Monday, December 17, 2007

Bhaji Galli

Bhaji Galli takes its name from ‘Nana’ Jagannath Shankersheth’ who owned large areas of land in this neighbourhood of Grant Road (W). It is named Shanker Sheth Lane and Jagannath Lane but, of course, nobody would remember these. They would simply know it as Bhaji Galli. You would be able to buy all types of fruits and vegetables here. Bhaji Galli has three hundred plus licensed vegetable and fruit vendors. Some of them will keep only specific kinds of vegetables. Ten vendors sell only tomatoes, four vendors sell tuberous roots and tubers , more than twenty vendors sell fruits , three vendors sell sprouted pulses , around ten vendors sell ‘kanda batata’ and the rest sell a mélange of vegetables.

So how did this little lane become a vegetable market, popularly known as Bhaji Galli? Well, the genesis lies within the confines of a very big chawl towards the Grant Road station end called Bhalchandra building. In the 1930s, the white Gandhi topi wearing vegetable vendors from Vasai, popularly called ‘Vasaiwale’ used to sell vegetables in the chawl’s courtyard. They used to procure home grown vegetables from the weekly markets of Virar, Vasai, Nala Sopara, Bolinj, Holi and Nirmal, arrive here in the afternoon and go back after selling off their wares. This would ensure that the vegetables sold by them were fresh. Slowly over time more and more people started setting up their shops till they were spread across the whole lane.

Though the “Vasaiwale” coming here have dwindled drastically, one such Vasaiwala, Babu Jeevan Naik has been coming here for the past fifty years. The vegetables he sells are always very fresh and lush green. He says that twenty five percent of the people now telephone him and opt for home delivery. He has customers who come from Colaba , Haji Ali, Walkeshwar and Malabar Hill, apart from the office goers who pick up vegetables on their way back home.

Jerestin Sidhwa , a Colaba resident has been visiting Bhaji Galli for the past 15 years. She says that she prefers this place as many of the seasonal vegetables are available here but not at the Colaba market. “The vegetables here might be slightly more expensive but are better and fresher and I just love the shopping experience here”, she adds.

In one of the arms of the lane, you can identify the East Indian women from Vasai in their traditional maroon sarees who sell specific home grown produce. Jacinta Augustin Burbos is one of the few East Indians left and she sells fresh but small quantities of pumpkins, village grown aubergines, flowers, lemons, snake gourd, lemongrass, ‘alu’or colacasia leaves, bitter gourd, kelful or banana flower and even the wild ‘gavthi’ mushrooms in season.

One more interesting vendor is Kamlakar Karande popularly known as KK. He introduced what he calls ‘Continental’ vegetables to Bhaji Galli in 1982. This was when these exotic vegetables were not as commonly available as they are today. He was the only vendor who stocked basil, thyme, celery, parsley, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, bell peppers, pak choy, avocados (from Ooty),cherry tomatoes,babycorn,leek and mushrooms and sell them at reasonable rates. He was one of the few vendors who called out to you in English “ Want to take some celery or parsley sir” he used to shout out at every passerby. His grandmother Kandabai Khade was one of the four original vendors who set up shop or benches as they were known then in Bhaji Galli in the 1930s.

Octogenarian , Shashikala Dalvi will never forget Bhaji Galli. She resided in this area before she got married and moved to Dadar. “For many years after my marriage, I used to take back ‘fresh vegetables’ from my ‘regular’ vendors whenever I used visit my parents’ home", she reminisces.

If you visit Bhaji galli in the evening, you will find it crowded with hundreds of people buying their vegetables with shouts of ‘Tomato daha rupaye kilo, Batata aathra rupaya kilo’ in different nasal twangs, renting the air. It truly is a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mumbai's Irani cafes and a blog

My first tryst with Irani Cafes was with the one opposite my house. It used to be called Sassani and I can still place the Irani gentlemen who used to run it. He was tall and lanky, bespectacled and always used to nice to us, ‘kids’ when we used to regularly go there to have ice cream or cold drinks priced at Rs 2 then... We used to keep buying lots of Kwality ice-cream (it used to be only Kwality and not Kwality Wall’s) from Sassani as they were running a contest of completing a collection of little pictures of aircrafts (given with each ice-cream bought). I used to also like the big Jujups and the jelly biscuits. All this stuff was more special to us kids than the bun- maska and chai that one reveres now.I also used to be awed by the big ‘barnis’(bottles) filled with biscuits, cookies and other items which used to be lined up at most of the Irani cafes.

As time went by I encountered other Irani cafes... Persian at Grant Road where my grandfather used to take me to buy bread (bun, ladi paav, brun and sliced) on a daily basis. Kyani, Sassanian and Bastani as they were very near my school. And then as years went by I visited many of them because of the stray dogs or cats that they used to look after and call WSD for the treatment or just to have a chai and bun-maska. Over the years I went to B Merwan at Grant Road, Koolars at Matunga, Kyani and Bastani at Metro, Yazdani at Fort, Café de la Paix at Girgaum,
Byculla Restaurant and Bakery at Byculla, Stadium at Churchgate,Military at Kala Ghoda and many others. Will write a blog on Irani cafes and their strays later.

All Irani cafes were the traditional chai bun maska places but better business sense prevailing converted into eating joints (Britannia, Ideal) or beer bars. (Brabourne)

Many articles have been written on the Irani Cafes which you can read here ,
here and here. Busybee wrote some here and here in his Round and About. I always wished that some one would document the Irani cafes before it is too late. It is already quite late as many of the Irani cafes have closed down. I wished I had the time to do it.

And then I happened to meet Bruce Carter, a local historian from Australia who started collecting information on the Irani Cafes. In a Bombay street directory of 1947, he found more than 300 Irani cafés listed. Today, there are only around 20 left. When I asked him why he chose to document Irani Cafes, he had this to say....

“I use a lot of oral history in my work. Oral history has the ability to bring the past alive in a way that documents cannot. There is also great power in the spoken word. Two stories that particularly struck a chord with me were the story of an Irani arriving in Mumbai in the 1940s, during the monsoon. He had traveled for days, overland, and arrived to this strange city, with pouring rain, spicy food and a language he did not speak. Yet he made Mumbai his home, and has given the city's people something that, on the face of it, is so 'everyday' it may not be thought about too much. This is typical of migrant stories the world over - the self reliance and want to carve a future typifies the migrant experience”.

“Coming from Australia, we are a land almost exclusively of people from 'other places' - I am first generation, the child of migrants. So I relate to these stories of packing up, taking a step outside the familiar, and finding a new future in a new land”.

