Friday, January 26, 2007

Jay Jay Maharashtra Mazha

The Maharashtra Mazha festival which is a part of the Mumbai Festival was on at the Bandra Reclamation grounds till January 26, 2007 from 11 am to 9 pm.

As soon as you passed through ‘The Gateway of India’, the first stalls were of India Tourism and Maharashtra Tourism who were distributing leaflets and information of various tourist destinations in India and Maharashtra.

The festival showcased traditional arts and crafts with 100 odd stalls and craftsmen from all over India were selling and displaying sarees, jewellery, chappals, paper mache products, paintings, metal artifacts, cane stools, products made from bamboo from the North-East, floor mats, terracotta, candles and lanterns from Pondicherry, papads from Andhra, jute bags from Calcutta, traditional crafts from Saharanpur, wooden toys from the South, Madhubani and Warli paintings. The stall from the Konkan region of Maharashtra was selling cashew and cashew products, kokum (you can make Kokum or Sol Kadhi), saat (mango and jackfruit), mango pulp, tirfal (a spice used in curries), pohe and batata (potato in Marathi) papads and kurdaya. A wooden chess set with brass was available for Rs 3500.

There were food stalls with the usual shev puri, chaats, etc but a Maharashtrian entrepreneur called Dalvi was dishing out nice Maharashtrian fare like ‘Ukdiche Modak’- as steamed modak with coconut and jaggery filling, pohe, batata wada and chivda. You could also taste some wines from Chateau India in the next stall.

There was performances held everyday both at the venue itself (street performances) and on the main stage. These included typical Maharashtrian folk dances and forms from all over the state including Powada, Striyanche Khel, Lavni, Songi Bharud, Rombat, Gazal Sandhya, Tamasha, Vasudev and Marathi Abhangvani.

Monday, January 22, 2007

And Mumbai Ran

Mumbai runs everyday. It runs to catch its BEST buses and the 6:11 Virar fast. It runs home to fill up water and it runs to work, school and college. It runs in the morning, in the afternoon, in the night and through out the night. But on Sunday it ran the Mumbai Marathon for a cause, for its ‘place of work’, for its spirit, for ‘just like that’, for sending out a message and for itself. It ran in the Dream Run and competed for the Half and the Full Marathon.

Around 30,000 Mumbaikars ran for what they believed in. From the 96 year old Charushila Mohte who ran for Harmony to the 12 year old Vani Jhaveri who ran for WSD. Many who were physically challenged but with lots of grit and determination took part in the 3.5 km run in wheel-chairs and crutches. Many were fancily dressed –as the Air India Maharaja, in a Navvari saree with a ‘nuth’, as Gandhiji, as demons and as a lone Shah Rukh Khan at the KBC show. Many ran for the NGO’s that they support and sported T-Shirts of the NGO. The CRY, Salaam Balak Trust and WSD yellow and black, the Akanksha green, the Magic Bus white with the red bus, the Harmony yellow and blue and many many more. Thousands ran for their companies. I could spot DHL, Shiamak’s VAF, Colgate Palmolive, Mahindra, Citigroup and others in the crowd.

The Dream Run started at 9:10 outside the C.S.T. Terminus with all of us having to walk till we got to almost the Khadi Gram Udyog junction on D.N. Road due to the sheer number of runners. The route went on via the Veer Nariman road turned left at Jazz By The Bay onto Marine Drive and then a U-turn at the Oberoi all the way to the Marine Drive fly-over. Everyone mostly walked up the fly-over and then down to Princess Street and the run ended its six kilometers at Metro.

There were lakhs of people old and young who had lined up the streets to cheer the runners. They were chanting ‘Run Mumbai Run’ and motivating the runners. . I spotted Dilip D’Souza with his children on the fly-over near Marine Lines station cheering people. The organizers and sponsors had arranged for ‘cheer leaders’ who were at different spots dancing to the tunes of Kajra Re and other popular Hindi numbers.

The Marathon always lifts up your spirits and till the next Marathon; Mumbaikars will get back to their everyday running.
Here are some more photos of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2007

The Air India Maharaja

Run WSD Run

Marine Drive packed with runners

Past the Cowasji Jehangir Hall

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Strand Book Festival - 2007

All book aficionados don’t have to be told either about the Strand Book Stall or the Strand Book Festival which is held in January every year at the Sunderbai Hall at New Marine Lines (walking distance from Churchgate Station).

