Candy Shops for Bibliophiles 3

After the initial post on bibliophilia [here], and book shops in Nagpur [here] and Pune [here] we now come to the third in this series. The city of Mumbai [formerly known as Bombay] . There is too much to write about Mumbai, the way it was, it is and it will be in the future to come. Since it is my current location since about three years, and it is to be so for the coming few years, I have developed a special bond with the city. When I was in Pune, I had come quite a few times to Mumbai, with one of my friends who belonged here. It was during my visits in those years that I came to know about the Old/Used book markets in the city.

The first one which I will describe is in the heart of the Mumbai, The Fort area. Currently there is no Fort in this area, but there was in the early days of Nineteenth Century. The Fort has long gone since then, for making space for civilian and other buildings, and now only the name remains.

There are too many things in the small area which are of interest to me. I cannot maybe describe them all in this blog. Maybe, The Fort, needs a blog entirely for itself. But lets not divulge too much into it, as right now the thing that we are interested in are the Candy Shops for Bibliophiles. The Fort area presents the bibliophiles with a wide opportunity to shop, right from the old/used books to one of the quite old shops in Mumbai the Strand Books.

I recommend that you start from the CST [Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus formerly known as Victoria Terminus or VT] and take on the D N Road [Dadabhai Nowrojee Road]. Start walking from the Western end of the road, the end at which Mc Donalds is present. Almost right up to the Flora Fountain, one finds a sort of subway created by the arches of the buildings of Victorian architecture.
Along these corridors there are a lot of proper book stores. Some notable among them are the Computer Book Shop, Bookzone, Ashish Book Stores.
See the map below. Ashish Book Stores also have a annual exhibition in which you get lot of books at heavily discounted prices. Usually the book fair is at the Sunderbai Hall, near Churchgate.

On the other side of the road is the Sterling Book Stores, which will give you an enormous variety of technical books to get. They have substantial sections on Physics, Mathematics, Philosophy and Psychology. In most of these shops you will get about upto 10-15% discount on the list price.

Along the corridor you may find one or two old book sellers. One at very beginning and one may be in the middle of the passage. They were frequent a few years back. I got my copy of Albert Einstein : Philosopher and Scientist here in these shops. In fact a lot of old booksellers were present till a few years back, most of them now being removed, I guess in the anti-encroachment drive. But the walk through these ‘corridors’ is worth for the books that await you at the end of this walk.

You can drop by to the Khadi Bhavan, which is on the way to do some nice shopping. If you take a left turn at the Khadi Bhavan Chowk, it will lead you to Strand Booksellers. They have good collection of books on all subjects. You won’t find too technical books here, but books for general reading are more than abundant. Every year Strand people have the Strand Book Festival, which is a must visit. The book fair is usually during January end of February beginning, at the Sunderbai Hall, Near Churchgate. Huge discounts are on the offering in this mania of books. So make it a point to visit it!!


Now, if you go straight this will lead you to the American Express Building. Along side the walls of this building are the old book sellers. A few years back they were quite spread out, some of them had shops along the walls of the High Court building also. But now they have been contained in this small pocket here.

The sellers here are quite knowledgable about the books that they keep. They know the books by title and author. Some also make it a point to keep the books according to authors. The books most of the times are neatly classified by geners or subjets. They know almost all books by Arthur C Clarke and Carl Sagan. The more popular a book, more are the chances that you might find them here. But sometimes you get jewels here. I got my Why’s of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner here.

The book sellers also have a library system, which means that after reading the book you can return the book and get some amount back. But who wants to depart with a book, especially if you are a bibliophile? The most common books that you will get here are the novels of all kinds. Bargaining can be done, and you can get books in quite cheap rates, especially if you are a regular.

The best time to visit is a late Sunday afternoon. When you can have all the time to browse through endless piles of books, to find what you are searching for.
One thing that you might miss on a Sunday is that many of the proper book shops mentioned above including Sterling and Strand, and the Khadi Bhandar are closed on Sundays. But the advantage to go on Sunday is a drastic reduction in the crowd that is present on the weekdays. So if you want to visit them all, the best day is a Saturday.