He continues “Another story that sticks in my mind is that of a young Irani boy starting junior college. The master was reading the roll. He came to the name IRANI, the master stopped, looked up and said to this young boy "ahh, your father must be a chaiwalla, yes?” The whole group of boys burst into laughter. The young Irani was embarrassed, not understanding what was so funny about his parents running a cafe. After all, they were giving their community a service, providing not just chai, bun maska and omelets, but also provisions such as soap, pens, toothpaste etc. Surely this was something good? He thought. Nevertheless, for the rest of his years at the school, the master always called him "chaiwallas son"...”

He says that he tried to do some research but there wasn’t much information on the Irani cafes available. – “I was taken by the ambience of these cafes, and was keen to know more. Beyond fairly superficial 'nostalgic' news pieces I couldn’t find anything written that seriously examined the people who have given Mumbai what are, today, an institution in the city. The exception to this was a short film by the organisation, PUKAR done a few years ago. Looking at this film, I thought 'wow, there are many stories to be told here, lets start talking to people”

He then began by visiting as many Irani cafes as he could find, and over time started doing oral history interviews with Irani cafe owners and their families. Almost without exception, these people were open and welcoming and very keen to share their histories with him.

He then started a blog which you can find here . He adds that the aim of the blog is to get people to contribute, and start to 'map memories' - in this sense using communication technologies as a preliminary research tool, and see what pictures emerge and how, if at all, they differ from the other research that he is undertaking. Keep checking his blog for more as he has already conducted 15 in depth interviews which he will keep updating on his blog. He has already written about Brittania and Co and Sassanian.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Diwali from WSD

Small World

Diwali is not a good time for animals especially dogs and cats, both pets and strays. Accident cases go up during this time as strays are running helter-skelter due to the noise of the crackers (their hearing five times more than humans). Animal welfare organizations like WSD also get calls for dogs that have suffered burn injuries due to fire-crackers and pets that have got lost.

We got a call today in the morning about a Dalmatian which had rushed into the house of a Lamington Road resident and entrenched himself into their bathroom. A volunteer who stays nearby called us to report this case. The dog was in a good condition so we guessed that it was obviously lost, traumatized due to the fire-crackers and bolted out of its owner’s house. We told the volunteer to ask around or even walk the dog to see if it led them to its owners. The poor fellow refused to budge and moved from the bathroom to under the sofa of the living room. He was so traumatized that he just shivered away. We were just going to send some WSD personnel over to bring him to the kennels that I received an SMS from another volunteer…. “Black and white Dalmatian ran away from home.Charles. Call so and so on *** if u have seen him”.

We immediately called the number on the SMS and gave them the number of the person whose house he was occupying. They told us that he had run away from their home at Altamount Road due to the crackers and was missing since yesterday afternoon. They had been trying to search him out ever since and had even made announcements on radio about him.

They went to Lamington road and it turned out to be their 'Charles'. A happy ending to this tale in a small world of the animal network in the city.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Madhavashram and Modaks

Little did Dhondu Vishnu Savale and Parshuram Pandurang Mahajan know that hundred years later Madhavashram would be the only ‘khanaval’ serving ‘brahmani’ style’ pure vegetarian Maharashtrian food in South Mumbai. Others like Narayan Bhojanalaya near Mangalwadi and Puran Poli House at Mugbhat closed down years back. Vinay Health Home, B.Tambe, Panshikar and Kolhapuri Chivda are not ‘khanavals’ but restaurants that serve snacks or meals.

Madhavashram was opened in 1908 by these two gentlemen who hailed from Are, a village in the Ratnagiri district of the Konkan region. They started a small place in Zaoba Wadi at Thakurdwar, moved into an one storied lodging and boarding place at Mohun building near Majestic and finally settled at their current location on Parekh Street near the Girgaum Court in 1917 where the third generation continues to run this lodging and boarding place.

Ramesh Parshuram Mahajan remembers the long struggle that his grand uncle and father went through to establish and successfully run Madhavashram. As they wanted to use only fresh ingredients, they purposefully set up a farm at Saphale near Virar and all items were made by using home grown vegetables and milk from this farm. Mahajan continues to monitor the food cooked by checking on the taste of each item prepared. His daughter Mrs Gauri S. Velankar has already been inducted into the day to day running the place.

Madhavashram serves unlimited meals at Rs 45 with two vegetables, varan, rice, chapati or puri. Don’t miss their Modak meals (also unlimited) priced at Rs 80 which are available only on Sankashti Chaturthi days which come by once in a month. On Sankashti Chaturthi one is supposed to fast for the whole day and break it only after moon rise.

Today is Sankashti Chaturthi and Madhavashram for the first time will host a buffet meal on their terrace where people can see the moon rise and break the fast. A typical Sankashti Chaturthi meal here would not contain any garlic or onion and comprises of two vegetables,varan, rice,masale bhat,amti, farsan (batata wada or alu wadi), buttermilk, chutney, papad, pickle, koshimbir and ukdiche modak. Ukdiche modak are sweet modaks with a coconut and jaggery filling. They are made from rice flour, steamed and are best eaten with dollops of ghee on top.

Behram and Rekha Shroff have been regulars for the Modak meals. “The food at Madhavashram is very homely and not spicy or oily. Mr. Mahajan makes you feel at home as he personally goes around serving modaks like a good host. I end up eating at least 5-6 modaks as they are really very delicious” says Rekha.

If you want a simple yet tasty and homely meal with lots of ukdiche modaks thrown in, head to Madhavashram today and you will be able to enjoy it on an open terrace in the moonlight and that too on the auspicious Sankashti Chaturthi day in Madhavashram’s centenary year.

Address and timings

Madhavashram. 18, Parekh Street, Near Girgaum Court, Girgaum, Mumbai – 4
Monday closed. Open for meals at night only and Modak meals on Sankashti Chaturthi. Time : 8:00 to 10:00 pm

Important Sankashti Chaturthi dates -October 29, 2007, November 27, 2007 (Angarika) & December 27, 2007.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

The One Rupee Enterpreneur

Before MTNL was set up in 1986, the city’s telephone company was known as Bombay Telephones (BT) run by the department of telecom (DOT) and earlier the P &T. In those days, the coin operated public phone was not a very common phenomenon. In fact, having a phone at home was not common and many gave out a neighbour’s care-of number. When the home phone was dead and that used to happen on a regular basis, one had to rely on the coin operated public phone which were not very common as they are today. I remember walking a good ten minutes to the Grant Road post office just to make a phone call.

The instruments used in those days were operated very differently. Firstly it was that black bulky iron vertical instrument with a long metallic wire for the handset. You had to lift the handset and dial (literally dial the round dial which went kut kut kut) the six digit Mumbai number. It was only when you had heard the voice at the other end that you dropped the coin. And as there was no limit to which you could talk for a rupee, you could jabber on for the entire day in that one rupee.

