Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Real Zuleikha

The photo that you see above is of Zuleikha, the small cat that lives at WSD. Zuleikha is as adorable as she looks, will run up to people, very inquisitive and mischievous.

Some days ago Zuleikha climbed onto the rain shade parapet of the WSD kennels building and climbed onto a tall Nilgiri (Eucalyptus) tree. Why the fascinations for a climb up the tree? Well she spotted a crow’s nest on top. Luckily for her and the crows, the nest was empty (they had just started building it). So what does Madam Zuleikha do? She goes and perches herself in it. The crows of course were not very amused by this at all and started to peck her. So poor Zuleikha gets spooked and runs off onto the roof of the kennel and disappears into the slum next door.

Getting the wind of this, our ward boys go out and search for her in the slums. They ask people around and after much searching, see her, pick her up and get her back. So a happy ending to Zuleikha’s little adventure. Well was it? At night, they notice that the cat they had brought back is not Zuleikha but a cat with similar markings. They then go back and search high and low for her but can’t find her. They leave word around and come back dejected.

Next morning when they go back, they are directed to a tailor’s home and they see the real Zuleikha happily drinking milk, off a saucer. Zuleikha was actually from the nearby slum so one wonders if the ‘other’ Zuleikha was her sibling. So that’s a happy ending to Madam Zuleikha’s nest adventure.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Eating Out at Chowpatty

Had written a piece on Chowpatty before and wanted to include all the places that you could eat at in this area. I have eaten at all of them other than the new ones – Fine Dine and Nukkad. I do have my favorites and you will know which ones they are by the tone of writing. So, here is the list of eating places at Chowpatty. Bon Apetit!

Crystal: An institution by itself, it is very popular with the Wilson college hostelites, students and everyone who loves simple homely Punjabi food and doesn’t mind a no frills place. Many people would not know that Crystal started as a bhel/sev-puri place in the fifties and graduated to serving meals in the seventies. If you are a regular at Crystal, the blue uniformed, polite but harried waiters who have been around for a long time will recognize you. A vegetarian restaurant that serves Palak Paneer, Paneer Masala, Baingan Bharta (it’s really good), Alu Gobi, Alu Methi, Alu Jeera, Dal Fry and Makhani to be eaten with rotis, parathas and rice. They also serve a Thali. Try their kheer (rice) and Amras (in season) after the meal. All dishes are reasonably priced between Rs 20 to Rs 40. Do notice the old Hindi songs (Hemant Kumar/Mukesh/Gita Dutt) that you would hear in the background from a singular tape that the restaurant must have cherished for years.

Kulfi Centre: Located at the corner a little ahead from Crystal, this kulfi place does brisk business. It has a range of kulfis from Chickoo, Sitaphal, and Badam Pista to the plain Malai. Prices range from Rs14 to Rs 35 per 100 grams. There is also a Punjabi Kulfi Centre next to it but no one seems to be ever buying from here.

Café Ideal: This Irani vegetarian café with a beach view opens at 6:00 am for breakfast and closes at 1:00 am. More people come here for the beer than the food. They serve Indian, Chinese and Continental food. Try the mushroom/paneer chilli, sautéed mushrooms & chilli cheese toast for starters, the garlic cheese naan and the mushroom kadai. Avoid the continental food. They have a jukebox with a choice of old Hindi songs. Ghazals and limited English numbers.

New Yorker: Walk a little ahead of Café Ideal, if you want to have Indianised Italian, Continental & Mexican cuisine (Nachos, Enchiladas, Tortillas, Fajitas and Burritos), this is the place to be seen eating in. They also have cola floats, ice creams, sundaes and milk shakes. It is always teeming with people on the weekends so you will have to wait really long, to get a place.

Cream Centre: Located next to New Yorker, this old restaurant was renovated recently and has got a white look and a plasma TV. It is famous for its Chole Bhature and all the other stuff that New Yorker serves. Check out the paan wala at the entrance/exit who also keeps all kinds of ‘churan’ including the popular jeera golis.