Till last year some sporadic old book shops were also present along the footpaths, of the Old Bombay University Building, the side on the opposite to FabIndia and Globus, near Kala Ghoda end. Here some of the sellers used to sell books for a cheap but fixed price. Some of lots would have Rs. 10/20/30 for a book. Sometimes I have found quite interesting titles here. But recently in a last few months I did not find these stalls. Maybe they were removed from there permanently. I have also found similar shops along walls of the Post and Telegraph Office. But they are not always there. If you are lucky you probably might get them.

While returning to CST do not forget to visit the Fort Book Distributors, opposite the main entrance to CST [Legend 2 in the map]. This is a unique proper book shop which also sells old/used books at quite cheap prices. They also have exhibition and sales of books at different places in Mumbai, so keep an eye out for them in the newspapers. My last visit to their FBD Book Fair was quite fruitful.

So much for the south part of Mumbai. In next post I will cover the Old Book sellers in the so called college district of Mumbai, the Matunga Area.

Till then happy book hunting!!

Update: As per comment of Square Peg below, I have not mentioned the New and Secondhand Book Shop. Yes! It is there from quite some time if I remember correctly since early days of last century and I did not know about it.

Only recently I came to know about it from Arvind Gupta. And I have not mentioned it. I was going to… but procrastination has its own strange ways in which it works…

So here it is :

The New and Second Hand Book Shop:
For this wonderful shop go to the Metro Cinema Square. There is a shop of musical instruments opposite Metro Cinema [well not exactly opposite, but across the street]. So when you keep your back towards Metro and are standing in front of this Music Store, start walking along the road towards right. After a few shops you have a lane going to left of the road. Just at this corner is the New and Second Hand Book shop. But beware the entrance is a bit small. Two times it happened that I went and saw that the shutters were down so just came back. Third time when I went there, I saw somebody coming out of what I thought was a closed shop. So this is where I discovered the entrance to the shop. They are open till 7 in the evening and closed on sundays.
Visiting the shop makes you feel as if you are visiting an old library. The shop has books lined up nicely according to subjects. The shelves have subject labels on them. Browsing through the shelves can, at times, become tedious. The section on social sciences is quite large. You get 30% discount on all the new books. For the old books the prices are mentioned on the cover and on that you get additional 30% discount. Most of the books are more than reasonably priced; they are cheap :). Also don’t forget to visit the second floor also.

So do visit this shop, till then happy book hunting…

[Map coming soon]

Flamingos!!

Flamingos are a genus of migratory birds which come to India in the summer. The classification is as given under [from Wikipedia]:

Kingdom : Animalia
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order: Phoenicopteriformes [Furbringer, 1888]
Family : Phoeniconteridae [Bonaparte, 1831]
Genus : Phoenicopterus [Linnaeus 1758]

There are a total of six species of the flamingos, out of which two the Lesser Flamingo [Phoeniconaias minor] and the Greater Flamingo [Phoenicopterus roseus] come to India. In Mumbai the area near Sewri [शिवडी] mudflats form the Flamingo habitat zone. The mudflats and mangroves here at Sewri accumulate organic richness to draw lots of avians to this region. The Flamingos can be seen here from mid-October to May. The Lesser Flamingos are more abundant than the greater ones with numbers reaching and estimated ten to fifteen thousand. More information about the flamingos can be seen at the Wiki site.
Last year me and Ritesh had visited the Sewri site, but could not get a glimpse of the Flamingos as they were too far away for our eyes and instruments to see. But none the less we saw some sandpipers, ibises, kingfishers and kites et al. But no flamingos!! You can see the images of this trip below.


Bartailed Godwit Limosa lapponica (Linnaeus)

Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos (Linnaeus)
A huge flock of plowers.
So this year we decided to go about it. Ritesh heard that form the Mahul Village boat rides are arranged so that we can get a closer look at the flamingos. Accordingly the plan was made. There was a group of 10 from HBCSE. And others were to join us from BARC. Mr. Krishna was supposed to arrange for the boats at Mahul village.
Anyway we left for Mahul village in autos and an Alto at about 10:45 am. We reached there at about 11:15 am. The auto fare was about Rs. 50. At Mahul village one has to take a turn from the main road to the jetty. Another option to go to Mahul village form HBCSE is to take the Best Bus No. 364 which takes you to Mahul Village and back, via Govandi. The road to the jetty goes through the Mahul village, which is largely a fishing community. On the road to the jetty and at the jetty itself there were posters advertising the Flamingo rides. So we finally reached the jetty and the boat which would take us there was already waiting. In case if any of people with me have not noticed the color of the boat was [Flamingo?] pink, and of course the name of the boat was Flamingo. See the picture below.
The two Koli brothers Shashikant and Chandrakant were the Captians of the boat. They can be contacted on the phone numbers on their visiting card given below to arrange for a ride to watch the Flamingos. They can also arrange for the ride to the Elephanta Island.
The Captain with the cap, Shashikant Koli [शशिकांत कोळी]
The first mate Chandrakant Koli [चंद्रकांत कोळी].
The area of Mahul jetty presents us with a combination of nature and urbanisation at the same time. Along the ground you can see lush green mangroves and just beyond them endless line of factories and other industries, along with power transmission cables form the Tata Power Station. Kudos to the Port authorities who have till date kept the area still habitable to the migratory avians who flock here every year.
We alighted the boat and the journey began, with paddles first then the petrol engine of Yamaha make. Out of the two Chandrakant had quite good knowledge of the bird species in the area, he told us that he had referred to Salim Ali’s book for the same. He could identify all of the bird species that we saw. Though not formally educated in Zoology his knowledge about the same was amazing.
When we went out of the channel from which the Mahul jetty emerges, the tide was still low and we could actually see the mudflats. The water is only about 3-4 feet deep here. We saw our first view of the Flamingos here. Refer to the map below drawn form Wikimapia image, to see how our journey went. In the lower right hand corner the scale of the map is provided. The are in pink denotes the Flamingo habitat zone along the mangroves and mudflats.

As we went by we saw numerous Flamingos who shied away as we went near them. Some of the best shots I took were from this region. The return journey was not that rewarding in terms of the closeness.
So here are the first few shots taken of the flamingos…
A more close up one.
It was a wonderful sight, rows of Flamingos standing on the mudflats, against the backdrop of the South Mumbai skyscrapers. Where else can such a scene be present?






White Ibis Threskiornis aethiopica (Latham).
Along with the Flamingos other waders such as Ibises and Egrets were found to be peacefully having their share of the algae in the mudflats.



Large Egret in flight.

Large Egret Ardea alba (Linnaeus)

Median or Smaller Egret Egretta intermedia (Wagler)

Common Tern Sterna aurantia (J. E. Gray)

Jack Snipe Gallinago minima (Brunnich) [?]

The New Captain of the Boat
The Flamingos in flight are a wonderful sight to see.








Also they make a sort of low humming sound, which is more like a sound of drums beating far away if I can remember it correctly. We had to go through a long route as we had to follow the water channel which was deep enough to take our boat.
During the ride I enquired about the cost of the boat. The cost they said was about Rs. 3 lakhs. The motor engine which was Yamaha made costed around Rs. 2 lakhs and the rest of the boat body which is made of fibre costed around Rs. 1 lakh. So this is an expensive toy to have ;)… So my dreams of having a small boat in the near future are all drowned.
Anyways we were sighting different smaller birds who were busy in finding some food in the mud which was exposed due to the low tide. On our left hand side we could see the Tata Power Plant, which is said to have constructed a bund, where there was none, this is supposedly affecting the ecosystem of the area. Further left, we could see the Elephanta and the Butcher islands. If you make a trip to the Elepahnta islands from here, it will be very easy as they are very near.
The tide was rising and we could feel the force of water rushing in on our little boat. The areas where the water was shallow were especially turbulent. And the waves were a bit high there. So it was decided that we wait in a bit deep water for some time and let the water rise a bit near the shores. When you are anchored in the water and the water is moving around you as in the case of a tide, this illusion as if the boat is also moving comes very strongly. The first time I experienced it was when I was returning to the land from Arnala [अर्नाळा] island fort. And believe me that this illusion can be really strong. We could see some fishes flying form water, and making multiple skips on the water surface before going back in water. Far away we could see a line of pink which got unusually bright at one particular spot. I think there was a great concentration of Flamingos at this spot.
The Great Pink Spot

During this we saw a flock of whistling ducks or teals, which made quite a few acrobatics before landing. But unfortunately we could not hear them whistle.


