Last weekend, firmly ignoring my guilt pangs, I walked out of the office, proceeded to the Apollo pier, and joined a friend in his fast motor-boat that took us skimming across the harbour to Mandwa jetty.
It was a lovely day and a pretty boat. The sea rolled in gentle waves, seagulls in their webbed-feet standing on the ater's surface, large tankers riding at anchor, an occasional dolphin bumping into the side of the boat, two strategically placed lighthouses, the Gateway, the Taj and the stock-exchange building gently receding into the background, and the hills of Uran, Dharamter and Elephant growing bigger and more solid every moment.
The boat had a three-member crew, though I though one would have been more than adequate. But then if you can afford to have a boat, youcan afford to have two extra men. There was a white bench on the top deck, where you could sit under a continuous salf-water spray, and a canopied lower deck, like on Cleopatra's barge.
Tied to the rear of the boat was a little row-boat, to convey the passengers into and out of shallow-water beachheads and ports. If bounced along behind us like a baby elephant in high spirits.
Our target, as I mentioned three paragraphs earlier, was Mandwa jetty, and we moved towards it in a stragint line. Not of the tagging bad pegging and riding with the winds and the currents that is required in sailboats and that I have experienced much to my impatience much to may impatience. Mandwa was a tall tower on a small hill, constructed, I believe by Hiro Shroff, one of the city's leading gentleman sailors. The toweris to guide ships into Mandwa and that was out guideline, though I am sure the crew could have done the crossing blindfolded.
Some of the Bombay Sailing Association's boats (the early seabirds) were already in the Mandwa harbour when we arrived. They must have sailed out at the crack of dawn, launched on favorable currents and winds. The motor of our motorboat was detached, then reattached to the paddle-boat that had come dancing behind us across the harbour, and we chugged to the dilapidated jetty with its fragmented and mossed steps.
I did not stay in Mandwa. I drove along the coast, half way down to Alibagh, and stayed in a modern farmhouse with doors opening on lawns and daylight streaming in through green skylights in the roof.
In the farm, a dozen parrots sat on a branch like green plastic birds, and geese cackled, and hens laid eggs, and chipmunkhs scurried across the lawns in search of chestnuts. There were also hundreds of different trees and plants and ivys climbing on walls, but only Khushwant Singh would be able to indentify them.
And Bombayseemed like a destant island in the sea. Which, as a matter of fact, it was.