Today morning, i went to Belapur in Navi Mumbai. In Mumbai, as some of you would know, there are 3 railway lines; Western, Central & harbour. Belapur falls on the harbour line that takes you through the eastern coast of Mumbai. It's a very enjoyable journey and quite unique. I caught the 10.10 slow local from VT station, now called CST station. In Mumbai, local trains are known by their timings, such as 7.55, 9.43, 11.15, and so on. Anyways, I always like train journeys, not in peak hours, but when I can get a decent place to sit, even if on a seat of 3 we have to accommodate the 4th one.
Traveling on harbour line takes you through a part of Mumbai that you feel existed ages ago. It's like this side of Mumbai has caught itself in a time warp and refuses to come out. It’s a good thing. Besides, you get to see various sides of Mumbai - the rich, the poor, the fisher folks - also the original residents of Mumbai (old Bombay and new Mumbai) - all throughout the harbour line. You hardly get to see such diversity traveling on the other two railway lines.
You start from Mumbai CST and soon land up at Sandhurst Road station - India's only split level station, where platforms 1 & 2 are elevated, while Nos 3 & 4 are at ground level. While the first two cater to the harbour line, the other two cater to the central railway. Harbour line, in its first few minutes of journey, takes you over elevated tracks. Partly bridges and partly elevated on stone-built elevated structures on which its tracks were laid. The line is still interspersed with some surviving stone bridges built during the British times.
For a good amount of distance, you can see signs of a sea-port life; cranes towering above everything else; they are used to transport large shipments from the ships to the dock and vice-versa. I always like this sight; i have many childhood memories of visiting docks as my late father was into fishing, the sights of boats, fishermen and women, and also ships passing by from a good distance. Docks and ports of Mumbai have a rich history.
For miles along the Harbour line, all you get to see on one side are godowns - they look closed and deserted for ages, but are obviously occupied, with scant human activity around, but plenty of chilren and young boys playing cricket on thier large grounds - and large oil storage containers belonging to most of the oil biggies like IBP, Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum (as high as a four-storey building) where oil is first is brought in and stored and later transported across the city. Railway station names, like Cotton Grean, Raey Road, Sewri, remind you of the old Bombay. The picture looks very dusty, industrial; almost like its not Mumbai. If you were to hang it on your wall, it looks like a scene from 1960.
Once upon a time, Harbour line was also more known for the slums that surrounded and almost encroched it, but most of it has now been cleared and hopefully slum-dwellers adequately rehabilatated. After Mankhurd station, your train picks up speed.
This part of the Harbour line (Mankhurd onwards) was built about a decade or two back. To reach Vashi, our train crosses the Vashi creek bridge – one of the longest in this part of the country. From hereon, starts Navi Mumbai. One of the striking features of Navi Mumbai is the architecture of its railway stations. They are very modern, large, and have double-discharge platforms, meaning you can get off from either side and are like buildings with railways platforms at ground level and offices and a commercial complex above.
Within the next 5 minutes, I reach my destination Belapur, part of a planned and well thought-out Navi Mumbai where instead of road names, you have Sectors and Plots, (like Sector 11, Plot 21, etc.), where once you get out of the railway station, you stare at the vast spaces that are parking lots – a rarity in Mumbai especially outside railway stations, where almost all main roads are four-laned with road dividers and good footpaths to walk on, with not-so-very-old buildings of around three to five floors but are now dwarfed by the upcoming mega projects of sky-scrapers on account of the real-estate boom.