I remember the post man at the Grant road post office complaining that some smart alec used to try and save even the one rupee by punching a hole in the coin, tying a string to it and merrily using it to make umpteen number of calls till one day the string got stuck and he had to leave behind his ‘prized’ coin. The result was that the post office had to call the BT people to repair it and became more vigilant about people trying to make ‘free’ calls.

Some days back, I chanced upon this old telephone instrument at the Jaihind Hotel at Kala Ghoda. Krishnanand Tiwari who owns the hotel paid his homage to this now defunct piece which had served thousands of customers ever since his uncle had BT install the PCO some where in the late sixties. He adds that this was the only PCO in the whole of the Kala Ghoda and Dalal Street area. His restaurant’s PCO was so popular that when it went dead, he did not bother to complain as many of his customers would have already called up BT and registered the complaint saying “Jaihind can phone durust karo, kaam nahi kar raha hai”. His telephone had a stream of people making a beeline especially during lunch time. He also remembers how some people were cheeky enough to give out this telephone number to conduct their share market business and hang around the restaurant awaiting that incoming call.

The public pay phone has come a long way since then and you will be able to aptly see that in Chirodeep Chaudhuri’s exhibition of photographs titled The One-Rupee Entrepreneur dedicated to that all important red coin operated phone. These phones were photographed by him over a period of one year against different Mumbai backdrops such as an instrument kept on suitcases and trunks, in a travel agents booth, under a little temple on the wall, in the midst of a cold drinks rack, on a chaat counter and many more.

Chirodeep calls this instrument, the one rupee entrepreneur which according to him promotes enterprise. He explains that in a city like Mumbai where every one wants to maximize the returns from each square foot of land, he was awed on seeing how different kinds of businesses started installing the pay phone. This ‘side business’ generated an additional income without them having to pay any additional rent for the space utilized by this red box.

Chirodeep’s favorite is the one which he clicked outside a hair cutting saloon at Nagpada where the pay phone is kept outside against the drawing of a film star with hair style like Amitabh or Anil Kapoor.

So visit this exhibition and you will be able to see the red box that we pass by and use on a daily basis in a very different light.

The One Rupee Entrepreneur – Chirodeep Chaudhary
Till October 13, 2007. 11 am to 6.30 pm at Project 88, BMP Bldg., N A Sawant Marg, Near Colaba Fire Station, Colaba, Mumbai 400 025.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Take me Dobby, home.. Sir"

From the Welfare Of Stray Dogs(WSD)

If there's ever a Bollywood remake of the Harry Potter movies, one thing is certain. The part of Dobby the elf is taken.Meet Dobby the pup. Pale eyes, tiny delicate frame, enormous flappy ears. There's even been quite a bit of magic in her little life. She's made a complete recovery from an injury which had left her unable to walk. She's transformed from scared and shy to friendly and frisky. She's playful without being boisterous. Active without being noisy. Now four months old, she's looking for a nice family to live with. Meanwhile she spends her days racing around the kennel trying to play with anyone and everyone.

If you want a one-of-a-kind puppy, come to WSD. Dobby's waiting to cast her spell on you. You can call on 23733433 or e-mail

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Food with a Mumbai 'chaap'

Many years ago when the dosa wala near August Kranti Maidan was sprinkling soya sauce and noodles onto a sada dosa calling it Chinese dosa, I could believe it as this is what Mumbai does to its food. She invents it here, hands it over to the others and doesn’t even patent it. This is just what happened to Nelson Wang’s Manchurian and we have many examples of Mumbai introducing quintessential food and leaving a Mumbai chaap to it. And that is more than our Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji and Bhel which has got its due and is dished out in many towns as Bombay Bhel or Bombay Pav Bhaji.

The Iranis might have brought the know how of baking from Iran but the Bun Maska ( soft , sweet bread with butter), Brun Maska ( hard bread with butter) and Khari would still remain Mumbai brands. Bomi Hormusji Irani whose grandfather started B. Merwan and Co at Grant Road confirms this and says “ You will find the Brun , Bun and Khari ninety percent in Mumbai only” He says that these must have been introduced somewhere between 1910-1914 when Irani café’s were being set up. .

One more drink very distinctive to Mumbai and to Pune is Raspberry which was introduced by Parsi owned beverage companies like Dukes, Rogers and Framroze & Co in the early 1900’s. This is a dying brand whose availability today is restricted to Parsi weddings and some Irani Cafés.

Juices like Ganga Jamuna , a mix of orange and sweet lime juice and Mara Mari, a mix of sweet lime and pineapple were introduced in Mumbai in the seventies says Ramesh Sondarva, one of the oldest employees of Bachelor’s at Chowpatty which claims to be the oldest juice centre in Mumbai. These were introduced long after the juice outlet opened in 1940. Shekhar Pujari of Sukh Sagar Juice centre adds that it was due to ‘public demand’ that they started serving these two cocktails. The name Ganga Jamuna might draw a parallel from the confluence of two rivers as both the fruits come from the same Citrus family. Mara Mari might have been due to mixing of two fruit juices from different fruit families.

And lastly good ol’ Cutting chai which may be another name for tea but has a unique Mumbai chaap to it. The road-side tea stall in Pune would serve you Amrutulya chaha but the consumption of Mumbai’s cutting chai which actually means cutting one chai into two, not only makes it lighter on the pocket but also lets you finish it off very quickly so that you can get hurriedly refreshed and set off to keep up with Mumbai’s rapid pace.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mumbai's 'gaons'

A little history, lest we forget three Mumbai neighborhoods which were villages that have long been integrated with Mumbai’s urban present and the only thing gaon-ish about them today is their ‘gaon’ tag.

Mazgaon: Mazgaon was an ancient Portuguese township and the name was either derived from Maza gaon which means my village in Marathi or from Maccha Grama which means a fishing village. It was also one of the original seven islands that Mumbai comprised of. Not many would know but Mazgaon was also famous for its mango trees which used to bear fruit twice a year. The Mazgaon mango was a celebrated commodity and finds a mention as the ‘Mangoes of Mazagong’ in the epic poem Lallah Rookh written by Thomas Moore in 1817. Mazgaon was home to many old stone houses and wooden bungalows, built in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries which were inhabited by mostly the Britishers and Parsis. Gunpowder Lane near Matharpacady was so called as a result of the armoury being moved to this area. Prominent landmarks in Mazgaon today are the Sales Tax office, the Mazgaon court and the Matharpacady village, a heritage ‘quartier’ with quaint, old houses struggling to survive amidst the skyscrapers in the neighbourhood.