If you go to the Festival, you will run into the Shanbhag family who own the store, Mrs. and Mr. Shanbhag and their daughter Vidya Virkar who is based in Bangalore and runs four Strand Book shops there. (One near M. G. Road on Dickenson Road, two in Infosys and one at Wipro)

Coming back to the Strand Book Stall, it all started when Mr. T. N. Shanbhag (recipient of the Padmashri in 2003) put up a little stall which sold books at a discount. It was located near the the erstwhile Strand Cinema (thus the name) in Colaba and opened on November 20, 1949 and was moved in 1954 to it's present location. Mr. Shanbhag was telling me all this and added that he was the first one in the world to sell a book at a discount (that too of 20%)

At the Festival, you will be able to pick up books at a huge discount (40% to 80%) and you can browse around through rows and rows of books neatly stacked in different sections of Health, Cookery, Science, Management/Business, Self-Help, Reference, Art and Architecture, Literature, Fiction, Design, Photography, a huge Children’s section, a Penguin Books section and Strand Specials. Strand Specials had varied books from In The Line Of the Fire – Parvez Musharraf’s autobiography at Rs 675 to a Coffee table book on The Parsis by Sooni Taraporewala and many others. The Classic section had a 50% off sign. As the exhibition had just begun, there were not too many people but go there in the evenings or on the weekends and the hall is filled with book lovers jostling around to get hold of their favorite book at a huge discount. Every city has a unique book store which is small but has a soul. Strand is not only Mumbai’s book store with a soul but also an institution by itself and if you have never been there, you have missed something. So rush to the Strand Book Festival which is on from January 18 to February 4, 2007(10 am to 8 pm) and if you still cant make it, drop into the Strand Book Stall at P.M. Road in Fort and browse around for your favorite book, order them if they are not available and leave with a feeling of having been to a book store with a soul.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Banganga Festival 2007

I kept going to Banganga since my childhood days as my aunt stayed in the building opposite the temple tank. Though I have not been to Varanasi, I feel it must be like the city next to the Ganges from whatever I have read of the city.

Banganga is said to have as legend goes formed because of the ‘bana’ (arrow) shot by a thirsty Lord Ram while passing through. It is a temple precinct with around eight temples which are surrounding a rectangular tank with stone steps. It is situated at Walkeshwar. You have to go down from Teen Batti and then take the first lane on the right as you go away from the bus stops towards the Governor’s residence and then follow the stone steps down. Will write more about Banganga and the temples around it in a later blog but yesterday I went to attend the Banganga Music Festival.

The Festival started in 1992 and is a must-see for classical music enthusiasts or for people who need a reason to visit Banganga or for those who want to hear music in an amazing environment. I am sure many first timers to the festival were also first-timers to Banganga. The stage for the performance is erected in the middle of the tank and the place is lit up. People watch the performance sitting on the stone steps (carpeted for the festival) around the tank. The tickets this year were priced at Rs 200 and Rs 75. The money raised would be used to conserve and restore the tank and the temples around the precinct. Previous concerts have seen performers like Shubha Mudgal, Rajan and Sajan Misra, Kishori Amonkar, Bhimsen Joshi, Gundecha Bros, Ustad Imrat and Nishat Khan, Pt Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Veena Sahastrabuddhe, and many others.

There was no festival held in 2004 due to the court order passed by the Bombay High Court on loudspeakers not being allowed in certain designated areas. Thus, the organizers started using ‘diffused sound’ from the festival of 2005. Philips radios were spread out around the periphery of the tank and became a source of the ‘alternative’ sound distribution without the use of loudspeakers.(As seen in the adjoining photo). This year, the same technology was used but because of some technical problems, the sound quality was not good and mid-way they had to turn off the transistors. The silence in the area allowed the audiences to hear the music very well.

Yesterday was the first day of the festival where Rahul Sharma enthralled everybody by his santoor and ended the concert with a Pahadi tune. He was accompanied by Anuradha Pal on the tabla.

So if you want to see a live classical music performance in the serene ambience of an ancient site, head there today as the second day has Vasundharatai Komkali and Kalappini Komkali performing a Sahagaan from 7 pm to 9:30pm or if you miss it, you can still go sometime to the Banganga area and absorb its serenity and heritage!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Traffic !

For a change,the name 'Traffic' has been given to this stray by me and for a reason.. He sits at one of the busiest junctions in South Mumbai at Fountain and is loved by the traffic cops. In fact, it is very scary as you will find him precariously sitting almost right in the middle of the road as if he is managing the traffic. (He must have been a traffic cop in his earlier life). Else he would be taking a break,curled up on the pavement outside the High Court (opposite the Central Telegraph office), where the pavement book-sellers used to be located before they were moved out.

The traffic cops love him and speak very fondly of him. They feed him biscuits many times a day and he follows them around. In fact they were telling me that he is so intelligent that whenever they blow the whistle to ask someone to pull over for a traffic offence, he immediately runs towards the vehicle and waits near its door as if he is on guard.

So if you are coming from Churchgate or V.T and going towards Regal theatre or Kala Ghoda , look on to your right at the T-Junction bang opposite the Flora Fountain and you will see the brown and white dog, ‘Traffic’ seemingly helping the traffic policemen manage the traffic.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Diva Maharashtracha

The literal translation of Diva Maharashtracha is ‘Light of Maharashtra’. You don’t have to think too much on what I am talking about as it is the new Maharashtrian restaurant opened on January 1, 2007 by “Maharashtra Ratna”- Dr Suhas Awchat and “Maharashtra Gaurav”- Mrs. Deepa Awchat. Like a movie’s first day first show, we were eating here on the restaurant’s opening night.

