Saturday, 22 March 2014

Tracing the City’s lost milestones

Tracing the City’s missing milestones

Its been nearly five years since I spotted the first milestone just outside Dr Antonio da Silva High School, Dadar on a busy footpath, where fruit and flower vendors sold their wares. Post taking few pictures and doing some online and ground research, I discovered that were many such milestones that dotted the city of Mumbai.

History notes state that Milestones are Grade 1 Heritage Structures and there are some 13-16 such milestones spread across the city. They were installed by the British some 200 years ago to denote the distance from St. Thomas Cathedral, the first Anglican Church erected by the British in 1718 at Horniman circle in Fort.

Many of these have been victim to the continuous development projects that have cropping up over the years. Either put aside or re-erected at some other location, uprooted or just disappeared over the years. Could they be stolen…? Although they stood tall at 5-7ft, the few survivors are buried under paver block footpaths, hidden behind hawker carts and stand at just a foot tall.

The first among these was the 0-mile milestone that was placed just opposite the Asiatic Library (Town Hall), followed by the others at Kalbadevi, August Kranti Marg, Lower Parel, Parel, Mazgaon, Tardeo, Chinchpokli, Dadar, Prabhadevi, Mahim and Sion.


In a story in the leading mainline daily, DNA, “Conservation Architect Vikas Dilawari stated that, “Milestones are small but important markers of the city’s heritage and should be respected”.

A list prepared by the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority’s (MMRDA) Heritage committee catalogues 16 such milestones, including the one which has been uprooted and placed at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla. Not so recent news reports also highlighted the possible wipe out of yet another milestone located at Chinchpokli to make way for the construction of the monorail. Do you know what’s happened?

If you would like to trace these, get out and begin searching for them, the links below will help you locate them and if you need some more assistance do let me know. Happy to help!

Milestones in the news:
6th April, 2014- Mumbai Mirror- ASI may shift 200-year-old city milestone to museum
19th Mar, 2014- Mumbai Mirror- The mystery of the missing milestone
7th Dec, 2012- Mumbai Mirror- 196-yr-old milestone saved from monorail
13th Feb, 2011- Mid- Day - Mumbai's vanishing milestones

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Stepping into the blues.......Andaman and Nicobar Islands!

Stepping into the blues

Take a break from your hectic everyday schedule and step into the coral laden shores of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where the air is clean and the waters that surround you are pristine blue. The shores stretch endlessly exhibiting virgin white sands and the skies are gorgeous and clear for most of the year.

There is plenty a place to stay and rest your head. You can choose from a three to a five star beach side resort to a small shack that you can rent for a mere INR 200/- a night. Its best to book in advance, so you don’t have to worry about locating a fair price place, once you step into the blues.

Once you have reached the Andaman’s you are in the lap of nature and there is nothing you should be bothered about.

Some of the things which must be part of your itinerary are:

Radha Nagar and Kala Pathar are some of the many pristine beaches that you can choose to visit for a leisurely walk, sunbathe or swim. At Radha Nagar there are huge trees, ‘sea shore badam’ similar to a full grown oak that are spread across the shore.

At Port Blair you can jump unto a local multi colored bus and take a ride to Wandoor beach, it’s around 45 minutes from Port Blair. An auto would roughly estimate INR 400 for a one way trip to Wandoor while a bus ride is just a very small fraction of it. Do note, there is a bus every hour and the last bus to the city leaves Wandoor at 1740hrs. Wandoor is another white sand beach that does not sport corals but its coast is home to many uprooted and aged trees. It was also in the news early last year for a crocodile sighting, last seen- 7th Jan 2013, just a week before our visit.

Coral Island, Ross Island and Viper Island: 

All these islands are closely connected and you can choose to visit these at leisure, you would need at least 45 minutes to explore each.

Coral Island as the names suggest is not only littered with corals all over its petite shore but also has a beautiful coral bed- ideal for snorkeling. Here you will see coral reefs, exotic varieties of beautiful ornamental fish and other aquatic life.  Glass boat ride (where you are seated in a glass bottom boat and look down at corals and fish that come your way) Jet ski and water sports are the other activities that you could choose to complete your day too. Once you have completed your water sports you can fill yourself with some yummy low-priced Chinese noodles prepared just besides you by a long time settled Burmese migrant.