Girgaon: The name literally translates into hill village. Giri in Marathi means hill. Thus, this was the village that existed at the foot of the Malabar Hill and is said to have been inhabited in the mid-nineteenth century. Girgaon comprised Girgaon woods and also boasted of coconut and mango groves and vast areas of plantations called wadi in Marathi. Today the Girgaon wadis may not be cultivating any of the produce that they used to but names like Mugbhat, Phanaswadi, Kelewadi, Kandewadi and Ambewadi would suggest the kind of plantations that must have existed there. Likewise, Zaoba Wadi, Vaidya Wadi, Khotachi Wadi & Jitekar Wadi may suggest who they belonged to. Gai Wadi was so named because of the large presence of cow sheds. Girgaon still has retained some of the villagish charm with its narrow lanes and old houses but times are changing. Many chawls in Girgaon with long wooden balconies are making way for multi storied buildings. Some old Maharashtrian restaurants like Kulkarni famous for its batata bhajiya, Virkar, Tembe Vishranti Gruha and many khanawals have shut down. Others like Chhatre‘s Kolhapuri Chivada, Vinay Health Home and B. Tambe have changed with the times and got renovated.

Goregaon: One version says that Goregaon was named after the Gore family who were active in politics. Another, which seems more accurate, says that the meaning translates into ‘white village’ in Marathi, as it was a large milk-producing centre since olden times. The Goregaon (E) area has still remained one of the few Mumbai’s green lungs in spite of the fact that the Aarey Milk Colony was set up in 1949 by acquiring 3000 acres of forest land. This was one of the world’s largest dairy farms and would be used to organize the supply of pasteurized bottled milk to the city. Many cattle from congested parts of the city were shifted here. The Film City was also set up here in 1978. Goregaon has now become another Mumbai suburb with a burgeoning population and various colonies or ‘nagars’, many high rise buildings, malls and multiplexes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Strays gone by

You may love them or hate them but strays have always been a part of Mumbai’s urban life. They are mostly pets of the poor and are looked after by them. They too have names and individual personalities, which go unnoticed by most of us. Here are five of the hundreds of such stray dogs that are no more but have lived a colorful and full life, did not harm anyone and died peacefully of old age. All of them are very much missed by the people who looked after them and if you had known them you would have missed them too.

Champi: A brindle colored stray, she lived outside the Oval Maidan (Cooperage side – South end footpath) and was brought there as a puppy by Mauryaji, the sugarcane juicewala. She had gone frail with age, had one bent leg due to an accident. You would have hardly noticed her, as she would be quietly sitting under the tree by the side of the footpath.

James: In his hay days, he did have the personality of James Bond 007 but was nam
ed by Arvind, the shoeshine man outside Eros theatre for other reasons. Arvind loves dogs and whenever he got a stray, he used to name them after the movie that was released at Eros theatre at Churchgate. So when he brought a black pup, a Bond movie was playing and thus a James was ‘born’. Arvind already had a “Pretty” (she passed away some years ago), who was obviously born when Julia Robert’s Pretty Woman was released in 1990 and was James companion.

Ramesh: Ramesh died when he was seventeen years old. He lived near the New Excelsior theatre and was looked after by Tulsi Akka who lived on the street in that area. Everyone loved Ramesh, as he was the best looking dog in the area. He was white and was hairier than the average street dog. He used to have a fancy for foreign cars. Thus, in the nineties, during his younger days when there weren’t too many foreign cars, if you had to find Ramesh, he would be perched on top of the nearest foreign car parked near the New Excelsior theatre.

Babu: He was a dog in the Bombay High Court campus and due to him no other dog could venture there. All the policemen loved him and they used to call WSD if he was in need of first-aid. Ask any policeman about Babu and they would readily remember him. Though the policemen used to keep getting transferred Babu’s care used to be ‘handed over’ to the next incumbent.

Tamatar: If anyone heard you asking “ Tamatar, kaha hai”, they would think you are out of your wits but yes, he was called Tamatar as he used to love eating tomatoes. He was a handsome, grey and white dog with a scar on the head left behind by a deep maggot wound. It was natural that he was named Tamatar because if you held a tomato in your hand, he would follow you till you gave it to him and swallow it at one go. He lived on the main road just outside ‘Ghetto’ the pub, near the Mahalakshmi mandir. He used to be looked after by the vegetable vendor and known to everybody in the area.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Banganga Bird !

She was peering into my camera at Banganga

Monday, May 28, 2007

Have you been here, Mumbaikar ?

Most of these places are on Mumbai’s tourist circuit or listed in the Lonely Planet. They are popular with tourists but Mumbaikars have no time to visit them due to their busy and hectic life in the city. Here are ten such places and if you have not been here, it is still not too late as all are worth a dekko.

Banganga Tank and Temple Precinct

Banganga located at Walkeshwar is a rectangular water tank surrounded by stone steps. It was originally constructed during the era of the Silhara dynasty (810-1240 A.D.). It is located within a temple precinct with eight temples like the Walukeshwar, Venkateshwar Balaji and Rameshwar temples. Go here and you will be far away from the city noise with just serene water and occasional quacking of ducks and geese for company.

Borivali National Park

Mumbai’s biggest ‘green lung’, this forest covers 140 sq kms and is home to more than 1000 species of plants, 40 species of mammals and 251 species of birds. Kanheri caves that date back from the 1st to 9th century are also located in this forest.

Khotachi Wadi and Matharpakhadi

Walk around these heritage precincts located in Girgaon and Mazgaon before they vanish. Both these ‘quartiers’ have some quaint 19th century built houses with beautiful balconies, verandahs and wooden staircases. Wander around through the narrow lanes and the quietude will make you feel that you are not in Mumbai.

Haji Ali Dargah

You must have seen this early 19th century shrine from the bus on your way to work or home but have never visited it. Built in the Indo-Islamic style, this is the tomb of the Muslim Sufi saint Hazrath Haji Ali. A narrow walkway through the sea not accessible during high tide would lead you to the dargah which is on an island in the middle of the Arabian Sea.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.

The Museum located near Kala Ghoda was designed by George Wittet in the Indo-Saracenic style. It was built in 1914 but formally opened in 1923. The museum has a vast and rare collection of antiques, Indian miniature paintings, sculptures, a natural history section, Nepali and Tibetan art, decorative art, bronzes, textiles and much more. You might need more than a day to see this place thoroughly.

Mani Bhavan

Mani Bhavan is located on Laburnum Road at Gamdevi. The residence of Shri Revashanker Jhaveri, it served as Gandhiji’s headquarters in Mumbai from 1917-1934. It is now converted into a museum that houses a research library, a photo display gallery, an exhibition in mini-figures on Gandhiji’s life called Glimpses of Gandhi, an auditorium and Gandhiji’s room.