Large Whistling Teal Dendrocygna bicolor (Vieillot)

One of us wanted to alight at Sewri, so the boat was taken there. Due to rocks under water there was a bit of delay for this, but ultimately it came through. Then we began our journey towards the birds. We could see the ruins of Sewri Fort on the coast, which we missed on the last visit to Sewri. This is the fort to be visited in the near future.

The Sewri Fort with Flamingos at the bottom.
The water had quite risen, even though at the deepest it was just 3-4 feet. The Flamingos were now standing with their feet almost in water. This was the time for them to leave for the dry lands. They would come back here with the low tide.
Meanwhile there were two people with pro-looking cameras who were in a smaller row boat, who went really close to the Flamingos. I wish I was there in that boat. Next time we take that boat instead of this bulky one so that we can get really close to the pink avians we have come to see here. But that is for the next time.
So one by one each flock of Flamingos was going to the dry lands. We went for one of last remaining ones. When they fly in rows they make a scene to watch. Also when they start to fly they take a sort of ‘run-up’ before they get airborne. We could see all this happening in a wave like fashion, as when one of the Flamingos got off the rest of the flock followed.

Just taking the flight



Videos of Flamingos in flight.
These words, photos and videos cannot capture the true beauty and awe of witnessing this thing phenomenon; you have to see it with your own eyes to understand what I mean…
When all were gone we left for the Mahul jetty and then back to the Centre. The return journey was much more easier as the water was now high, hence opening pathways which were not accessible initially. The total cost of the trip went to Rs. 100 per head for the ride, which was totally worth it. So you too find the road to Mahul and meet the pink avians if possible this year.!!!
So till next time ciao…
P.S. Which ones did we see?
Although it was said that we only saw the Lesser Flamingo, after looking at the features of the Greater Flamingo in Salim Ali’s book, we came to a more confusion. The final conclusion was that we saw both the species!!
Here is what Salim Ali’s book says about the identification of two species.
Greater Flamingo
Field Characteristics: A long-necked rosy white stork-like bird, with a heavy pink bill, turned down at an angle from about half its length. Sexes alike. In flight outstretched legs and neck, and the black bordered brilliant scarlet wings are diagnostic.

Lesser Flamingo
Field Characteristics: Upper mandible not overlapping with lower. Bill dark colored with crimson feathers around its base. Plumage darker rose-pink than in the flamingo. Size smaller. Crimson and dark underwings, shorter trailing legs in flight diagnostic.

So what do you say from the images and the sightings that we have?
Me and Ritesh concluded that we saw both!
Correct us if we are wrong…
Ciao
Reference

The Book of Indian Birds
Salim Ali
Oxford, 1996

Vasai and Arnala

The Aim: To Do Vasai [Bassien] and Arnala Forts in one single trip.

The day finally came when the planned trip to Vasai fort had been finalised. This fort was long overdue. Maybe from last 4-5 years. Finally the party was decided. Finally the party was Mr. Jagdale and me. Sumit descended from Pune the night before and the rendezvous point was first decided at Dadar, but then changed to Bandra.

I woke up at 5:15 and woke up Sumit at 5:30 am. The scheduled meet was at 6:30 at Bandra Station. At about 5:50 I left HBC, since I had to get a ticket first, I had to miss two trains, and when I had the ticket, there was no train for next 15 minutes. Anyways reached Bandra at 6:45 via Vadala Road. Sumit wasn’t still there yet. So had to let go three more trains. When the last one was missed I guess we were the only two guys left on the platform. Anyways the next one was at 7:05 Virar fast. So we hopped up on that.

When the salt plains of Bhayendar could be seen we went to the gate. Early in the morning the coolness that you feel is really good. I wish the weather in Mumbai was the same throughout the day.

When we crossed the Bassien or Vasai creek a sense of freedom from the city of came. Anyways got down at Vasai Road at about 8:15. Then we checked into an Udipi hotel, had breakfast of the South Indian type.

