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.