Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sanjay Gandhi National Park

A good long thirteen years later, I was visiting the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. The last time I visited this place was as part of a teacher's picnic organised by the school. But this time it was with family. The husband and two kids.

Why the national park? Well, to tell the seven year old and the three year old that:

  • there does exist a large and extensive green belt in the heart of this city called Mumbai
  • a 45-minute drive will get you out of a fast-paced hectic life to a quiet and tranquil setting
  • it is indeed a forest and not a Hiranandani created artificial township
  • there are a few wild animals too, some in enclosures and some in the open 
  • selfish human interests are cutting through the park
  • malls don't hold true recreation, nature does

We had fun time trying to get a glimpse of the sunny sky through gaps of the patterns made by the branches and leaves of the tall trees...the park is a tree lover's delight.

And while we stood there gazing, a family of monkeys had fun watching us standing their with stretched necks...probably wondering what we were unto...

Next on the list was a ride on the all-time popular mini-train that paved its way through the park and then a bus safari into the jungle, kickstarting a struggle to spot a few felines (if we are lucky). After all that hardwork, we decided to pamper our tastebuds with some fresh cucumber, red guavas and raw mangoes. Nicely cut and smeared with salt and chilli powder. You can also treat yourself to some 'ber' at the park. Reminded us of school days when these dried fruits with a pinch of rock salt, were a regular treat.

What are these neon green fruits?

Semi-gooseberries, that's what I call them (nothing intelligent). It's just that they look like miniature versions of the gooseberry. Down south they are called 'nellipuli'. Get a boat right now and you can actually sail it in my mouth ;) That's what these fruits do to you. The moment you spot them your salivary glands go on an overdrive.

और यह रहा हमारा प्यारा खीरा नमक और मिर्ची पावडर के साथ खाइए या चाट मसाले से सजाईये, पर खाईयेगा ज़रूर...

I don't know if much has changed in the park, but it felt nice to be there amongst the old, tall trees, doing nothing. And the kids had a great time too. Especially Rishi whose perpetual craving for sour food was satiated beyond imagination. 

What were the monkeys thinking?
Are they calculating the distance between the ground and the highest branch of the tree? If they are going to jump from the ground onto the tallest branch, we are definitely going to take lessons from them. 

Did we have fun?
Of course, we did! It's always fun to go back to nature. 

Any issues?
We did feel bad looking at the plight of the tigers and lions there. It's disappointing to see that what could have been turned into an attraction was soon turning out to be an obligation. There's no doubt that the park with it's tall and dense verdancy was taking care of itself. 

Should I visit the place? Is it worth it?
You must. And if you have kids, take them too. Monsoons are magical in the park. Take a day off to treat yourself to some beautiful moments with your loved ones. Gorge on the juicy, luscious fruits and enjoy the train ride. Go on a walking trail. Do some amazing photography :)