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Beach culture, Mumbai-style

By Staff writer, Staff photographer / April 15, 2010

Mumbai's Chowpatty Beach, in a sheltered cove on India’s western coast, is a popular spot for families, couples, and teens, particularly in the evenings.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

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Mumbai, India

A boy and a girl build a sand castle on Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai (Bombay). It’s a Mogul fort, with low winding walls and domed towers, not a European rectangle with a moat and turrets at the four corners.

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Life may be a beach, but beaches aren’t all the same. Here, there are Muslim women in black niqab, other women in jeans, children selling coconuts and roasted corn; other kids run down to the water and back up to parents seated on laid-out newspapers.

No one swims, few know how. Instead, hands hike up saris, salwars, and trousers as toes take a dip.

Some watch the human-powered Ferris wheel. A teenage boy climbs the lattices on one side of the wheel, then hurls himself through the air, catching the horizontal bar of a carriage. He holds on one-handed, letting his weight pull the wheel downward, faster and faster, then he swings off the wheel just quick enough, just far enough, to avoid getting spun under.

Extended families meet. “We all stay in different parts of Bombay,” says Sandeep Samant, pointing to his kin. Most of the time, he says, they are too busy to meet. A recent holiday meant that “we can come together and make a short trip to Chowpatty.”

Vikas Tendulkar recalls coming here as a kid. His favorite pastime at Chowpatty, then as now, remains “Enjoying life as it is.”

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