Manori beach is so bare during early noon, that the only company you will have is half a dozen stray dogs, a lone gola walla, and two fallen palm trees. A walk up a small crag gives you a view of the sea, so compelling, that your mind is as silent as a ripple on water.
I decided to go to Manori beach via the Manori ferry off Marve Beach at Malad. Marve beach was a bustling little stretch of sand populated with fishing boats, fisherwomen with their baskets of fish, and the odd couple perched on motorbikes.
Walk further and you might catch military personnel undertaking exercises in fatigues. This time they were building what looked like a rudimentary bridge: four inflatable rafts were spread out on the shallows, and droves of soldiers lugged tongues of metal across the rafts, fitting them together slowly, patiently. It was quite a sight.
The ferry starts at about 7 in the morning and plies every fifteen minutes. It costs a pittance to Manori: Rs. 5.
When the ferry arrived at the launch point, I was surprised to find motorcycles on deck. One biker deftly manoeuvered his bike across a wet patch of sand before bucking on a mound of sand, nearly losing control. Recovering, he managed to make it past the launch point into safety. Slowly the passengers filed out and the new ones got in, along with a few other bikers. The ferry shuddered slightly with each bike, not very reassuring for someone like me, who can’t swim.
But there is nothing as hypnotic as a ferry about to start. The motor hums, soft splashes are heard, and you feel the engine’s pulse on the soles of your feet. I stopped caring about the shudders after the first few minutes.
The Buddhist Pagoda near Essel World gleamed against the horizon, the sun was shattered into several glittering shards on the rippling water, which was a sleek, semi precious green. As the ferry’s propellers cut through the ripples, little flowers of silt rose and dissipated, muddying the surface. The ferry finally started, and I settled back for a long, drowsy ride. At first there was no sense of direction, the ferry seemed to circle, giving us a panoramic view of Manori Island, the Mumbai cityscape and the horizon. Then it bore at a steady course toward the launch point at the Manori island side. It was over in five minutes.
There is a near perfect silence at Manori. Soft hymns and prayers are heard from a temple nearby. It is as though the city’s sounds are unveiled to reveal a beautiful, almost indifferent quietude.
Auto-rickshaws are ready and waiting, and I head toward Manori beach, expecting scores of vacationers splashing noisily. But this is a weekday. There is nobody there, except for a few necking couples.
The beach is a thin stretch of bleached white sand cresting a tranquil sea. Black rocks form natural inlets perfect for swimming. The sea-shore has no plastic bags, no sickening globs of oil, no birds dead from polluted water. There are shells all over instead.
And little crab holes, almost circular, from which radiate wet streaks. Tiny balls of sand cluster around the hole, resemble pollen and heighten the effect. Wait patiently and a tiny crab will emerge, and flit very quickly past the surface.
It seems the crab eats the sand and excretes the ‘pollen’, the sole golawalla at the beach was kind enough to tell me.
You walk past and encounter two fallen palm trees. Chameleons skittle past as you crush fragrant-leaved bushes underfoot. Soon you climb enough to reach a small cliff jutting out to sea, and the view from there is sublime. A sheer drop of about 300 feet to a small expanse of black rocks that give way to grey ocean with no sign of any ships or fishing boats.
You can stay here if you like. There are hotels all over Manori, and one at the shore of the beach that has a club, rooms for the night, and absurdly, even a swimming pool.
I can only imagine how quiet it will be at night, I had to get back to work. Perhaps you can find out for yourself, and experience a silence as audible as sound.
This weekly column explores the city’s low-cost pleasures