..

Eight years ago, it was from the northern-end near Chowpatty that a braveheart, police constable Tukaram Ombale helped nab alive a Pakistani terrorist M. Ajmal Kasab, even as bloodthirsty associates created mayhem at the other end, the Hotel Trident Oberoi.

Many big industrial tycoons, film personalities, celebrities were seen walking along Marine Drive before they acquired their Big Time status and shifted to swanky, dark-screened cars.

Even in this era, some of the wealthiest and powerful personalities continue to live at or around Marine Drive, though some have gradually shifted to newly developed areas like Cuffe Parade, Worli, Bandra, Juhu, Versova, et al…

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