Did you, like many parents in the city, heave a huge sigh of relief when schools reopened on Thursday after the forced leave in the wake of the swine flu threat? And are you, like other parents, wondering how to keep the children entertained during the weekend?
Keeping children indoors can be trying. How long can one innovate games and activities to keep the restless souls fruitfully occupied? How long can one watch Cartoon Network and children’s films?
Taking them to crowded places like cinemas and malls is not an option because of that lurking fear — what if someone who sneezed three feet away from you has the deadly virus?
We will lead you into a secret city get away, something that your children are not likely to have experienced before. Chances are that they will want an encore.
We suggest you take your little ones to Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon east. Once there, head for the Chhota Kashmir lake. Choose between a two, four or a six-seater boat depending on the size of your family.
You could take a boat ride for 30 minutes for a fee of Rs. 20 per person or if you wish you could extend it for an additional charge.
The boats are not the most comfortable and they can do with a bit of greasing but are value for money. There are 20 paddle boats to choose from and there is one motor boat too but who would like to disturb the calm with a noisy motor boat?
A staff member of the boating club gives you a helping hand to get into the boat and then you are on your own.
After a few back paddles to reverse the stationary boat, you can explore the gleaming expanse of the lake spread over approximately four acres.
Paddling across the placid lake lined with rain trees with huge canopies is a great way to relax in a city that often saps you of all energy. All around is the lush cover of the verdant Aarey Milk Colony.
The sproadic high-rise buildings seen beyond the green cover are too distant to blemish the scenic views with their dreary concrete. Floating across the serene water provides a sense of solitude and peace.
You are not rushed by the vehicles trying to get ahead of you in the chaotic traffic or by people jostling past you. You can paddle at your own leisurely pace and enjoy the scenery without being pushed about. At the far end of the lake, a brace of ducks float gently, oblivious to the many eyes admiring their poise. Get any closer and they will scurry away — beauty is just to behold, they seem to convey.
Sit still and you can here the calls of different birds from the tree tops around. Follow the sounds and you may be rewarded with the sight of a parrot, a cuckoo or a sunbird.
The five lakes that supply water to Mumbai are often in the news but few know of this beautiful lake, the only one that offers a boating facility to citizens. Boating at the Vihar lake has now been discontinued.
The serenity at the Chhota Kashmir lake is difficult to believe unless you have been a part of it. As Jyotsana Raja, who is a regular here with her three-year-old, says, “Being here is relaxing and much better than roaming around in a mall.”
This weekly column explores the city’s low-cost pleasures.