Afghan Church

This church consecrated in 1858 was built in the memory of the British soldiers who died during the Sind and Afghan wars of 1838 and 1842-43. It is located beyond Colaba towards R.C. Church. It has been restored recently and has some beautiful stained glass windows. It remains shut most of the time but would be open on Sundays.

Maharashtra Nature Park

This lush green park located at Dharavi on the banks of the Mithi River was created from a garbage dumping ground. It was opened to the public in 1994. You will find more than 14,000 plants, 115 species of birds and scores of butterflies. It also boasts of its own water harvesting project.

The Gate of Mercy Synagogue

Also called Juni Masjid, this 1796 built synagogue located at Samuel Street lends its name to Masjid station. It is the second oldest synagogue in India and go here to find out the interesting history behind its name.-‘ The Gate of Mercy”.

Mahakali Caves

Yes, all of us have heard of the Mahakali Caves road or gone to SEEPZ using it but must have seldom visited the caves. This could also be because of the poor roads and the filth around these caves which were formerly known as ‘Kondivita’. These Buddhist caves date back to the 1st century.

So how many places have you been to...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Take a look at me now !

This cat is looked after by the inhabitants of a Parsi building opposite Bhatia Hospital. She whiles her time lolling around in the building foyer or hanging out with the banana seller. She also is a regular visitor to the laundry on the ground floor of the building and lets out a 'meow' whenever she sees familiar people or anybody who will give her some attention.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Let sleeping dogs lie 'inverted'

This stray was fast asleep in this peculiar position near the Andheri(E) railway station ticket counter. A clear indication in the trust that this stray places on people around him. I was tempted to wake him up but thought that it was better to let sleeping dogs lie 'inverted''.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Champi - R.I.P.

Champi the stray belonging to the Sugarcane juicewala on the Cooperage side of the Oval Maidan at Churchgate passed away yesterday early in the morning. She was in kidney failure with a creatinine of 5.1. She was sixteen.

Some days ago the sugarcane juicewala's son called to tell us that she had not been eating for some days. She was taken to the WSD kennels and with treatment had started eating. One good thing was till the end she ate and used to wag her brindle tail when she saw me.

Her presence will truly be missed and if you passed her footpath when she was alive, you would have hardly noticed her as she would be quietly sitting under the tree by the side of the foot path.

One consolation is that Champi lived a good and long life on the street. She was looked after well by the sugarcane juicewala.

Read more about Champi in my earlier post here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Naya Sterling – Je Te N’Aime Pas

The new Sterling Cineplex opened finally to Spiderman 3. The ‘opening shortly’ banner hung there for almost a year. I used to see it every Sunday week after week when I went to treat Jerry one of the geriatric stray dogs that lives opposite Sterling. (Will write about him sometime).

Sterling Cineplex opened officially on May 4, 2007 to Spiderman 3 and Gautam Ghose’s Yatra but unfortunately with technical problems. There was a power failure and some friends told me that they had to go without seeing the movie they came for at one of the shows on the first day. Someone also told me that, the premiere of Spiderman on the earlier day which was being simultaneously screened on all three screens was a disaster as they had only one reel which kept getting relayed from one screen to the other. Thus the audiences of Screen 2 and 3 had to wait till the audience of Screen 1 had finished seeing the first reel.

A little history of Sterling is that it opened in 1969 and though it was not as old as some of the other theatres like Regal and Eros, it was still one of the few theatres in those days that showed only English movies. The 10:45 late night show was also very popular and created a niche slot for itself.

I went to the new Sterling Cineplex yesterday to see Paris, Je t’aime. It is a French film with a collection of 18 short stories made by renowned directors and an impressive cast. The theme revolves around the romantic city Paris and love. Check the NY Times review here.

When you approach the booking counters, you remember the old Sterling’s ticket windows which were separate for Balcony/Dress circle & Stalls and also for Current & Advance booking. They have now been replaced by a big glass window with BOX OFFICE written on top. The white marble steps which everyone used to sit on before the movie either waiting for the person accompanying them or for just whiling away their time, have been replaced by fewer black steps. I wonder if Raju the stray who died in June 2006 and who used to love sitting on them would have liked them now.

The tickets are now not checked at the entrance of the theater but inside on the steps which lead you upstairs. The lobby has been converted into a restaurant which was packed with people eating from the Blue Foods outlets of Bombay Blue & Noodle Bar, Subway, Gelato and Wraps and Rolls.

Do double check the correct stairs that will take you to your Screen. We took the right hand side stairs showed the tickets for screen 3 and went up to the second floor only to realize that Screen 3 was on the left hand side. The erstwhile Balcony/Dress Circle has been converted into Screen 2 and 3 and the Stalls into Screen 1.

The cafeteria on top has been handed over to Coffee Day. I ran into a friend who was debating with the CCD guy on how her Cold Coffee glass was only half filled. He claimed it was 220 ml in a glass of capacity 250 ml. No amount of principles of volume or physics could convince him that he was wrong. Anyway moral of the story is that now you won’t get that cup of ordinary chai anymore.

The Screen 2 and 3 have obviously smaller capacities but were not that small. Screen one should be better with a larger capacity and the management claims that the size of that screen is as big as the old one. Unfortunately, all single screen theatres would go the Sterling way some day due to the financial non-viability due to low occupancy.

Of course the Jai Jawan stall opposite is still the same and must be very happy that Sterling has finally opened as he must have taken a beating on his 'dhanda'.

So don’t go by my not liking the new Sterling as I am biased against multiplexes for various reasons.

1) The size of a multiplex theatre is smaller compared to the single screen ones. The whole charm in seeing a movie on the ‘big screen’ is gone. There are some multiplexes in Bandra that can accommodate only fifty people. See a movie at Eros and then go and see the same one at Gem in Bandra and you will know what I mean. It would be better to be at home and watch a movie on the DVD.

2) The good old colored and manually stamped cinema tickets are gone. Gone will be the days when you can collect the blue, yellow, green and pink colored tickets, write down the name of the girl who you went with and save it for posterity. The new machine generated tickets on facsimile paper will fade away in some time.

3) The prices have gone up drastically. All Sterling tickets are priced at Rs 120. Earlier, they used to start from Rs 60 for Lower stalls, Rs 80 for Upper stalls, Rs 100 for Balcony and Rs 120 for Dress Circle. Sterling might be the cheapest of the multiplexes in South Mumbai. If you go to INOX, you will have to shell out a minimum of Rs 180 going up to Rs 240. (Unless you want to see a movie at ten in the morning at Rs 130). Even a theatre like Kohinoor at Dadar which catered to the common man in the area has become a mall and the theatre in it called Fame Nakshtara prices tickets at Rs 80 onwards. (Kohinoor had rates of Rs 20 and Rs 40)

4) Prices of stuff that you would like to eat during the interval would also go up. So forget the Rs 15 wala Punjabi samosa or the Rs 15 popcorn. Of course, you can convert your movie expedition into a supper theatre experience by going early and having dinner at the various ‘outlets’ serving various cuisines at the multiplex.

