A walk in Almeida Park by Rekha Karmakar

My mom is continuing with her resolve of typing in posts on her tablet. In case you thought parks were just a place for children or lovers to hang around, think again...KK

When I went to Mumbai to visit my son K and his wife, on 'Ides of March', my main concern was to find out a place for my walk. K suggested that I could walk in the compound of the building or alternatively in the nearby Almeida Park, which is at a stone's throw from his house.

A few days later, I went to look for the park taking direction from their cook - cum - maid. I went inside the park and found that it was quite crowded.

Outside the park, there were provisions for horse rides as well as horse drawn carriages. It seemed like a fair with merry-go-rounds, attracting  hoards of children.

I went inside the park and found that there were about seven or eight small parks within the main park, complete with seats and greenery. There was a cemented track around the small parks for the walkers and the joggers.
I sat down on a boundary wall but  felt that the boundaries of the small gardens were very dusty and marked with the droppings of the birds. I came back hurriedly promising never to go back again as it was in sharp contrast with the park in Sushant Lok, Gurgaon where I used to go before coming to Mumbai.

The first impression is said to be the last impression but it was not so in this case.  I made another attempt to visit the park after a few days and felt that it was not so bad after all.

Soon it became the most important source of my joy in Mumbai and I started visiting it both morning and evening. I also discovered that the park was quite well maintained. The plants were watered every morning and the garden swept regularly. There were many rare plants and most of the plants had beautiful flowers. Big, juicy ' jamuns' turned the park roads purple.

The park is named after Prof. Raphael D'Almeida, Ex-mayor Municipal Councillor, who dedicated his life for the upliftment of the people of Bandra, along with his wife.  There are two busts of Almeida and his wife in the park, made of black stone,  where fresh flowers from the garden are offered every morning.

The main attraction of the park, for me, were its regular visitors. Most of the walkers  were senior citizens. First, they would take their walk around the park on the walking track and then settle down on the benches or boundary walls to talk and unwind. Many of them walked with great difficulty but that did not deter them from coming to the park regularly. They enthused me to get on with my life ignoring my frailties.

Some of us became great friends. We talked about every thing on earth starting from religion, old age, politics, world news to scandals. I even skipped my Carter Road sea beach walks quite often. My love for the sea is supposed to reach the level of craziness otherwise. That was the pull of the park.

I celebrated our Bengali new year in the park in a very innovative way this year (2014). Putting on a new saree that K n K had gifted me, I went to the gathering of the ladies and wished them 'Happy Bengali New Year' and gave chocolates to every one that K n K had given me to distribute among my friends. They thanked me and wished me the same.

People from every walk come there, starting from Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis to Sikhs and Sindhis. At first they were a bit hesitant to make friend with a sari clad woman like me but soon the ice broke. We became great friends and I learnt a lot about different communities and religions. Most of them spoke very good English, including even the octogenarians.

Previously I used to go to the park only in the evenings. Later I also started going in the mornings. Every day two baskets of neem  and tulsi leaves were kept for the walkers to have ! Gradually I also came to know exactly when the banana-wallah would pass by outside the park so that I could buy ' belchi' bananas for K.  Sometimes I would also buy bananas for the guard of the park who was very sweet and courteous. Quite often, I would stop by the ' narial pani wallah' to quench my thirst with coconut water after my morning walk.

I do miss my Mumbai park friends. They were almost in tears when they heard that I was leaving.

This post is a tribute to all my park friends. I know that they would never read it as quite a few of them do not have access to internet. But I our friendship was selfless and without any motive.

Thank you all for the lovely time you gave me. May you all walk and be in good health.

Amen!

Rekha Karmakar
Kolkata

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