Located adjacent to Powai Lake, the sprawling Powai Garden epitomises the diversity of Indian life. In the hour or so we spent there, we came across a myriad of people, some there for pleasure, others for basic needs like water and shade. Unlike the other gardens we visited, Powai Garden truly felt like a gateway to a simpler time when Mumbai could boast of more trees than people, when the air smelt crisp and damp and when we were able to hit pause on our chaotic lives to appreciate the world around us.
Resembling a jungle more than a garden, visitors here are first greeted by a large water display, a teaser for the massive lake that lies five minutes away. Despite the copious number of water bottles and empty chips packets in the fountain, some resilient fish still found a way to survive, treating the offending articles more like a reef than trash.
As we walked further, there was a noticeable lack of flowers – a result of people plucking them, according to an official from the Hydraulics Department. In that sense, Powai Garden is similar to other Indian parks, scattered with signs urging basic etiquette like ‘No spitting’ and ‘No littering.’
As one approaches the lake, there is a walkway covered by a canopy of trees. Alongside, men lay on multiple benches, lost in the clutches of sleep. Right before we approach the lone view of the lake from the garden, we cross a dominating gazebo where families gather to take pictures, and more men and dogs are seen fast asleep.
The viewpoint to the lake is, not surprisingly, the most crowded part of the garden. Viewing it from a height, to our left, there was a commanding dam-like structure that served as sort of a waterfall feature, albeit one in which the water merely trickles down. On the right is a cluster of colourful boats, relics of a bygone era when services like boat rides were the norm. There are better views of the lake from the so-called selfie spots that dot its perimeter but, as we soon learnt, the park’s appeal ran far deeper than its proximity to a water body.
Further ahead are the inner corners of the park, beyond inhospitable pathways and a thick veil of shrubbery. As we explored these areas, we proved to be an unwelcome surprise to couples looking for privacy and a group of red-eyed youths, covered in a thick haze of smoke. There is also a vast playground with see-saws and meandering slides.
A group of rambunctious boys were engaged in an enthralling game of cricket ahead, puncturing the peaceful hum of the park with their screams and protests. In a nod to 21st century metrosexuality, another bunch of youngsters blared music from their portable speakers and danced to a choreographed version of Katy Perry’s California Gurls.
Further still, we came across people using the park to meet basic needs. There was a group of men bathing and washing their clothes under a powerful faucet while others vigorously fanned themselves under the shade of trees. There were women posing for what we assumed to be wedding photographs. And, most interesting of them all, three boys were lowering a fishing net into one of the many streams that run through the park, hoping to bag a meal for the night, while a man clad in all-white approached visitors and tried to talk them into buying a Hare Krishna booklet.
All in all, Powai Garden is well worth a visit – if not for the fleeting views of the lake, then for the tranquility that permeates the space.
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