Remember that feeling of undiluted joy when the grown-ups announced a day at the beach?
Juhu may seem like an unlikely place for undiluted joy now, but it’s not hard to do once you get into the spirit of things.
First, you have to take yourself back to your pre-Sunday-brunch days. Forget all your rules about what constitutes ‘fun’ — immaculate floors, piped music and bite-sized portions of unpronounceable food.
Think back to when you were six or seven. When all you needed for a day of solid fun was a bucket, a spade and a sunny day.
Chances are you no longer own a bucket and spade. Don’t fret. You can grab a set — along with anything else you may need (snacks, iced cola, candyfloss) from the crowded chowpatty. Then head out for your one-day vacation.
As you walk away from the squealing funfair that is the Juhu chowpatty, the crowds will start to thin and the din fade away. Find a shady, secluded spot — yes, this is still possible to do, if you walk far enough either to the north or the south — and roll out your picnic blanket. Now take out your book and prepare to unwind.
They say a spa is a great place to relax after a hectic week. Well, consider this your own, cash-free spa treatment. As the ozone in the air clears your lungs, the sound of the waves rolling in to the shore will lull you like no chocolate massage could.
You can hear children shrieking happily in the distance, but only barely.
There’s no traffic. No phones. Absolutely nothing you need to do, except perhaps take another sip of the drink by your side.
Before you, the ocean glitters as late morning turns to afternoon.
Soon, you will find that even the act of reading has become too much of an effort. You’re now in the lazy zone — and you’ll be glad you brought the bucket and spade. As you start to push at the sand, the bright pink boat with neon sail (the sets available at the beach for Rs 60 include bucket, spade, trowel, shovel and plastic boat) is likely to attract the attention of a wide-eyed child running past with bright pink syrup from her gola smeared across the lower half of her face. But she has her hands full — gola clutched in one, colourful paper windmill whirling and rustling in the other — and soon passes on.
Nearby, a flute-seller lazily plays a tune, and an elderly woman walks past briskly in a white cotton kurta and scuffed tennis shoes.
As you build your sandcastle, or mudpies or fort with gutkha-wrapper flag — to the sound of your favourite tunes on your iPod — you’ll find that your mini-vacation is going pretty well.
If you don’t fancy getting your hands — and clothes and picnic blanket — all soggy and sandy, you can stroll up to the soap bubble man and buy one of the little bottles (Rs 20) arranged in the shape of a heart on his rickety wooden stand.
As evening sets in, the crowds will begin to spread to your free beachside spa. By now, you’re out of snacks and the flute-seller’s five-note tune is grating on the nerves. As a brother and sister begin to whine over who should get the last of their juice, you realise it’s perhaps time to call it a day. On your way out, you pass those timeless Juhu toy stalls — one selling balloons in the shape of monkeys (Rs 15), the other, cardboard swords and drums covered in gold and silver chart paper (Rs 15 to Rs 25).
Nearby, families on their own mini-vacations emerge from the ocean wrapped in towels or usher their children onto the baby giant wheel.
As you step off the sand and onto Juhu Tara Road, you’ll find your spa vacation abruptly cut short by snarling traffic, honking horns and noisy vendors.
Welcome back to Mumbai.