When you’re caught up in daily drudgery, you tend not to notice the everyday world around you. Having lived in Thane all my life, I know that the city has several lakes, of which at least four are open to the public. On my way home from the railway station, I pass by at least two of these lakes practically every day.
When I set out to do this piece, I realise I haven’t really looked at them in a long, long time. And it’s not until I get down and make it a point to stop and stare that I realise what I’ve been missing all this while.
No matter where you live in Thane city, you are less than 15 minutes away from a lake. Two of the most popular are Masunda Lake, which is about a kilometre away from the railway station; and Upwan lake, located further north, away from the noise and bustle of the city.
Getting off at Thane station, I decide to visit Masunda lake first. Popularly known as ‘Talao pali’, it is the largest and the most prominent lake in Thane city. During Diwali and at New Year’s, residents decorate its parapets with oil lamps, making it the prettiest sight in the city.
It is also an ideal spot for family entertainment — the Balaji of Thane’s lakes, if you will. The mela-like atmosphere draws you in quickly and pretty soon you have forgotten that you are in the middle of a city. You will find women in colourful sarees and flashy jewellery, men wearing a relaxed familial air, children powdered up and dressed in frills or crisply ironed shirts.
The parapet overflows with groups of students, office goers and grandparents who meet here to gossip over some chana and peanuts.
There are food stalls catering to every taste bud, ranging from Chinese to chaat, salads to ice creams, as well as the homespun jhunka-bhakar. There are toy stalls, vendors of balloons, flowerpots and kitschy electric fountains radiating vibrant colours. And to top it all, there are ostentatiously fancy buggies to take with mummy-papa, uncle-aunty, dada-dadi and kids round the lake.
But first I want to take a boat-ride on the lake. Following a childhood routine, I look for the ice cream shop, the point at which I have to take a right turn for the boats. The man at the counter smiles and asks, “How do you know about the ice cream shop? It opens only during festivals these days.” Disappointed, I settle for bhel instead— before I head for the boats.
When I register for a boat I am flatly denied permission to take a paddleboat on my own — for safety reasons, I’m told. Instead, I’m clubbed with a family of four, which includes two toddlers. The boat heads for the middle of the lake, where a 20-foot-high statue of Hanuman rises colourfully out of the waters. “Jai, jai Bappa!” go the kids and it is all very sweet. But after half an hour of this, I decide I want some quiet and head for another lake.
The Masunda lake and Upwan lake couldn’t be further apart though they are geographically separated by a couple of kilometres. Situated in the Pokhran area of the city, Upwan lake is where you head when you want to introspect or relax. More popularly known as the Pokhran lake, it is hidden away from the rest of the city, set in a beautiful location which is flanked by the Yeoor hills (which are part of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park). The lake is visited by several species of birds. In the monsoon, the lake overflows into a tiny artificial dam which forms a pond in which children can frolic.
Due to its proximity to the National Park, the lake is cleaner and greener, the air is fresher and the roads are near-empty for most of the week. Shy lovers take up the shaded parts of the benches that line it, while the rest sit under the warm glow of the street lamps.The lake’s compound has a small shrine, where you might see families.
For those who have lived in Thane city for several years, the lakes are like people you have grown up with, are attached to but don’t catch up with too often. But given how we get entangled in our daily affairs and that the lakes are such a common sight, we oftentimes forget that they are still there. Going back now, I realise that they continue to be an integral part of my life and that I haven’t fully forgotten their value or beauty.
This weekly column explores the city’s varied low-cost pleasures.