Alibaug With A Backyard!

Photo of Alibaug With A Backyard! by Harshit Rakheja

In the mood for some ringside entertainment, the passengers on-board the ferry from Mumbai to Mandwa would lob bits of Kurkure for their winged escorts. The seagulls would swoop down and grab them mid-air leaving kids and adults alike, wide eyed, their amazement compelling them to continue the exercise. For those riding the ferry for the first time, the entire experience endures for its novelty. A steady wind in the ascendant and the sound of the sea's currents breaking against the hull of the boat, even as the ship's frolicking side to side motion leaves one unbalanced and yet, yearning for the experience to last for long.

Photo of Gateway Of India, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India by Harshit Rakheja

In the air-conditioned lobby on-board the ferry, some wear a stern look on their face, bothered by the eyes peeking from the outside. Others were just wary of their lingering sea-sickness while still others were biding time on their phones. Most though, were leaning against the railing, letting their hair loose, the wind kissing their face and eyes fixated on the rhythmic and cyclical movement of the waves.

The sun shone brightly and there was minimal haze. Half an hour into the ride, the shore's outline became visible. Thereon, the ferry navigated past oil rigs while the seagulls gave up their routine of tailing the ferry. We alighted at Mandwa and rode the bus to Alibaug. While the ride progressed, hamlets made way for commercial establishments serving tourists. The transition caused some unease though for there were mud-brick houses with thatched roofs and barely 50 metres beyond lay a swanky restaurant with a go-karting circuit right behind it. For the uninitiated, a ticket for both the ferry and the bus from Mandwa to Alibaug can be bought from the Gateway of India at a consolidated price of Rs 130.

Alibaug announces itself with alacrity, boastful of the good that can come from being a popular tourist destination barely an hour from Mumbai. Restaurants abound, exploiting the absence of popular fast-food joints from the mainland. There's always a steady stream of vehicles which amps up the noise. However, once one starts making way from the city-centre of sorts to the Nagaon beach, the place peels away its urbane exterior. The habitation becomes sparse, network connectivity gets erratic, roads - rickety and pockmarked - taper and are flanked by holiday homes on either side, indication enough that one has arrived where they had set out for, away from all that consumes them Monday to Friday.

We had cashed in on the deals floated on Airbnb and booked ourselves the Fanta-sea villa for Rs 6000 per night, the wordplay hinting at the beach's closeness from the place. Indeed, the Nagaon beach was a 15-minute walk away with farm villas on either side shaded by a cooling canopy of coconut trees.

Photo of Alibaug, Maharashtra, India by Harshit Rakheja

After checking in at our villa by around 3 in the afternoon, a couple of hours were wiled away as we waited for the heat to subside and for the beach to come to life and so it did as the evening wore on. Boys and men, baring their torsos, arms outstretched and ready for flight, would run for the horizon, the dipping sun seemingly in their grasp until the waves would crash over their flailing bodies. They'd regain their balance and try again whilst someone rode the jet-ski and someone else tried their hand at parasailing.

Photo of Alibaug With A Backyard! by Harshit Rakheja

It was the night of the new moon. The wind had ceased to rustle the leaves and the darkness brought with it, a calming stillness while the starry night sky enraptured most. Many farm-houses lay vacant. The few that were occupied had music on full blast, the sound escaping the confines of the four walls, into the dizzying maze of alleys where it rose like a distant hum, finding those who were out for a walk.

Photo of Alibaug With A Backyard! by Harshit Rakheja

Alibaug leaves one with lasting visuals of city folks sprawled on hammocks. Their farmhouse with its walls painted a gay yellow invites you in, only to be reprimanded for trespassing. The ingenuity of the enterprising folks at Airbnb has ensured that students travelling on a shoestring budget can pool their money and book a place which makes them rue the lack of space in their hostels or PG accommodations. It's a million-dollar idea but it hurts when the visitor packs up and returns to Mumbai's concrete reality, while the heart stays back in that Alibaug villa with a front and backyard!