Elephanta Island is such a perfect place for setting a Hindi movie. Picture this. Hero and heroine are in love, but heroine’s father opposes the match. They run away and jump on a ferry to Elephanta Island, believing that nobody will think of searching for them there. After a couple of songs (on the boat, in the hills, near the caves) and with the support of the local population, they decide to get married, in the presence of Lord Shiva. But an unscrupulous boatman (who has seen the heroine’s ‘Missing’ ad in the papers) notifies the father, who lands up with a bunch of goons. Fight scene ensues (on the steps to the caves, near the caves, on top of Cannon Hill). Finally heroine’s father has a change of heart on seeing sculptures of Shiva-Parvati wedding scenes and gives his permission for the match.
We set off for Elephanta one cloudy morning, the rain no more than a whisper away. We climbed up on the deck to watch the Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel drift away from us, as the middle-aged Gujarati couple beside us took pictures in various poses -smiling, pointing, hands wide apart; I was just happy they did not pull a Titanic. After some time and some violent tossing of the launch in the choppy sea, the poses changed, with the aunty bent over the railing venting her breakfast into the sea and her husband trying to pretend she didn’t exist.
We saw this a few hundred metres off the coast. We first thought it was an abandoned island, but on closer inspection it turned out to be an abandoned ship. Google could not help us with identifying it; if any of you guys know the story behind the ship, do share. Not all the ships we saw were in such distress; there were many majestic ships belonging to the Indian Navy and some foreign ones too. The breeze was cool and refreshing and the boat rocked like a hammock on a hilltop- my friend promptly went to sleep and stayed asleep till we got to Elephanta.
As for me, I was wide awake. I find watching the sea very relaxing. It is the perfect time to ponder on the deep philosophical questions of life, such as how to eat all the chocolate I want without getting fat, or how to get my boss to donate his official foreign tours to me. I hadn’t even gotten beyond the first step of my thesis (defining the problem) when the green island loomed before us. Before long, we were leaping off the boat and beginning our wonderful journey- by buying a bunch of tickets. A ticket to board the toy train, a ticket to enter Gharapuri (which is the name of the village), a ticket to enter the caves. After obtaining a PhD in buying tickets, we were ready for our actual destination, the caves.