Café Coffee Day: There are two Coffee Day’s in this area. One between the Sukhs Sagars and the other opposite Chowpatty, on the sea face. It is always full with college students smoking hookahs, gulping down coffees or just chillin’. This is one of the few cafes where you can sit out in the open. Try the Chocochino, which is a shot of Espresso with chocolate ice cream or the Vegan shake. Avoid the foodstuff and carry your own water as they don’t give you water for free.

Stalls on the beach: It would be blasphemy if you come to Chowpatty and not eat at the stalls but avoid eating here if you can’t digest street food. There are four kinds of stalls.. The Chaat stalls wherein the Sharmas and the Guptas will serve you Bhel, Sev Puri, Ragda Pattice, Pani Puri, Pav Bhaji and Dahi Batata Puri. The Kulfi stalls which will serve you Punjabi and Malai Kulfi with the usual and unique flavors like ‘2000 Millennium’. The Gola stalls which is a new addition (they weren’t there when we were kids) with different colored bottles with gola syrups lined up, each color meaning a different flavor. So butterscotch was Surf blue, Kacchi Kairi was bottle green, Blue Berry was purple. They also serve ‘Milkmaid golas’ Last are the Paan stalls which would be popular with pan eaters.

Anando: This Masala Milk place located on the beach is many people’s favorite. They serve many varieties of the milk such as Masala, Special Masala, Sitafal, Licchi, Khajur, Chocolate, Kesar, Mango, Fr. Strawberry and Thandai. They also serve Ice creams and Candy Floss.

Bachelors: Here, you would be tucking in hand made ice-creams and juices though a mild earthquake, sitting on a bench on the narrow pavement, a meter away from the railway line or sitting in a car almost blocking the busy Marine drive traffic. Bachelors has developed its own fan following and is open till late. They would also serve you exotic juices at equally exotic rates. Popular for its Strawberry/Mango with cream (in season) and some people love their unique ‘chilli’ ice cream.

Thackers: One of the oldest places in Mumbai for the Gujarati thali. The thali here is not as it used to be. Thackers is not very crowded so you are bound to get a place. The thali has chapattis, rice, dal, kadhi, farsan and two ‘shaks’ for Rs 80. It used to be reasonably priced till lately but the thali is simple and good for people who get bogged down with the huge variety offered in other Gujarati thali places in the city.

Sukh Sagars: There are four Sukh Sagar restaurants in this area, named after the building on the corner at the junction. The first Sukh Sagar to come up was the juice center and then the owner went on adding more. Listing them in order if you walk from Chowpatty to Sukh Sagar junction…. The first, a little ahead of Kulfi center has an air-conditioned section on top. This has a typical Udipi menu with Dosas, Pav Bhaji, Indian and Chinese dishes and Juices, Milk Shakes and Ice Creams. The second, Suk (yes it’s spelled that way) Sagar Snacks is famous for its Pav Bhaji. It also serves Idli, Pizza and Fried Rice. The third, Sukh Sagar Juice Centre has Juices (Rs 42- 75), Milk Shakes, Falooda Kulfi, Matka Kulfi, Ice Creams and Exotic Desserts. You can have these sitting on plastic chairs placed in two rows opposite each other. They also have Cadbury’s chocolate milkshake. The last of the Sukh Sagars is adjacent to the juice place in the building and you wont even know about it, as it doesn’t have a signboard. It serves more or less the same items as the first Sukh Sagar.

Kobe Sizzlers: This restaurant is only second to Touché (now closed down) at Breach Candy to have introduced the concept of Sizzlers to Mumbai in the late seventies and is still going strong. Go here if you want to be in a sizzling, smoky restaurant and eat food, which sizzles because of the butter that is put on a heated iron plate. They now have more vegetarian Sizzlers than before with prices starting at Rs 230. It is located on the Hughes road-side of the Sukh Sagar building.