We took an auto to Vasai Fort for Rs. 50 which we realised later was a larger payment than required. The drive through Vasai village gives you a feel of the country side. Along the road there was a market in which the locally produced [I guess] veggies were being sold. I had a desire to go and buy some, but considering the long day in front of us, decided against it. At the bus depot we took a left turn towards the fort. The fort became visible as we passed the Vasai police station. A part of the outer wall has been torn down to make the road, from where we currently enter the fort.

The fort has 10 bastions and is totally European in its architecture. The bastions are shaped like arrowheads, as opposed to rounded ones in India. The fort is strategically located to the North of Bassien creek. To the west there is marsh land. To east at present is the Vasai koliwada, to the south is the sea. To the north is the current city of Vasai . Out of the 10 bastions 9 were supposedly named as Cavallerio, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, Reis Magos Santiago, Sam Gonçalo, Madre de Deos, and Sam Sebastião, Sam Sebastião.

Below is a sketch map of the Vasai fort, drawn from the Wikimapia images.

Compare this with the old Portuguese maps, which I found here.



A brief history of fort is available at Wikipedia entry on the same. Also I found this site very informative with some original images of the fort. The Fort was won by Marathas under Chimaji Appa in 1739, with much casualties, before that it was the Portuguese capital of North Konkan. When in its full glory the Vasai fort must have been wonderful. Even the ruins of the fort are magnificent. You get a feeling of being transformed into their era when you are in them.

The auto took us to the fort jetty by a straight road which goes through the fort. The jetty is at the southern end of the fort. From the jetty there is a gate to enter the fort. This is one of the original entrances to the fort, and was known as Porta do Mor. The other gate is on the land side of the fort and appropriately called Porta da Terra [This one we could not see, as we did not know that it existed, when we went to the fort]. There are two baobab trees at the entrance. The baobab trees are native of Africa, were supposedly introduced by the Portuguese in the area. Actually Sunjoy Monga’s book Mumbai Nature Guide lists Vasai fort as one of the sites which harbors the baobab trees in the vicinity of Mumbai, about 6 specimens are listed, out of which we could see 5. We missed a really large one which is at the right to the sea side entrance of the fort. The species that we have here is Adansonia digitata [known as गोरख चिंच [gorakh chinch] locally]. For interesting information see www.baobab.com

One interesting thing to note is that there still is a full wooden door, with all its ornamentation. I doubt it is the original one but it was a pleasant surprise nonetheless. As you enter the fort from this side there is a small temple on the left hand side, which was established by Chimaji Appa, when the fort was won.

The inner gate also has its wooden door intact.

We went up the stairs that are behind the small temple, which is one of the ten bastions of the fort [Though at that time we did not know that is was a bastion]. There were trees growing on the bastion floor!

The windows of the bastion overlook the Bassien creek and give a nice view of the mangroves below and the fishing ships beyond.


Sumit in one of the windows.

On the bastion a vine with yellow flowers was in full bloom. Ritesh the best taxonomer I know was not able to identify it [Id anybody?]. The plant was identified by Samir as Yellow Trumpet Creeper Macfadyena unguis-cati, also called Cat’s Claw. See the comment.
Then we went on to a cathedral. Deja-vu!! Simply because this location has been used in a lot of movies and also videos. Anyways the ceiling of one part of the cathedral is still intact. Though it has lost its lustre it must have been really magnificent.


This was our first major halt in the fort. The cathedral also has spiral staircase, which is very unique in construction. The steps and the axis are carved out in a single stone. See the picture and you will probably understand. Here again the bane of Indian archaeological sites viz. graffiti is abound. Some people are trying to make themselves known to the world at the cost of damaging and ruining our cultural heritage. Yuck!! I don’t know with what mentality people do this, are they trying to claim the place for themselves? Shame on them.

The tower below I guess is the highest point in what remains in the fort. There were parakeets on the overgrown trees on the top. Mr. Jagdale was full of adrenaline and he went along the walls to the otherside of the tower structure where this wonderful ceiling is present. He told that the ceiling part has been reinforced with concrete.

