A Quiet Sunset On Juhu Beach
Flashback to the 1990s, when I was with the national carrier in the good old days, and we used to get to stay at the Juhu Centaur whenever we made any official trip to Mumbai to attend a training programme at our Staff College. We used to look forward to these trips because we Delhiwallahs could never get enough of the sea. Most people who live in land-locked places are in awe of the sea – at least I am.
I would always request for a sea-facing room, and each morning I would enjoy my morning cuppa just gazing at the sea, before leaving for class. Most evenings would find me strolling down to the beach and walking on the sand, enjoying the breeze and the view. The beach used to be crowded to the gills. There would be hawkers everywhere, hawking their goods, and resultantly, there would be a lot of litter too. Despite the crowds, and despite the litter, I still loved the sea. Each trip left me yearning for more.
Then times changed. I moved on to a new assignment. Although the frequency of my trips to Mumbai increased, the duration of these trips decreased. Most times I found myself returning back to Delhi the same day, or at the most the next day, without any opportunity to visit any beach. The only glimpse that I caught of the sea was from the aircraft window while landing or taking off, or from the cab while being driven to my office at Nariman Point. The sea was where it had always been, but the times had changed. I could see it each time but I no longer had the free time to enjoy it. I was paying the price of moving up the ladder in the corporate world.
Fast forward to 2017. Between the 90s and 2017, I did not get to visit the Juhu beach at all. However, I had an opportunity to visit Mumbai in February once again. I was scheduled to be there for work on a Monday & Tuesday, so I made it a point to arrive there on a Sunday afternoon. I checked into my hotel near the airport, and shortly after lunch, I was off to see my close friend Sunil, who lives in Juhu near the Hare Krishna Temple. I had at my disposal the whole afternoon and evening.
Having spent time with him and his family in the afternoon, I suddenly had this urge to visit the Juhu beach again. And so we took a stroll down the lane to the beach, which is barely about 500-600 meters away from where Sunil lives. Soon, I found myself looking at the sea. It was about 5.15 pm, the sun had not yet set, and the beach did not appear too crowded, though there was a steady stream of people coming and going. I was just about to step down from the concrete road on the path leading to the beach when I realized I wasn’t wearing appropriate shoes for the beach. Damn ! I had packed for work, and was wearing my formal shoes, and with meetings lined up for the next two days, I could not afford to get them messy. So I just stood there wondering what to do when Sunil suggested that we go into the park instead.
The park came to me as a surprise. I was here after years, and during all my trips in the 90’s, it just did not exist. Or at least, it wasn’t so developed in those days. I was told that the residents who lived in the housing societies nearby had all got together to develop this stretch of land as a park, complete with walking tracks and benches placed all around the length of the park. Now those who are familiar with Mumbai will know that space is at a premium in Mumbai, and there simply isn’t enough space to build a big park by the beach. So what we have there now, nevertheless, is a narrow stretch of land running by the sandy beach, elevated by about 4 to 5 feet, which has been converted into a park, and they have actually done a pretty decent job of it.
And so we strolled into the park, trying to find a vacant bench to sit on. This wasn’t such an easy task, considering that most benches were occupied by couples who were trying hard to avoid eye contact with people, lest anybody decided to come and sit with them to share their private space! Nevertheless, we did find one unoccupied bench and made ourselves comfortable. Thankfully, there was no direct sunlight falling on the bench, and the February breeze was cool and pleasant. It was then that I had a good look at the sea, and the memories of my trips in the 90’s came flooding back.
And yet, there was something different about the beach this time. The first thing that I noticed was that it wasn’t very crowded. Yes, there were lots of people around, but it wasn’t crowded to the gills, as I remember seeing it in the 90s. The hawkers were there too, but they were all located close to the entry point, and not scattered all over the beach. And the beach was cleaner – far cleaner than I recall seeing it years ago.
The bench where we sat was placed opposite some palm trees that run along the entire length of the park, which afforded us protection from the direct glare of the sun, and yet we got a great view of the sea. Looking at the shimmering expanse of the sea and the changing hues of the sky, I was mesmerized. The sun, which was still at a high point when we had arrived was slowly making its way down over the horizon. As it moved down gradually, the colour of the sea seemed to take on various shades of silver and golden intermittently.
I pulled out my phone and after years, clicked picture of the sun as it made its way down, loving each moment of it. It is only when you are deprived of something for years and then exposed to it once again that you realize what you had missed. I could just sit there and watch the sunset forever. Thankfully, Sunil and I are very comfortable with each other even in our silence, without feeling the need to make any small talk, and we sat there in perfect silence, taking in the views unfolding before us, with me clicking away like crazy to capture these moments forever. There was something truly remarkable about accompanying the sun on its sunset journey.
The evening ended too soon for me. We had sat there for almost two hours without even realizing how quickly the time had passed. It was only when the lampposts on the beach were lit that we realized it was getting dark. Ever so reluctantly, we got up and made our way back. But I was glad that I had taken the time to enjoy this brief moment by the seaside.
And then suddenly there was also the realization that for the entire time that we were there, I did not once think of work, or of anything else for that matter. It was just me, the sea, the breeze and the sunset. And a sense of peace and calm. How I wish I could do this again soon !
But perhaps I will, for I also realized that it is not so difficult to get away from work for a day, and clubbing some free time with a work trip works like therapy. Next time you need to travel for work, plan to get there a day earlier, or stay back a day after you finish work. Trust me, you will find it very refreshing. With that thought, I will leave you with some pictures of the wonderful sunset on Juhu Beach.