Living in Bombay has always been a privilege for Indians, South Bombay more so. But a detached house in South Bombay, right along the coast, is truly, as Shakespeare put it, a “consummation devoutly to be wished”.
Imagine then, a Walkeshwar estate that consists of a large colonial master residence, wrap-around verandahs, a lawn overlooking the ocean from a secluded promontory, three guest houses, a private beach that looks onto the skyline, and 50 acres of wild wooded estate with peacocks, monkeys and a few cobras too. Add a swimming pool, tennis courts and a helipad and you have a bit of the picture.
Staff? No problem. There are three service blocks for the regular servants, separate bungalows for executives and an on site doctor with his own cottage. Entertainment? The lawns can hold a thousand individuals, but for something more intimate, the colonial-style manor can host a sit-down dinner for over 100 people. And all of this is surrounded by flora and fauna reminiscent of the tropical Bombay of a century ago.
That is what makes the Maharashtra Governor’s residence, Raj Bhavan, Mumbai’s greatest home.
When you drive into the estate, you’re struck by the utter quiet that suddenly overcomes you. You hear only the sounds of your footsteps, the crashing of waves on the rocks and perhaps peacocks and other birds squawking away. Your eye takes in the vistas; everything around is low rise, with tiled roofs, in contrast to the concrete tsunami just outside.
If you’ve come into the estate from Walkeshwar then the mile-long approach through thick tropical jungle with glimpses of the sea and the Bombay skyline beyond Backbay are just magical.
The location was always special. In the 1800s, when British families lived in the fort, Malabar point was the place to go for an evening carriage ride and to see the sunset. As Bombay expanded, the British moved the governor’s residence from Parel to the current complex at Walkeshwar in 1883. And there it still is. So all you millionaires and billionaires with your 50,000 square feet apartments, gated homes, bespoke apartment buildings and blingety-bling interiors, eat your heart out. This is the home all of Mumbai envies.
Jehangir Sorabjee loves taking unusual shots of Mumbai. He shares his shots of Raj Bhavan, one sprawling estate that turns every Mumbaikar into a green-eyed monster.
From HT Brunch, July 15
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