5) Nostalgia and heritage: You always love what you have been doing when you were a kid. The various times you went to Regal, New Empire, Eros, Citylight, Opera House, and Hindmata with that special someone be it family, friend or sweetheart. Just the support that you would give to something old in the city, a landmark which has been around for years.

6) You will have to adhere to multiplex manners (whatever that means). A columnist wrote a whole article recently in the HT on multiplex manners.
Sterling photo courtesy: CNN IBN

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bhau, Nana & Rajabai

Many places in Mumbai have been named after Indians who have contributed to this city’s infrastructure. We have heard, passed through or visited these places but may not know who the people affectionately called Nana or Bhau were. Here are three such places.

Bhaucha Dhakka

Bhaucha Dhakka or Ferry Wharf was built by Lakshman Hari Chandarjee Ajinkya. (1789-1858). He belonged to the Pathare Prabhu community (one of the original inhabitants of Bombay).He was affectionately addressed as Bhau or big brother by the local people. His family had estates at Naigaum and Parel and he worked as Chief Clerk in the Gun Carriage Factory in Colaba. Information given in the Govt. Archives and in the Marathi book ‘Pathare Prabhuncha Itihaas’ by Pratap Velkar reveal that Bombay did not have a regular pier or wharf till 1835 for either goods or passengers. The government started leasing out land on the Bombay frontage to private individuals to build wet docks and basins. Laksman Hari Chandarjee Ajinkya alias ‘Bhau’ was the first local to take this opportunity. He thus constructed Bombay’s first wet dock in 1841 for the convenience of the passengers and incoming ships to load, embark and berth. These included Carnac and Claire bunders. Today, the passenger terminal at the Bhau-Cha-Dhakka is still used to ferry people to Mora and Rewas for their onward journeys to Uran and Alibag.

Nana Chowk

This very busy traffic junction which has six roads converging into it is named after Jagannath Shankersett alias Nana. (1803-1865). He owned large areas of land in the Nana Chowk area including a ‘wada’ which now has been replaced by high rise buildings, the recent Sunkersett Palace and another Sunkersett Mansion built decades ago. This area also has an old privately restored Bhavani Shankar temple built in 1806 associated with the Sunkersett family. JSS was born in a wealthy family of goldsmiths and contributed in many ways towards this city including donating land for the Royal/Grant Road theatre and endowing schools. In 1845, along with Sir Jamshejee Jeejeebhoy
, he formed the Indian Railway Association which was eventually incorporated into the Great Indian Peninsular Railways (GIP).They were the only two Indian directors out of the other ten in the GIP railways. He was also the first Indian member of The Asiatic Society and you will find his full size marble statue at the Asiatic Society Library. The erstwhile Girgaum road which extends from Opera House upto Princess Street is also named after him. A postage stamp was also issued in his honor in 1991.

Rajabai Tower
Rajabai tower located in the campus of the University of Mumbai at Fort including the library was built at a cost of over six lakh rupees donated by Premchand Roychand (1831-1906). Both these structures were designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and completed in 1878. The 280 feet high tower with a clock was a tribute to his mother, Rajabai. Premchand Roychand was a prominent banker and philanthropist of the 19th century who supported many schools especially for the education of girls. The schools included J.B.Petit High School, Bombay Scottish Orphanage School, Alexandria School and Cathedral Girls School. The Premchand Roychand gallery at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Museum) has been named in his memory and it recently hosted the Bombay Bonanza exhibition to commemorate his 100th death anniversary. It must be noted that there is no statue of him in Mumbai nor any Mumbai street bears his name.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


This very sweet, young & tiny mixed breed stray was brought to the WSD sterilization centre by a volunteer from Vakola. In the picture above, you can see her peering out of the WSD Stray Dog Van. Gungun(pronounced goongoon) lives in a slum near Kadam Wadi at Vakola and is looked after by Deepak. She was born in one of the buildings in the locality and Deepak offered to look after her. She roams around the slum and in and out of his hut. She has been sterilized and will go back to her neighborhood in a few days.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Dog's Eye View

Two abandoned Pomeranians ( Shane & Pepper) and two amputee cats loll around on a hot afternoon in the corridor at the WSD sterilization centre at Mahalakshmi.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A slice of Konkan in Mumbai

“Powder madhe pikawle ki zaadawar”, a lady was asking the man selling Alphonsos if they had been ripened chemically or on the tree. This was at one of the twenty-two odd stalls that are selling Hapus and Paayri mangoes at the Amba Mohatsav 2007 which is being held at Prabhadevi till April 29 from 10 am to 10 pm. It has been organized by the Konkan Vikas Pratishthan. Rajendra Tawde, secretary of the organisation said that this was the fifth year that they were organizing such a festival. “The objective is to give small-time mango growers and entrepreneurs from the Konkan region a platform in Mumbai to sell their wares as they do not have the necessary marketing skills and it also eliminates middlemen”. Mangoes come here straight from the districts of Devgad, Vengurla, Ratnagiri, Rajapur and Malwan.

Devgad Hapus

The mango crop has suffered this year giving them only a twenty five percent yield. This gets reflected in the prices as the Alphonso is available from Rs 100 to Rs 325 a dozen depending on the quality and the size of the fruit. Ravindra Bhadsale, one of the stall owners has come from Jamsunde in Devgad. He has around 300 trees which yield him 800 petis throughout the season. He picks the first fruits on February 25 which are sold to the wholesale market at Vashi and the last on May 8. He says that his fruit is superior as it is from Devgad, a region where the trees grow between the red laterite stone called ‘jamba dagad’. If they have to plant a mango ‘kalam’, the stone has to be blasted and soil added around the sapling. The roots then go digging through this stone. The iron content in the stone adds the red color to the fruit and giving a better and sweeter taste to the mangoes from this region.

Not Just Mangoes

If mangoes are not your scene, there are more than fifteen stalls selling many other Konkani specialities. You can buy buttermilk dried chillies which make an excellent accompaniment with curd rice. They have various masalas like the Malvani masala, goda masala, special garam masala and the spunky coconut garlic chutney. Various mango products like amba vadi, mango pulp and saata, a preparation of pulped mango, rolled and dried under the sun. Buy the fansacha saata (Jackfruit saata) and jackfruit chips to give you a true flavour of the Konkan region. Also available are cashewnuts and khaja – a kurkure look-alike made of jaggery, besan and ginger.


