A couple of years ago, as one was discussing possible getaways for mid-day’s travel section, with a colleague, it came as a shock that she, a Mumbaiite, wasn’t aware of the existence of the Matheran hill railway. One went into fourth gear, to explain every little nugget of information that could be shared about this iconic attraction. She was utterly fascinated at the end of the session that such a historic engineering marvel existed this close to our city.
Soon enough, it dawned that this wasn’t a one-off case. Do a snap poll with folks around you — and you’ll be amazed as you stumble upon revelation after another. For one, few would have visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Elephanta Caves or trekked at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park or spotted flamingos paint a pink carpet on Sewri’s mudflats.
Each are stunning experiences, of immense historic and environmental importance, and yet, not high on many citizens’ must-visit lists.
As another summer vacation is upon us, parents seem busy planning on big-budget (and big dollar) getaways across the seven seas, including Disneyland, Universal Studios, ski escapes, parasailing, the works. Get the picture, right? But how many choose to take their kids for a dekko of the treasures in and around Mumbai?
Instead, come every holiday, and families whisk their kids to foreign lands, where guided tours will harp on its rare, exotic and unique treasures. End result: they end up learning more of other lands and its people than about what is in their own backyard. Little wonder then that most kids will choose an international destination as their favourite than an Indian counterpart, let alone citing a city landmark.
It’s a trend that is taking over our itineraries, and sadly, our mindsets too. We miss the obvious, the good and the special that’s around us. The ignorance of that colleague over the existence of Matheran’s delightful toy train railway stemmed from this same attitude where we fail to acknowledge and celebrate our very own. It rarely surfaces in discussions or chats, unless of course, you spot in on Facebook or read about it on a friend’s Twitter account (who would have imagined these two arms of social media would play educator some day!).
So, what could be the solution to this step sisterly treatment? For one, don’t hesitate to explore the Maximum City — its grand, glorious heritage, its green cover, flora and fauna (yes, we are possibly the only metropolitan city to boast of a national park within its borders) and natural attractions. Two, once you’ve taken that step, spread the word, go all out and share your experiences.
It’s a whole new world waiting to be experienced. Once hooked, you will never look at Mumbai and Maharashtra even, with the same lens. Take our word.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day