My Alibag Photo Walk

My Alibag Photo Walk

‘Onward ho to Alibag,’ said Dr Anurag Mishra to the Mashaal Team.

And I joined the Mashaal Team at Alibag. One goes to Bhaucha Dhakka (Ferry Wharf) and takes RoRo to Mandwa. From there a car to Alibag.

I reached early, at 6.30 in the morning in the hope that I can click a dozen beautiful photographs. I found a large open space behind the gate. Curiosity took me there.

The early morning sun, a red vessel and blue sky is like a cocktail for a viewer.

Then I saw an old, dilapidated building. Must have been the loading bay sometime ago I thought. The ground in front of it was clean and with coloured tiles.

The sea, sun and ship kept attracting me. Capturing such beauty does not require an accomplished photographer.

I moved back and the experimentation-bug bit me. Why not take a photograph in BW? I tried when a motorcyclist entered the scene.

Alibag was calling us. We were going there to run a workshop for healthcare providers.

(Me at Alibag Beach, 1980)

I have visited Alibag several times. But that was in mid seventies and early eighties. Believe it or not, I used to go there for work. On rare occasions job and pleasure coincide. Fond memories.

Next day I went out for a walk. Why Alibag is called Alibag? That was the question on my mind. Well, it was actually ‘Eli’s baug.’

The name comes from a rich Bene Israeli person named Ali/Eli (migrating Jews had landed in Konkan centuries ago), who dug many wells and gardens in the area. He had several mango and coconut plantations in his gardens. The locals called it “Alichi Bagh” which with time became Alibag.

The road looked beautiful, washed by early morning rains. But suddenly it started raining. I rushed inside the hotel.

There was a pond in the hotel’s garden. The downpour had become a drizzle. The petals of Gulmohor added colour.

I hit the road walking again. Calm and quiet, it was.

Oh, Cassia fistula! Stunningly beautiful tree. The Botanist in me woke up. (Now it can be told – Botany was the only subject I studied with interest in our cruel education system. With trees all around in my childhood, my memories have got etched on trees. I have written a series of blog posts titled ‘Memories on Trees.’

Gulmohor and Cassia blossom at the same time. Whosoever planted them on the two sides of the road had a great eye for beauty.

And suddenly a big banyan tree confronted me. Later, I was to meet many of his brethren. Alibag is full of banyan trees. But many of them have been pruned. Cruel people. But this tree was allowed its space? Why, I wondered.

And I found the answer. It is growing in the garden of an Art Gallery! Only an artist will appreciate the growth of a tree and respect it. And yes, a Botanist like me too (why exclude them?). Huge prop roots. They support the big canopy of the Banyan tree. I remembered the banyan tree in Howrah which is more than four hundred years old.

And I moved forward to find this bridge, obviously abandoned. Old, though abandoned, yet beautiful. (Now that is a bit autobiographical, having celebrated my 73rd birthday just a few days earlier!).

People had thrown a heap of rubbish at its base. I took a picture avoiding it and yet capturing the beauty of the bridge. And I feared the oncoming vehicles because they would have sprayed water from the poodle on the road on me.

But life compensates for its imperfection. What say you?

And I met this beautiful banyan tree. It stood tall and lonely by the roadside. I stood there. Trees, unlike people, talk to me. I remembered what Nikos Kazantzakis expressed so poetically: “I said to the almond tree, ‘Friend, speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.” A Gulmohor surely read my thoughts.

And it was time to return to the Hotel. I had gone there to conduct a workshop. But early in the morning, on the next day, I was out again. Instead of turning right on the main street, like I did earlier day, I turned right.

And the prop roots of banyan tree asked me to stop. They looked huddled together in the fear of man! There was not much on this side of the road. I switched on music.

That is the fish market. You cannot take a picture if the ladies in Macchi-maar community are selling fish. If you try, it will be an unforgettable experience. I turned back to go to my hotel.

Two persons had just butchered a lamb and they were skinning it. In the adjacent ‘Chicken shop’ the owner was having his morning cup of tea. But the rooster was repeatedly crowing. ‘Cock-a-doodle-do!’ Innocent soul, I thought. He did not know what was in store for him.

A man was approaching on his motorbike. With six or eight bags hung on the side in the front. I got curious.

And he was carrying a big load, covered under yellow plastic sheets, on the rear part of the motorbike. Risky thing to do, particularly in the monsoon with wet roads.

If men do not value their own lives, will they value trees and animals?

(All work including photographs copyrighted)