Kokum is synonymous with Konkani cuisine. But do you how kokum is made? Kokum is made from Ratamba (Garcinia indica), a fruit from the plum family. The pulp and peels of the Ratamba are separated. The peels are soaked or smeared in its juices and sun dried. This is repeated often till the skin shrivels up but retains the red/purple colour and the slightly astringent flavour. This is now kokum, which is used as a souring agent in cooking and for making sol kadhi. Ratamba is used to make kokum sherbet. At one of the stalls “ Devi Sateri Amba Vikri Kendra”, you will be able to buy the Ratamba fruit at Rs 40 per kilo and kokum at Rs 80 per kilo.

Papads and Pickles

Go to the Grihani Papad Udyog stall and you will get to see home-made papads and pickles of all kinds. Papads made of palak, nachani(ragi), tomato, poha, methi, potato, corn, garlic, sabudana and a speciality “thecha papad” which is made of grounded fresh green chilly. Pick up the poha and nachani papad or the kurdai (made from rice flour they look like round vermicelli) which is traditional to this region. There were an equal assortment of pickles from the regular garlic, kaccha mango, lime, amla, to karvanda, gajar and karela. Lakshmi Kamble of G.P.U. says that she makes all the pickles at home and the most popular is the garlic one.

So go to this festival for a slice of Konkan with lots of luscious mangoes thrown in and you might be tempted to visit this beautiful coastal belt. If you are, on your way out you just have to contact the Kokan Tours stall who would give you a choice of tours for this region.

You can visit the festival this weekend at the Nardulla Tank Maidan, Next to Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi till 29th April 2007. 10 am to 10 pm. It then shifts to Borivali and Thane.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Forty winks !

This stray dog was fast asleep amidst the din and dirt in a slum on the road outside the WSD kennels near Dhobi Ghat at Saat Raasta. He is sleeping outside a hut under the ladder which takes you to another kholi above. The traffic on this road has gone up drastically due to the diversion taken place because of the the ongoing TADA court at Arthur Jail. Yet he is able to grab his forty winks in the middle of the afternoon.
This stray belongs to the family which lives in the kholi outside which he is sleeping. Thousands of slum dwellers keep stray dogs like him as pets in hundreds of slums all over Mumbai.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


When Vivek Prabhu’s grandfather opened Sardar (named after a title which was conferred on his father) in 1932 in the heart of Girangaon to cater to the mill workers little did he know that the fabric of the area would change 75 years later and the mills would be replaced by corporate parks and high rise residential buildings. However painful it might have been Sardar had to keep up to the changing times and adapt to become what Vivek calls a true Bombay restaurant.

Sardar (not to be confused with the Tardeo Pav Bhaji serving namesake) is located at the junction of the Kala Chowki signal near the Voltas building on the main Babasaheb Ambedkar Road at Lalbaug. It is a simple, no frills moderately priced place and is open from 6 am to 9 .30 pm. Like all old restaurants, they too opened a mezzanine section for ladies and family in the sixties.

They have some very good Maharashtrian dishes on their menu. Try the vangi bhajiya (brinjal pakoras), kanda and batata bhajiya, masale bhat, alu (colo leaves) wadi, kothambir wadi, batata wada, sukha usal, batata poha, sheera, bhatsal (a mixture of batata wada and misal) and ofcourse misal. Vivek boasts that he serves the best misal in town. His misal still follows the recipe handed down by his grandfather and its masala consists of a concoction of more than eighteen freshly ground spices, dals and an ingredient that no one else adds to their misal… onion bhajiya that is fried, ground and added to the masala which lends the misal its unique and different flavor.

Modern culinary tastes of executives from neighbouring corporates like Voltas, P.N. Writer, Khandelwal Laboratories, A. C. Nielsen and Tata Tele Services and NGO's like Akanksha who started frequenting Sardar during lunch time compelled Vivek, a chartered accountant by profession to innovate his largely traditional Maharashtrian menu to a broader one. He introduced a range of ‘garlic’ dishes like various Dosa variants with Garlic such as Garlic Sada and Masala and Garlic Rava Sada and Masala. He also introduced Chaats and bread based items like Burgers and Sandwiches. Try the cheese and garlic grilled sandwich named ‘Sania’ and the cheese garlic baked bread named Navin. Their tossed American corn with butter and garlic is also a favorite.

They keep pretty busy during lunch time and sometimes you might have to wait to get a place. Their lunch time mini meals are light and complete. At Rs 25 you will get three chapatis, unlimited dal, one vegetable and chaas. They also have various sabzi’s on the menu. Their just launched next door take-away outlet “Viva Kitchen” will also serve you Oriental and Punjabi cuisine.

Upwas snacks are popular on fasting days and you can have Sabudana wada. Sabudana khichadi, Rajgira Puri Bhaji, Upwas Kachori and Upwas Misal.

You can also beat the heat with the range of fruit juices, faloodas,milk shakes, lassis,chilled fruit milk kokam sharbat, and limbu pani. Vivek will impress upon you to spend only Rs 17 on a similar but more concentrated Iced Tea you would get elsewhere for Rs 50.

Today, Sardar may not get any mill clientele for obvious reasons other than the retired mill hands that still drop in for a misal of nostalgia. But it has still managed to retain the principle of serving food from the heart. You will notice it when you see Vivek wander around chatting with his clientele who he knows on a first name basis. He says “we do not have any customers, only well-wishers”.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cafe De La Paix

Did you know that we have a little Irani café at Girgaum whose name was inspired by the famous 1862 opened Café De La Paix (pronounced – pay) located at place de l'Opéra in Paris and designed by architect Charles Garnier. The story goes that when the owner, Mr. Irani opened this café in 1932, the landlord of his building had just been to Paris and had been greatly impressed by the Café De La Paix there. So he requested him to give this name to the Irani café he was opening. It is located at the corner of Avantikabai Gokhale Road, which has the bustling auto spare parts market. And don’t worry; our Café De La Paix will serve you bun maska and chai at much more affordable rates than its Paris namesake.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Can we go home now !


Suresh Jadhav is a BMC worker who loves dogs and lives in a chawl nearby the WSD kennels at Mahalakshmi. Rani, his 10 year old mongrel was brought to the kennels as an OPD patient for an eye and ear infection that she is suffering.

Suresh’s friend found Rani as a puppy and Suresh readily kept her. She has been an integral part of his family much before he got married. His wife too accompanied him to the kennels and has grown fond of her. Rani’s attachment to Suresh is so evident that as soon as he went into the kennels to understand the medication which has to be continued, Rani barked the place down. She was happy when he emerged out with the medication, looked at him and it looked like she told him with a little stern grin , “ Can we go home now”.

