Netaji Subhash Chandra Marg, better known as Marine Drive, is Mumbai’s seaside prom, an eight-lane highway with a wide pavement built in the 1920s on reclaimed land. The whole 3km stretch – still often referred to by Mumbaikars as the “Queen’s Necklace” after the row of lights that illuminates its spectacular curve at night – is a favourite place for a stroll; the promenade next to the sea has uninterrupted views virtually the whole way along, while the peeling, mildewed Art Deco apartment blocks on the land side remain some of the most desirable addresses in the city.
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Situated at the top of Marine Drive, Chowpatty Beach is a Mumbai institution. On evenings and weekends, Mumbaikars gather here in large numbers – not to swim (the sea is foul) but to wander, sit on the sand, munch kulfi and bhel puri, get their ears cleaned and gaze across the bay while the kids ride a pony or a rusty Ferris wheel. Once a year, in September, the Ganesh Chathurthi festival draws gigantic crowds as idols, both huge and small, of the elephant-headed god Ganesh are immersed in the sea against the iconic backdrop of skyscrapers. The beach is also the venue for the city’s annual Ram Lila festival (mid-Oct) when the story of Rama’s battle with the evil demon Ravana is performed over ten consecutive nights on a specially erected stage, culminating in the burning of a colossal Ravana effigy.
At the back of the beach, a bronze bust recalls the bravery of Tukaram Omble, the policeman who lost his life capturing terrorist Ajmal Kasab during the 2008 attacks. Omble held on to the gunman’s AK47 long enough for his colleagues to overpower the attacker, but was shot several times in the process and later died of his injuries.