An evening at Juhu Beach.
Welcome to Juhu Beach after sundown. Imagine a thousand kids screaming, mothers calling to them, madaris making the monkeys dance to the sound of the damru, the sound of the colorful cheap rides which keep going round and round, all against the gentle sound of the waves whispering beautiful stories from another land. And all these sounds against bright balloons – red and white heart shaped balloons, balloons fashioned into monkeys with pebbles inside and stuck on thin wooden sticks so that they rattle when shaken, apple shaped two-colored balloons; pink cotton candy, white fluorescent lights of the shops near the entrance, and lights. So many lights. Lights on tiny plastic fans which whirr away into the sky from the hands of a vendor and are watched in unhidden fascination by kids gazing skywards. Colorful watches which flash colors so fast they make you dizzy. Plastic hand held fans with lights on their wings which deceive your eyes into forming persisting patterns. Transparent gel filled testtube like sticks which change colors as the vendor expertly moves them in circles to make you see a neon rainbow. A tiny hut on the quieter part of the beach playing old goan music. People standing and watching dancing silhouttes in the big sea-front hotels. The polaroid man clicking pictures for Rs 40. And the colorful neon booths where a robot – which is actually a tape recorder, but is passed off as a computer – tells you your future in Hindi for Rs 5. Police keeping an eye on the couples sitting on the sand. Game vendors encouraging you to play a game and land the ring on a bottle of ThumbsUp, airgun shooting booths decorated with red and yellow balloons, beggars asking you to be kind for the sake of God, channa chor garam vendors who offer delicious channa chor garam with a dash of lime, the mehendi girls sporting stencils and smiles and offering to put mehendi. And there are soap bubbles all around. The air smells of the sea, the vision looks like a dream.
Juhu Beach pretty much symbolises Mumbai as do the local trains. It is the Saturday evening destination for thousands of Mumbaiites. You might spot Bollywood directors like Rakesh Roshan, or even John Abraham and Bipasha Basu walking on the quieter side of the beach towards Ruia Park. But most people come from cramped homes in Mumbai, maybe the tiny houses you see along the railway tracks with blue walls and stark white tubelights. An evening at Juhu beach is beautiful for lovers, quiet for the older ones, fascinating for the kids – and it is free.