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.