Strolling along a side street in Juhu (I should explain, I'm spending the term teaching in Chennai but this was on my mid-term break in Mumbai), I chanced upon a step well or baoli.
And there sunning themselves, or swimming in the pea green water, were ... turtles. Dozens of them! I have always had a soft spot for these creatures, and it's so rare to see them in the wild in quite this profusion. ...
This is Brahma Kund on Gandhigram Road, a minute away from the world famous Iskcon 'Hare Krishna' temple and close by where many Bollywood stars live (I was on my way to visit one such star, I'll have you know, when I spotted the turtles). The step well seems once to have had a religious function, but no longer.
Locals are concerned that the stagnant water is a breeding place for mosquitos. But I guess people must be feeding the turtles, as I can't see there's enough food in this tiny pond to support them otherwise - so they do have some Juhu allies. Long live turtle power!
Lots of beaches have seagulls or wading birds - Juhu beach just has crows (oh, and a few pigeons, and one or two wheeling "cheels", the scavenger kites). Juhu is marvellous, full of life and energy, just like the city that it adorns, Mumbai. But my, bits of it are really filthy.
I took myself off to Mumbai at the weekend for a mid-term break and stayed at a small hotel which wasn't so much fronting the beach as embedded in it. I love getting my feet wet but in Juhu you need to keep a sharp eye out for what you are stepping on.
What surprised me most was the amount of devotional objects - Hindu deities, eathernware pots for pujas, garlands of flowers - that were brought in on the tide.
Someone suggested to me that these were leftovers from Durga Puja, a Hindu festival (celebrated particularly in Bengal) in which devotional objects are ritually immersed. But that's back in October. Some of these items were plastic and could have been around a while, but the pots and flowers looked fairly fresh.
So how did all this stuff end up littering Mumbai's (otherwise) most magical beach?
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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