Fans of the 1977 movie classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind would remember the strangely menacing mountain that for much of the movie is the centre of much alien curiosity. Yes I’m talking about the Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, USA . Devil’s Tower, from what I can understand from Wikipedia, is a 1267 feet (386 m) Monolith (or more technically an igneous intrusion); which in plain people speak is a giant column of sedimentary rock sprouting out from the earth. It is a hardened magma plug from an extinct and long eroded volcano. Definitely a place I would love to visit.
[Devil's Tower : A picture Henk & Anna on Flickr]
I don’t know how many of you Mumbaiwasis [people of Mumbai] know this but our very homely suburb of Andheri is home to a baby cousin of the Devil‘s Tower - Gilbert Hill.
[I would have tried to get you a better picture but many sides of the hill were simply inaccessible]
Gilbert Hill is a 200 foot (90 m) (the height of a 10 storey building) monolith column of black basalt rock in Andheri, Maharashtra, India. The rock has a sheer vertical face and was created when molten lava was squeezed out of the earth's clefts during the Mesozoic Era about 65 million years ago. During that era, molten lava had spread around most of the Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, covering an area of 50,000 km². The volcanic eruptions were also responsible for the destruction of plant and animal life during that era.
Gilbert Hill was interestingly much bigger but sadly urbanisation and constant quarrying has eaten away at the edifice of this monolith. The hill has incidentally been declared a National Geological Monument. The hill is home to two temples and is accessible via a steep staircase.
The hill is closed to the public between 12 noon and 4 p.m. I for one, did not know this so I hung around the base of the hill talking to some kids, who live in a slum nearby. Children provide a great outlook of a community- you can tell a lot about where society is going by talking to the children growing up in the society in question. These kids were sharp, inquisitive and very witty. Talking to them was quiet enthusing
[The children were fun to talk to and we had a long conversation mostly on Bollywood and their love for a computer game called Need For Speed. Their favourite actors were Salman Khan and Sunil Dutt. They explicitly mentioned that they don't like Shahrukh Khan.]
[The temple priest on Gilbert Hill]
[She was smilling a minute ago but now is more pensive]
The hill was a quiet reflection of Mumbai, an oasis of green on a 90 metre high plateau of solid rock, surrounded by the man-made sprawls of concrete. The temple priest sat in his chair, the peaceful environ summoned him into a deep sleep. In front of him lay compartmentalized the prasaad.-a prasaad of coconut water, tiny cut coconut and sugary delight. The low flying Brahmani kites adjusted their flight paths as they shrieked past just above head just as a gentle sea breeze blew in the opposite direction. It was as if I had left the city that enveloped me on all four sides; it was just me, the temple priest, the cheery school girl, a few lazing crows and many fearless kites. It was a pleasant 20 minutes of casual thought watching the city around me.
[Gilbert is not the only monolith I've visited. Here is Sigriya Rock in Sri Lanka. If you wish you could read about it here]