Karma: Located in the place, which used to house the Bombay Cycle Mart, this restaurant has the most beautiful ambience in the Chowpatty area. It is dimly lit with candles on each table and the palms add a leafy ambience. It also has some lounge sofa style seating and one section with low seating on mattresses. Happy hours are on from 6 to 8:30 pm. They serve Soups, Salads, Risottos, Pizzas, Pasta, Tikkas and Desserts. They also have a Lebanese and Oriental selection.

New York: A place that serves alcohol and Bambaiya Chinese at reasonable rates. The non-a/c section is a long wide corridor with neatly arranged square tables with pink and white-checkered table covers. It has a touch screen Q Jam jukebox like the ones in Café Coffee Day with a good song-list but it keeps screeching in between songs. Women might feel uncomfortable, as you wouldn’t find to many here. Located at the Hughes Road junction diagonally opposite the Mercedes Benz show room.

Bharat Dairy and Juice Center: It now operates from an under construction building opposite the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. It is famous for its hand-made ice creams (roasted almond/sitafal are favorites), toasted sandwiches and Fresh Cream (seasonal fruits with fresh cream) It also serves Pizzas, South Indian snacks, Bhel and Sev Puri, Juices, Milk Shakes and Kulfi. Is always crowded on weekends and is one of the last eating-places to shut down in the Chowpatty area.

Govinda: Affiliated to ISKCON, this restaurant serves Soups, Starters, Punjabi and Chinese dishes. Its Juhu counterpart is famous for the vegetarian Thali whose items are cooked in pure ghee. The restaurant claims that it doesn’t serve the Thali here for want of space. Govinda is located in the lane, which leads to Soam and the Babulnath temple, opposite Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Soam: Located diagonally opposite the Babulath temple is this Swati Snacks clone. They serve in small brass thalis lined with ‘patravali’ (dried leaves joined together with twig pieces). Soam serves snacks like Sev Puri, Batata Wada (they call it Khapoli BW), Dosas, Pav Bhaji and also typical Gujarati items like Handavo-Chutney, Kand Na Chilla & Masala Poodla. They also have ‘shaks’ like Turiya Paatra, Kanda Batata Sambhariya and Methi Pithla. Try the Paanki and Fada Ni khichdi. In desserts, they serve Moong Dal Sheera, MohanThal and Shrikhand. I recommend the baby Kesar Jalebi that is crisp and just right.

Just launched

Nukkad: This newly opened restaurant is located a little ahead of Anokhi in the Metro Motor lane. It serves Delhi style food and hence its menu has sections, which read. Straight from Chandani Chowk, Karol Baug Se, Parathe Wali Galli Se and so on. So you will get Fruit, Chana, Papdi Pakodi Mix, Tava Aloo, and Samosa Chaats. (Rs 39-69) All different kinds of Pakoras like Aloo, Gobi, Onion, Palak, Mirchi, Paneer and funnily French Toast is mentioned in this section. All kinds of Parathas, Punjabi dishes, Tandoori items, Rotis, Naans, and Indian desserts.

Fine Dine: Located on the first floor in a building opposite the Chowpatty Bhelpuri walas in the place, which used to be Revival. It is a classy and expensive restaurant which also has a Lounge on the second floor. Serves Continental and Indian food and Soups, Salads and Main Courses.

Closed Down

Many restaurants/eating places have closed down in the Chowpatty area over the years. Vadilal’s had opened an ice cream parlour (Hapinezz), Kailas Parbat famous for its chaat, pani puris and chole bhature was here, a pub called London Pub (LP) which later became Copa Cabana was on the Chowpatty sea face. The Barista and Revival (Indo-Italian cuisine) housed in the same building also shut down and so did the Pizza Hut next door. The New Yorker management had opened a fast food restaurant called *Merica that became New York, New York and now houses the Café Coffee Day in its place. A big outlet of Croissants etc was also located on the Chowpatty Sea Face.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bombay Bomb Blasts

Yesterday, Bombay was rocked by a series of bomb blasts which left more than 190 people dead and more than 625 injured. The bombs were placed in trains on the Western Railway suburban network which runs 1030 services and is used by 4.2 million people on a daily basis. The attack was on Mumbai's lifeline,on innocent commuters and where it hurt most . Listed below are all the stations on the Western railway line (south to north) and the timing of the blasts.