Rani barking

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


She had an unwilling free ride from Borivali to Churchgate on the 6:19 am Churchgate slow from Borivali. We get a call early morning when she must have reached Khar about a dog which must have been hurt and was moaning in the ladies first class compartment. We take down the details as in the train no and also calculate the ETA at Churchgate and rush to Churchgate station. We think it would be better taking the injured dog down out at Churchgate station than in the middle for want of time as the suburban train would halt very briefly at its various stops. We inform the Churchgate station master who is very helpful and checks on the whereabouts of the train. It seems that the train is just outside Churchgate station and is expected to arrive any moment on platform number two.

We rush onto the platform and wait at the point where the first class ladies compartment would be coming. The train comes to a halt. We check the train no on the compartment; it is the same one that the caller had given. We search the ladies compartment thoroughly… there is no dog. We then check the next compartment, yet no dog. We go back to the first one for a double check and she is sitting under the seat. We had missed her earlier as we had a grown up injured dog in our mind and not a two month old puppy. She lets out a whine and wags her tail. We take her out. She is very scared and confused but continues to wag her tail. We walk down the platform with her and show her to the station master, thank him and are off in a taxi and she sleeps soundly, tail wagging on the lap.

We thus decided to name her Bogie. She is too small to have climbed onto the train by herself. She must have been put in by some crazy person who had no empathy of what she would go through, in the journey or where she would end up.

Bogie is being temporarily housed by a WSD volunteer and is looking for a good home and if you know anyone who would want her do call WSD on 23733433. She is brown with a black snout, has floppy ears and is adorable. She wags her tail all the time and should we say that she is used to traveling on a Mumbai suburban train?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Croissant's Cat

I know her as the Croissant's cat as she used to hang around outside the Croissant's outlet just when you come out of the Churchgate subway going towards Eros theatre. She has been around for at least ten years and at a time when Croissant's used to be very popular with the college crowd. I remember that she would greet the college students and Croissant's patrons with glee, rushing towards them and they invariably used to end up giving her something to eat.

Vijaybhai who used to sell socks on the streets loves her and says he has not named her. He adds that she is lucky for everyone who she makes friends with and that she is the oldest cat he has seen around in that area. She used to keep littering and has kept a count of the number of times she had littered (six times!) till she was neutered some years ago. He demonstrates how much she adores him by calling out to her and she responds by immediately rushings towards him.

Some years ago she had a terrible accident and she lost her eye. She was in hospital for quite some time. Her eye had to be removed but that has not changed anything for her. She is now found hanging around just outside the subway with the guy who sells shaving blades and FM radios. She will allow you to pick her up and also cuddle and snuzzle against you if you call out to her. So if you are at Churchgate, ask any of the hawkers around and all of them would know and point out this one-eyed Croissant's cat.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sniffer Mac

The above photo is that of the three year old Labrador 'Mac', a sniffer dog who has been trained to sniff out bombs and is on emergency duty at the Mumbai airport. It is sad that the life of a sniffer dog is not very long due to them sniffing out all kinds of stuff but they carry out an immense service to the nation. I asked Balbir Singh, Mac’s handler if he had ever sniffed out any bombs. The answer was thankfully no which meant that no one had managed to take a bomb in, but he did say that during Diwali he had caught a few people who were trying to carry fire-crackers in their baggage.

Mac was patiently sitting at the entry-gate where passengers and visitors go into the terminal and he had just come after taking a round on the terminal. He looked up at me and shook hands and would be soon zooming off to attend to some other emergency call.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Walk into Mumbai's past

Bombay's past on an image with the reflection of the present outside

This Sunday, take a different kind of a heritage walk. You won’t be walking around the streets of Mumbai but would be comparing the archival Philips Images of Bombay to the South Mumbai of today from the roof-top of the Ambassador hotel. A walk back in time! This walk has been organized by the Bombay Heritage Walks founded by city architects Abha Bahl and Brinda Gaitonde who started these walks in 1999 to raise the awareness about the city’s architecture and heritage monuments.

Look out of the window towards the east and you will see what is still known as the Fort area. The Fort was built in 1716 and housed many residential and commercial buildings. It had three gates Apollo, Church and Bazaar and a moat with a wide stretch of open space towards the west known as ‘The Esplanade’. Today you will hardly see any traces of the Fort other than its name. The names of the demolished gates have also been retained but by the station (Churchgate) and the street (Bazaar gate). The fort was demolished in the 1860’s, a bold move by the then Governor, Sir Bartle Frere, a visionary and master planner who wanted to make Bombay, the first modern urban city of India. He had a list of 14 buildings that he wanted to build including a high court, the secretariat and many of the magnificent Gothic buildings which one can see in this area.

Look above at the old photo of the headquarters of the Western Railways(then BB&CI),the magnificent stone building opposite Churchgate station built in 1899 and you will see that the sea is almost touching it and there are vast open spaces around it. Look across the sea in the photograph and notice the densely forested Malabar Hill inhabited then by the Malabaris (thus the name) who were supposed to be pirates and thus kept people away from this place. Now look out and in place of the forest is Mumbai’s skyline, numerous skyscrapers dot Malabar Hill. At the southern tip, you will see the Governors house (Raj Bhavan) which was earlier inside the Fort, then moved to Parel (Haffkine Institute) and finally moved here in 1820.

Look closely at the same photo and you will see a very tiny Churchgate station designed in the Swiss chalet style (built in 1876) with the railway tracks going further south. They would have run from under the existing Eros theatre and parallel to the today’s M. Karve Road, all the way upto the Colaba railway station (built in 1869 and demolished in 1930). The Art Deco buildings that you see today opposite the Oval would come up later on this railway line with the lines then terminating at Churchgate station.

Chowpatty in the olden days

Then look at the old photograph of Chowpatty and you will see benches facing the sea at the edge of the beach. You will recognize the Wilson College, the other buildings around it and naturally notice the absence of Kulfi Centre and Café Ideal. Do notice the small round about at the junction of the road which comes from Sukh Sagar onto Marine Drive.

Move ahead to the photograph that shows Marine Drive with its Art Deco buildings (built in the 1920’s) and the absence of the fly-over. Now,look out from the roof top and you will not only see the beautiful Art Deco buildings but also notice how the Mumbai skyline has changed with tall skyscrapers emerging out from the Nana Chowk and Girgaum areas.

So if you want to see and hear all of the above and many more stories including the one of the Hornby’s Vellard and others about Bombay’s past, head straight to the roof-top of the Ambassador hotel on February 11, 2007 at 4:00 pm at the event which is a part of the Heritage Walks section of the ongoing Kala Ghoda festival and have a blast with the past.
All pictures of old Bombay are from Phillips images.