Reading a novel is quite a private affair. A good story sucks you in, cuts you from the world. Until you gulp down the very last word, you’re locked in completely. However, reading a novel is not just about thousands of words and spectacular plots. It’s much more than that, it is an experience. One, which the reader remembers and even cherishes for a very long time.
A memorable reading experience comprises a number of factors, and one of them is a good ambiance. For instance, I will never be able to enjoy reading a novel, no matter how good it is, in a canteen or a restaurant. It just doesn’t work for me. Thankfully, I have stayed in Mumbai for the most part of my life, and this magnificent city has a number of places where reading a novel can be a great experience.
If you too are a bibliophile in Mumbai, looking for some great places to read a novel, here are five places you must definitely visit:
Dadar Parsee Colony
The Dadar Parsee Colony is one of the most exquisite localities in Mumbai, famous for its old-world charm and lush green parks and gardens. It is one of the very few areas in the city, where you will find more trees than buildings, though I’m not sure for how long this could be.
Take your favourite snacks, and walk into any of the gardens. You will find comfortable benches and shades of giant trees welcoming you wholeheartedly. More than the physical pleasantness, there’s an intangible warmth in the surroundings, that will make you an addict of the place before you even realize it. You will definitely want to visit the area whenever you can.
The gardens are at a walkable distance from Wadala, Dadar, and Matunga railway stations. There are a couple of BEST bus stops too, so transport is not an issue. I remember reading The Idiot, and Gorky Park in one of the gardens. Trust me, reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky sitting on a comfortable bench in a cool park, with birds chirping and squirrels roaming freely, is an experience you definitely wouldn’t want to miss.
The Museum Café
Yes, I’ve said above that I can’t read a novel in a canteen or a restaurant. But the Museum Café is different, it’s unique. It is like nothing else I have been to, and I have been to a lot of them! It is located just behind Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, within the vicinity of the Byculla Zoo.
The Museum Café is one of the least explored places to hang out, and this makes it the perfect place for readers. Moreover, the décor of the café is quite pretty, with artistic works of the wall, and charming wooden furniture. The café is the ideal place to read something entertaining, like Case No. 56 (Chandrashekar Nagawaram), or The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).
The café doesn’t boast a big menu, though, and you will have to settle down for cold or hot coffee, or tea and biscuits. But that shouldn’t be a problem, as the ambiance makes up for it enough. Sit inside and enjoy that grippy tale, and take a walk in the veranda outside once in a while. And if you feel hungry, the iconic Persian Darbar is only a few meters away. The café is just five minutes from the Byculla railway station, and there’s also a BEST bus stop at the entrance of the Byculla Zoo.
The Asiatic Library is a sacred place for researchers and bibliophiles in Mumbai. Located in the Fort area, Mumbai 01, the library is a great place to read a novel, and not just inside! The stairway of the library is equally occupied. One can often find students and enthusiasts engrossed in the printed pieces of literature, totally carefree of the buzzing traffic and waves of employees flocking the streets day in and day out.
Sitting outside the library, on the stairway is what I prefer, and it has been a unique experience. Reach the place around 4.30-5 pm and sit there till late in the night. You’ll find whatever you’re reading more interesting. If you want, you’re on a readathon, enter the library early in the morning, and end up on the stairway in the night. Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger will be a good choice for this.
However, take a water bottle or two with you, if you don’t want to walk a few minutes to the shops, that is. There’s a calmness in the place, though it is one of the busiest corporate and government hubs in the city. Walking to the library from the CSTM railway station will take a good 10-15 minutes, but the walk isn’t much tiring.
Castella de Aguada (Bandra Fort)
Bandra Fort is one of the popular places in the city for young guns to hang out, especially students. However, Castella de Aguada is also a great place to read a novel, especially early in the morning or a couple of hours before the sunset.
You can either sit on the steps of the old fort, or in the park behind it. I recommend something like The Godfather, as the Mumbai seashore and gangster stories make the perfect combination. Remember Bhiku Mhatre’s iconic celebratory monologue from Satya after Bhau wins the election? It was shot at the Bandra Fort. Not to mention several crime thrillers from the 60s, 70s, and the 80s.
And if you’re short on time, George Orwell’s Animal Farm can be an interesting read at the Bandra seashore. Dip into the mesmerizing worlds of Puzo and Orwell, while wave after wave crashes on the rocks. Take an auto or board a bus from the Bandra railway station to reach Castella de Aguada, where you will find a number of food stalls for snacks, tea, and coffee.
The Dadar Beach, behind the famous Shivaji Park, is one of the least visited beaches of Mumbai. This also makes it one of the least polluted ones. However, for readers looking for solitude, nothing’s better than the Dadar Beach. Especially during the winters, when humidity is in check.
And I am not talking about the Ganpati Visarjan area. Move a couple of signals towards Mahim, and take the left for Pandurang Naik Marg. At the end of the road, you will find a beautiful view of the Arabian Sea, and a pathway built on the seawaters, where you can sit and relax. Either there, or just near the entrance, you will find enough space to run through the pages of a novel.
Since there’s less distraction in the place, you can take up something more serious and exhausting, like Orwell’s magnum opus, 1984, or something more philosophical like Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece, The Alchemist. Reaching the spot, though, is a task. It is over 15 minutes walking from the Dadar railway station. Preferably, you can take a cab from the station or board a bus and get down at Shivaji Park.
JN Petit Library
Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.