Marine Lines
Charni Road
Grant Road
Bombay Central
Lower Parel
Elphinstone Road
Matunga Road - Fifth blast - 6:30 pm
Mahim - Second blast - 6:23 pm
Bandra - First blast - 6:15 pm
Road - Third blast - 6:24 pm
Vile Parle
Jogeshwari - Fourth blast - 6:25 pm
Borivali - Seventh blast - 6:35 pm
Mira Road - Sixth blast - 6:31 pm

Vasai Road
Nala Sopara

Help is available on Mumbai Help. Updates and collated reports from blogs on Ultrabrown , Desipundit and Gaurav Sabnis. Many fellow bloggers have written about their experiences. Read... Govindraj Ethiraj here , Dilip D'souza here , Rohit Balan here and Dhruti here.

I was on Marine Drive when I heard about the bomb blast and called people I knew who traveled during that time on the Western line. Though I had some difficulty in getting through as the phone lines were jammed, everyone I knew were fortunately safe(the others who were in those compartments were not so fortunate) and as every commuter, had a story to tell. Our help line executive who lives in Bhayander had to jump off the train when it halted before Borivali station, walk to the highway, take a rickshaw to the Dahisar check naka and trudge home to Bhayandar. A WSD volunteer was at Mahim station and heard the blast. He later understood that his young neighbour died in the Borivali blast.

And as far as Reader Digest’s revelation of Mumbai being the rudest (least polite) city goes, they should look at reports of local citizens helping here and here , Borivali's good samaritan here and taxiwallahs helping here. There must have been thousands of such gestures and one I know personally was of another WSD volunteer who works at a call center and resides at Matunga (City Light cinema). She was on L J road for 3 hours distributing biscuits and water to passengers who were stranded on the roads after all the routes were jammed. After that, she still reported to work at one in the night.

Today while coming to work, I saw that there were enough people in the buses and trains, kids were going to schools and people to offices and in true Mumbai never say die spirit, a message was sent out that Mumbaikars will not get bogged down by such terror tactics.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Kalu and Kalu

Kalu is probably the most common name kept for a stray dog. (Read more in the piece I wrote earlier about stray dog names here). Last week two strays named Kalu passed away. They had more in common than just their names, both were old (one 17 and the other 15), both lived in the Fort area of South Bombay, both were looked after by street dwellers and both died peacefully in their sleep. But of course, both didn’t know each other.

The first Kalu lived across Mr. Shanbhag’s Strand Book Stall at Fort. He used to either be sleeping on the footpath outside Kamanwala Chambers or lying down on his sponge bed provided by his rag-picker owners in the lane opposite Strand. The lane looks like an alley of crime straight out of a Hollywood film: dark, dingy with garbage strewn around. Kalu was born there and due to an accident had a deformed leg, (it used to remain straight and not bend) that didn’t bother him as he used to go about his daily routine of eating, strolling around and sleeping with ease. Kalu was a little grumpy and used to do some amount of nakhra when we used to go and treat him for maggot wounds.

The other Kalu used to stay in Cross Maidan till his family was evicted from there some months ago. I have been seeing him for the past ten years and he was a very happy and jolly dog. He would come running to you, wagging his tail when you passed by the Cross Maidan huts irrespective of you treating him or not. You could make out he had grown old by the white hair on his black face and snout.

Both the Kalus are some of the many old stray dogs in the South Bombay area that have died in the past year. Both would be missed terribly by their families and me.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

No Red Earth But Pouring Rain

Here are some images that I captured while straying around in the rain. They are taken at Bombay Central, Lalbag and Tardeo. After 5 days of incessant rain, Bombay's pace slowed down and did come to a stand-still in many parts of the city.

Had earlier written about "things to do during the rains in Bombay". Look it up here.