Such is the beauty and repute of coral island that it also finds its way on our twenty rupee note.

Ross Island bears the imprint of the British rule as it was from here that the English governed the gathering of islands. The island dons a British era water filtration plant, a torn down church with a burial ground just around the corner and also another unspoiled beach home to coconut groves. You can also spot a prancing deer, soaring peacocks and many other interesting birds that flutter around. Spend some quiet time here with your loved one and gaze at the open blue skies while the waves gently bounce along the narrow shore line.

Viper Island served as a prison for convicts and political prisoners, prior to the construction of the cellular jail. It dons the ruins of a gallows atop the hillock and bears an eerie resemblance of torture and death.

Shopping: Sagarika, Cottage Industries Emporium is the main shopping centre in the area at Port Blair and you can opt to buy varied knick-knacks and Andaman and Nicobar memorabilia here. Do note you can also buy similar objects along the stalls that grace the shores of all beaches you visit and also at a bargain.

A page from the Indian freedom struggle: An important place which finds a place in our history texts is the infamous Cellular Jail, the area is also known to many as kala paani.  Book yourself an evening show which takes you down memory lane and offers you a walk through on the shocking history of the prison and how prisoners from all over India were shipped to this jail. A sound and light show at the Cellular Jail, brings to life the brave account of the Indian freedom struggle.

Fisheries (Marine) Museum: As you may not get a chance to swim (snorkel/dive) past all the fish in the Andaman seas, you could visit the marine life museum and gawk at many of the beautiful corals and fish that make the Andaman and Nicobar Islands their home

If you have booked a honeymoon package leave it to your tour guide and he/she will ferry you around.  We did check for the best package and finally settled in for a lucrative package with Andaman Island Travels (P) Ltd. We were able to strike a good deal, going back and forth on our package and managed to squeeze in some freebies, water sports and few other activities added to our package as well.

You could choose the below activities as optional as they are not much of interest once you covered the ones above:

  Corbyn’s Cove Beach - 9 kms from Port Blair – which is bordered with coconut palms and littered with big and small corals
   Fish museum which is on the way to Wandoor beach
-    If your package also includes the Anthropological Museum you could choose to skip this too if anthropology does not interest you. The museum showcases the life of the tribal’s that inhabit the islands, out of a total 572 islands only 36-38 are inhabited
-  Chatham Saw Mill- claims to be one of the oldest and largest saw mills in Asia and is spread across a wide area with huge tree trunks that lies strewn around. It also sports a museum and is worth a quick visit
-  Naval Marine Museum (Samudrika)
- Andaman Water Sports Complex you can miss this too- if water sports is part of your itinerary

Although Port Blair is your main touchdown point for coming into the island and exiting it, do spend more time at Havelock than Port Blair. As Havelock is where you will find a string of resorts that border the Andaman seas and many tourists settle down here. Havelock in particular also boasts of numerous cyber cafes as it hosts many foreigners. If you can spend some more days at the Havelock, you can complete a Scuba diving course at Barefoot Scuba Resort or even enroll for a specialty training course as well.

At Havelock most of the locals and tourist ferry around on two wheelers, you could rent a cycle for INR 100/- for 24 hrs by paying a deposit of INR 500  or else hire a scooty too and enjoy a lazy ride through the winding road and market area. You can grab a coconut milk shake and some fresh fruit juice just besides the busy market that trades fruit and veggies from the days produce. 

Beer is also discounted and every restaurant nook serves fish fry or even a sea food platter. You can also munch on the Andaman fried chicken eatery at Port Blair located just in the market area and thereafter enjoy a secure late night leisure walk.

If you have a shoe string budget you can curtail your air fare by checking for connecting flights, usually flights that have a layover are a bit cheaper. You can save your extra bucks and stay more luxuriously or indulge in some exotic sea food and other beverages. However, you will have to spend a night at the airport. We did have the company of a couple of other honeymooners who also spent their night at the airport with us. 

The languages spoken are Hindi and English and you can move around easily with places easy to locate. The sun sets by around 16:30hrs so make sure you grab a quick bite and turn in early as all restaurants close by 22hrs. 

A recent news report by IANS, mentions that, ‘The group of 572 emerald islands in the Bay of Bengal, out of which only 36 are inhabited, is surely waiting to be discovered’. So you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go downtown, downtown.....way down to the Andaman’s.