Save Aarey: Nature's best leisure spots captured

As the campaign to save this space gains momentum, photographer Sameer Markande captures nature’s best leisure spots. Maleeva Rebello talks to those who spend time there

Picnic Spot
An open space with many trees and a lot of shade, Picnic Spot has been an ideal place for schools in suburban Mumbai to bring their primary class students. Children can play various games under the shade of some of the most beautiful and exotic trees in the city.

Vasai resident Naman Choudhary, 39 and his family were at Picnic Spot to enjoy a Sunday morning in the lap of nature. The artist says, “I love nature and have inculcated that same love in my children. Every Sunday we explore a new part of the city. My daughter is 10 and my son is 8, so their studies currently are not as demanding. They learn a lot from nature which are the real, vital lessons for life.”

The best place to play  cricket is under the shade of trees at Aarey’s Picnic Spot
The best place to play  cricket is under the shade of trees at Aarey’s Picnic Spot. Pics/Sameer Markande

Anil Lal, 24, aspiring actor was at Picnic Spot with his friends. The Kandivali resident says, “Every time I come to Picnic Spot, I get transported back to the days when I was growing up and would come here on school picnics. My friends and I would get our bats, ball and stumps to play cricket.

Chhota Kashmir and its serene beauty draw many to sit under the shade of the trees and meditate
Chhota Kashmir and its serene beauty draw many to sit under the shade of the trees and meditate

We would spend the whole day playing and would never want to go back once the picnic was over. Even now, this open space has a charm of its own that draws us to drive down here to play the game. The shade provided by the trees and space is a great place to unwind and have some fun.”

The beautiful Yeoor Hills look like a landscape wonder in the distance from Chhota Kashmir
The beautiful Yeoor Hills look like a landscape wonder in the distance from Chhota Kashmir

Chhota Kashmir
Named after the iconic northern part of India, this garden is open on all the days of the week from 11 am to 6 pm. With an entry fee of R 10, many young people and senior citizens come here to spend time with friends. Keshav Bhargava, 70, from Vikhroli and his friends come to the gardens every Sunday for a picnic.

Children play to their heart’s content
Children play to their heart’s content

The retired post master says, “I have an Innova which transports us from home to here. We pack our tiffins and spend time sitting on the lush green grass here. Most of us are between the ages of 55 and 75, so Sunday is picnic day every week. We just have to start the car and drive here to sit in the green gardens admiring the beautiful flower and breathing in the fresh air.

The pedal boats are all about coosome twosome and whew-somes
The pedal boats are all about coosome twosome and whew-somes

There are many families, young people and other seniors who come here. We play Antakshari, Dumb Charades, Passing the parcel among other games as we spend 11 am to 6 pm in the garden here.”

For 19-year-old Sanjana Pande, Byculla resident says, “I heard of this area as there is a lot of news on social media and in the newspapers urging people to ‘Save Aarey’ because of the Metro car shed that is coming up.

I had never been here before today and so I was quite curious to see what Aarey is all about. My friends suggested that we come here for an outing. I can’t believe a place greener than Hanging Gardens is actually here in Goregaon, within Mumbai’s borders. I am in love with this place.”

OP Garden
This garden which is opposite Chhota Kashmir has a lake where boating is allowed at R 20 per person for 30 minutes. There are two, four and six-seater pedal boats. This draws many people who are keen to have a cardio workout and some fun in the waters, pedaling. There is also a garden with slides and swings where children can play.

Wayne Fernandes, 35, a banker who was at the garden feeding ducks with his 4-year-old daughter says, “I live at Jogeshwari and drive here often with my daughter. The lake is my favourite boating spot in the city. My wife and I would come here often for dates. My daughter also enjoys the boat rides.

The slides and swings are a fun place for her to mingle with other kids and enjoy herself.” Royal Palms resident, Pamod Tixiera, 50, works out at OP Garden, every day. The businessman says, “I love sitting in the garden and doing yoga after my 45 minute jog.

A few years ago, I had an angioplasty done and my doctor suggested that I exercise daily to stay healthy. Since that time I have been coming here regularly and I am much healthier. More than the jogs and runs, it is the calm and peace here that has made me mentally healthy in addition to physically fit.”

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