Cabbages and kings

In the evening we walked around the Gateway of India. When I walk here, I sometimes think of the enormous expense of that last hurrah of the British empire, the Delhi Durbar of 1911, in which George V and his consort Mary proclaimed their claim as the emperor of India. The ceremony was held in Delhi, but the king visited Mumbai. The whole seafront was realigned, and the gateway was built to commemorate that visit. Less than half a century later, the last British troops in India left for a voyage home from this point. I got a nice light on the harbour, along with the shadow of the Taj Mahal hotel on the gateway. The rise of Indian traders was the shadow that grew to engulf and expel the empire. Mumbai was the epicenter of that struggle. a fact that is written in its geography, if only one looks. I’m glad I caught those two pigeons right above the gate.

“That’s not what you think about all day,” I’m sure The Family will remind me. No, of course, not. I also take the time to look at tiny moths which I can’t identify. Like this beauty, a little over a centimeter long, hanging from the ceiling. The end of the abdomen seems to end in coremata, a organ involved in excreting male pheromones. They are common across many lepidoptera species, and not of much help in identification. The shape of the snout and the way it holds its antennae back along its abdomen could mean that it belongs to the family Crambidae. Whatever it is, it does look good.

Gray days

The fag end of the monsoon is always depressing. Just when you have seen a day or two of bright sunshine and colour to remind you of what the world could be, the endless dreary rain sets in again. This year is no different. It has been a depressing gray since the weekend. Without social contact it is even worse. On Sunday I could not stand it any more, and the Family and I put on our rain coats and masks and went out to the Gateway of India in the evening. An espresso carry out, a stroll by the sea, and the sight of other people, although distanced and masked, revived our spirits for a while.

I felt cheerful enough to take photos of the depressing weather. The Gateway looked forlorn and beaten down by the rain. Usually it is cleaned by a work crew long before Diwali; I hope that happens this year. Far in the distance I could see the usual semi-industrial wasteland of the docks below the hills, the feet of the Western Ghats dipping into the sea. I guess the time when these toes of the Sahayadris are chopped off have just been postponed by the economic depression brought on by the epidemic. One can see a silver lining in everything when one feels upbeat.

Sailing in the Harbour

In a normal year, by this time the season for sailing in Mumbai would be over. Although the warming oceans mean that the monsoon is unlikely to go back to its “normal” arrival time, tropical storms are brewing in the Bay of Bengal, and there is unsettled weather in the southern part of the Arabian Sea already. It felt nice to look back at old photos of a sail in Mumbai Harbour.

I’m not a sailor but I don’t turn down invitations for a quick sail around the three lighthouses. This was a lightning class sloop. I’m happy to sit close to the water, receiving instructions from the skipper to tighten a rope or duck my head as the boom swings around, feeling the little spray hit my face. The Family likes to take a position at the back where she can keep an eye on the boom and the sky. Her brother is our usual skipper, an experienced sailor in several waters.

It wasn’t a crowded day. Once we got clear of the main lanes leading from the Gateway to the the jetties on the main land, we passed a few moored boats, a few other lightning class boats out for a sail, and one deep sea fishing boat with a crew of five, strangely busy hauling nets at the edge of the harbour. Perhaps not so strange, on second thought. The name Apollo Bandar is supposed to be a corruption of the old Koli name, Palva Bandar, for the fish that was plentiful in the harbour as recently as five generations ago.

The sky was clear, flecked with wisps of clouds. The day was warm, but a nice steady breeze kept the sails half filled, and drove small waves on the sea. The sail was smooth, no need to tack constantly, or fiddle with the ropes. The boom swung around once as we rounded the yellow and red Prong’s lighthouse and headed back for a beer on the long verandah of the Yacht Club.