Here a lot of birds were seen, but could not ID[anyway I am not good at it] or take a shot at them. One bird of prey was in the sky above but did not get a good shot at it. [It is at moments like this I miss the telephoto lens 😦 which I do not have].
We walked through dense cover of trees through a path, which took us to the citadel of the fort. The most prominent trees are mango [which was in full bloom], tamarind and dates.
The citadel of the fort has an entrance which is small but very beautiful. There must have been a statue on the door; an empty space is a reminder of that. This is the initial fort of St. Sebastian which was extended into the larger fort.
The Portuguese coat-of-arms on the gate.

Here you can see two non-pillars; see the photo and you will understand.
There were fisher folks in the fort trying to process their webs with some sort of dye. Inside the citadel there is a small pond, which had some herons in it. We went along the wall to the end of it near a bastion. This bastion is circular though. When we went out of the citadel, we came up to the senate house of the fort. Next to the senate house is the lake which is almost at the center of the fort. Along side the lake are two temples, one of Vajreshwari and Nageshwar.
From here we took a right turn, where there were more ruins.


A stone plate with something in roman script [Can anyone translate this?].

From here we went inside towards the unknown, there were people sitting we asked them about more places to visit. They said that one of the old churches has been restored recently and that we should see it. They were the guardians of the mangoes of the fort. We went by the way told by the guardians and landed up at another place, which Wikimapia says is the Old Convent of St. Anthony.

Now this was an awesome place.


Arches are numerous as can be seen from the photos below.


One of the features of this place is the fact that the floor here has many graves. Some of them have coat of arms inscribed on them and some have names and the year of the burial all in roman script.

From the inside of the convent.



Then after this we went to the restored Augustinian Convent. Most of the restoration is of concrete :(.
Some initials which I would like to decipher. The date inscribed is 1626.

But the ceiling is all wood, and I guess has been done as it actually was.


From here on we hit back to the citadel where we came from. After passing the Nageshwar temple we came to the ruins of the Dominican convent. This is another place undergoing restoration. Lots of re-construction going on. This was also a hospital.


Is not the statue missing?
The coat of arms here too…

There was I guess a bell tower also here. From there we get to the main straight road which goes to the fort jetty. And across the road is the statue of the Chimaji Appa who captured the fort in 1739 from the Portuguese.

When the fort did not yield quickly Chimaji Appa said:

किल््ला हाती येत नाही, तर निदान माझे मस््तक तरी तोफेने उडवुन ते किल््लयात जाऊन पडेल असे करा.
Meaning: fort is not yet conquered, then put my head on the canon and at least make sure it lands inside the fort.
The geography of the Vasai fort is such that it allows attack option from the North only. On two sides the sea shore is there. And there are marsh lands on the other sides so blasting the walls with mines was not easy. But ultimately mines were laid and the Marathas got the entry through the Sebastian Bastion. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the Maratha side, about 12,000 as compared to about 800 on the Portuguese side. The Portuguese lost most of their generals and officers and the surrender was done by a Captain. The victory was described by Chimaji Appa thus:
या मागे युद््धे बहुत प््रापत झाली, परंतु मराठी फौजेस यासारखे युद््ध पडले नाही. सीमासीमाच केली. त््याचा िवस््तार िलहता विस््तार आहे. या जागा फत््ते होणे देवाची दया आहे.
Meaning [As I have understood, If you have understood it differently please let me know]: Before this Marathas have won many battles, but none like this one. This cannot be captured in words and this victory is beyond description. Conquest of this place is a grace of God.
The survivors were given a safe passage out of the fort and 8 days to take away movable properties. The fort and the buildings were ransacked and the bells in the churches were taken as mementos of victory. Two of the bells were installed at temples in Nashik and Sudhagad. You can see the pictures of the two here.
We went to the Sebastian bastion which lies to the backside of the Chimaji Appa statue. There again a magnificent baobab specimen is present.
The Sebastian bastion, from where Marathas gained entry.

The view of the bastions from the ground level, as they would have appeared to the attackers.

There is a small entrance here, which leads you out in the marshlands ahead. I took some shots of the bastions as they are seen from the ground level.
This was the end of our journey, we took an auto back to Vasai road station.
But this is one place I would surely like to visit in the Monsoons.
Now the journey continues to the next destination the Island fort of Arnala, but that will be another blog…