Diva Maharashtracha is located at Mahim near City Light Theatre, opposite the Mahim Post Office just next to Goa Portuguesa and Culture Curry run by the same “Marathi hosts”. The facade is made to look like a Wada belonging to the Peshwa and is painted silver. It would have been better if it was painted brown to give it a wooden feel as in a Wada. The trees on the road on the either side of the restaurant have ‘mashaals’. A lady dressed in western clothing greets you and asks you if you have a reservation (We had called earlier to book and they had said that they don’t take any reservations??).

You are ushered in with a traditional ‘Namaskar’ by the same Captain who you would have seen before in a tie-shirt-trouser at Goa Portuguesa who now wears a Kurta/Pyjama with a khadi jacket. You pass by sketches on the wall of famous Maharashtrians ( some recognizable and some not ) like Sachin Tendulkar,Mahatma Phule, V Shantaram,Senapati Bapat,Smita Patil,Bal Thackrey,Dada Kondke,Sharad Pawar, Lata Mangeshkar and others. There is a Paithani saree flowing down a wall and all the waiters are wearing the traditional ‘mavali’ dress of a blue kurta-pyjama with a red waist band.

The introduction in the menu says that Diva Maharashtracha wants to go beyond what people think is Maharashtrian cuisine which is limited to Vada pav, Sabudana Khichadi, Missal and Malvani food. Thus they decided to serve Maharashtrian cuisine from Vidharbha, Marathwada, Khandesh, Western Maharashtra, the Ghats, Konkan and Greater Mumbai districts. CKP, Pathare Prabhu, Saraswat, Maratha, Bhandari, Koli, Brahmin and East Indian cuisine would also be served here. The food is Veg and Non Veg but I would cover the vegetarian fare here.

Welcome Drink

The welcome drink we had was a traditional Panhe – a drink of raw mango pulp and as it was not the season for raw mangos was not very refreshing. You can also have Shahaleche Limbu Sarbat (Tender coconut water with lime), Kokum Sarbat (digestive drink made from Kokum) and of course my favorite - Sol Kadhi. The Sol Kadhi here is one of the best served in Mumbai.


The only traditional Maharashtrian soup on the menu is the Tomatoche Saar made from tomato pulp, coconut milk and tempered with chilly, cumin powder and coriander leaves. It was very tasty with a good texture and consistency. The other soups were an extension of the Saar or non traditional soups like Pumpkin Soup, Tomato Beet Saar, Saar Pineapple, Green Peas and Spinach Soup.


Appetizers available are known ones like Kaju Kothambir Wadi, Thalipeeth (but with cheese?),Aluchi Wadi(Colocasia leaves rolled in chick pea flour, steamed and then stir fried), Sabudana Wada, Batata Wada and others like Steamed Hirva Watana Ani Kajuche Modak, Mushroom Modak(with cheese again?),Manik Painjan ( dumpling of wheat and besan with onion, ginger-garlic and spices) and Kolhapuri Sukhe Paneer.

Main Course

You can order Batata Sukhi Bhaji,Watana Batata Flower Sukhi Bhaji,Bharali Wangi ( Stuffed Brinjal), Wangyache Bhareet ( Baingan Bhartha without tomatoes),Dalimbi Usal ( A Koknastha Brahmin dish with vaal(type of a bean) with onion, coconut and goda (sweet) masala. They also have Sukhi (dry) and Oli (wet) Usals and Amtis (Curries) which can be made of peas, masoor, chavali, masoor or moong. (All pulses). They have Pithale (gram dal cooked with onion, green chillies and tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Simple Dal (with just haldi and hing) which is called Varan is available and so is a variation called Ambat – God (sour and sweet) Varan. The Rice dishes avaiable are Masale Bhat with Katachi Amti. Katachi Amti as I understand is made from the Puran which is leftover after making Puran Polis. Sabudana Khichadi has also been listed as a rice item.


Try the Khamang Kakadi which is cucumber and groundnuts with coconut and tempered. The Aambe Dal will taste good in season with raw mango mixed with green gram powder and tempered. They give you the fiery Kolhapuri Thecha which was not at all fiery. You can choose between Bhakri (Thicker chapati made from Jowar or Bajra atta) and Amboli (pancakes made from fermented rice flour and udad dal)


Try the Appe with Ice-Cream which were more like the south Indian Sweet (Uniappam). They also serve Doodhi halwa, Narali Bhaat (sweet coconut rice), Sakhar Bhaat (Sweet rice), Puran Poli and Coconut Karanji.

I didn’t feel very ‘trupta’(contented) with the meal as it did not taste very authentic (other than the Saar and Sol kadhi) and only a Ray of hope of improvement should take me again to the Light of Maharashtra.