Monday, November 16, 2009

8 simple rules for living in Mumbai!

I came across this while surfing the net and this was too hysterical not to post! I have not written this, but a big kudos to the guy who did! It was really funny, so I just had to post it! Especially since its even appropriate now than when it was posted last year!

8 simple rules for living in Mumbai
May 16, 2008 posted by indiatime |

Maharashtra’s regional political party is slowly sketching its vision for victory in future elections, and among its new targets are the people or businesses who still keep using Mumbai’s old name ‘Bombay’. Some secret regional pride strategies and some of the currently brewing plans were leaked to the press a few days ago and here is the list of things that will soon be the etiquettes you will have to learn if you live in Mumbai.

1. You have to change your name to a Maharashtrian name. For most Mumbaikars, this is a tough challenge, so the local leaders have allowed people to take a generic last name - ‘Mumbaikar’. e.g. Amitabh Mumbaikar, Shah Rukh Mumbaikar, Abu Mumbaikar, Murli Mumbaikar, Anil and Mukesh Mumbaikar, etc. There is a proposal to allow suburban names such as Abhishek Andehrikar, Hrithik Dadarkar, etc.

2. Every Mumbaikar will soon have to begin learning Marathi. Monthly assessments will begin soon, and anyone who fails to show reasonable progress will have to run around Shivaji park ten times.

3. Every Mumbaikar will soon have to watch at least one Marathi movie every month. Considering the possibility that this rule may border on torture, there is a proposal under consideration to allow watching Dada Kondke movies repeatedly.

4. Ritesh, the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s son, will now be the default male lead in all Bollywood movies. And Rakhi Sawant, the Maharashtrian neck throb will have to be the default female lead.

5. The monsoon season is around the corner, and Mumbai will soon start flooding at its seams. Anyone who allows the local waters of the Mithi river to enter into the Arabian ocean will be apprehended and prosecuted to the full. Mumbai needs water, and every Mumbaikar should do the needful to contain the water in the city.

6. Every foreign article or company name or brand name will have to change to a Maharashtrian name. No more McDonalds, Pizza huts, Subways. Brand names such as Mercedes, BMW, and lexus, the ones used by most of Mumbai’s bigshots, will soon get a Maharashtrian name.

7. Zunka Bhakar, the local Maharashtrian delicacy will have to be at the top of every restaurant’s menu, bar none.

8. Anyone who still keeps calling ‘Shivai Park’ will face severe penalties. It is ‘Shivaji Udyan’ or ‘Shivaji Baug’. Call it a ‘park’ and you will soon be parked out of Mumbai, the pride of Maharashtra’s prejudice.
Every time I go into Fort, I always look at the Flora Fountain with great regret. A beautiful structure, it has been allowed to fall to disrepair. Well, maybe that's overstating it! Ok, it is overstating it, but there is no denying that the structure could do with lots of cleaning and sprucing up..... it is so beautiful that I wish they would!

The East India Company, in 1668, "hired/ rented" the islands of Bombay from the Crown for a princely sum of 10 British pounds a year!!! Indicative of the value that Prince Charles II placed on his wedding gift received by him from the Portugese when he married Princess Catherine!

In 1858, after the famous Sepoy Mutiny (the first war of Indian Independence 1857), I guess the Crown finally figured they had allowed The Company to wreak enough havoc, and the islands reverted back to the Crown. More likely they discovered what cuckoos The Company had made of them! India was the proverbial land of gold!!

n 1862 Sir Baartle Frere was appointed Governor by the Crown, an office which he held until 1867, and, under his stewardship Mumbai saw a lot of construction, land reclamation etc. In his honour, it was decided to erect a fountain in Victoria Gardens (Horticultural society gardens) but for some reason the fountain was moved to the centre of the city!

And that is where it stands even till today, still as majestic as it was 145 years ago!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Umbrella please!

Unexpected rain and Mumbaikars gear up to handle it. While Typhon Phyan has been worrying Mumbai met department, the locals are battling with it in their own inimitable way!!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bhaji gali

Living outside, especially in countries where domestic help is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, you tend to get used to simple conveniences like pre-cut, neat and clean packaged vegetables. And in the last 5 years, Mumbai seems to have sprouted tons of supermarkets that do exactly that! Must admit, they were an absolute blessing when I first came back and was struggling with finding a domestic help.

While the convenience of pre-packaged vegetables can’t be overstressed, there is a different charm to braving the wet markets and buying fresh produce. Each suburb, sometimes even each locality will have its own little wet market with fresh greens being displayed in aged wicker baskets and the produce sprinkled with water to keep it fresh under the hot sun.

South Bombay has its own bhaji gali (vegetable street) just off Tardeo near the Grant Road station. A long lane extending at least half a km, or so it seems to me, fresh produce lines both sides of the street. Sounds of bhabhi (sis-in-law), madam ring out as the bhaji walas (vegetable sellers) call out for your attention hoping to flog their wares. Exotic vegetables like pak choy, broccoli and pimientos (not to so exotic anymore!), zucchini, lemon grass leaves, baby corn, avocados jostle with local stuff like bottle gourd, bitter gourd, suran, kathal etc.

For me one of the most charming sights is the Marathi aai (Marathi for mother) with her nauvari (9 yards saree that the Marathi women wear. The saree is worn with the hind pleats tucked into the waist at the center back), the nose ring and the myriad wrinkles on her leathered face that breaks into a smile when you call her aai!

There’s a charm in rummaging through piles of bottle gourds trying to find one which has no spots or bargaining for a bunch of spinach that you think is horrendously overpriced but can’t help eyeing because it looks SO fresh!

This was a new one for me.. they looked like water chestnuts, but since the blak cover semed like charcoal and kept rubbing off my hand I was a tad reluctant but it was juicy and quite nice!

It’s not as if bhaji gali is significantly cheaper than the packaged foods, in fact for some stuff, I suspect it’s more expensive, but the visit is worth the experience. Go on a weekday, the weekend is madness! Take the driver, parking is a nightmare! Wear comfortable shoes, and stock up for the week!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The BMC's Wall Project

I dunno how I missed this when it happened.. would have loved to be a part of it! On my way back from Phoenix Mills, the sidewalk just had me fascinated. Its incredible how different people's creativity has found expression on the wall!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Festivals of India, Kalaghoda

The one thing about Mumbai that I have missed in these years that I have been away, has been the Kala Ghoda festival. It's like Mumbai's attempt to

There is something very appealing about watching street performances, hearing / watching great artists perform on an open stage set up in the middle of the road at Kala Ghoda or walking along the pavement browsing through the quixotic wares that tempt you, jostling with the crowds that throng the area....

But what I was not aware of was there is a mini festival around this time, prior to the big one in February. In fact, when we came back in Feb this year, my biggest regret was having missed the Kala Ghoda festival. So the advertisement in the paper was a really pleasant surprise.

Now I know how I am going to spend some part of my weekend!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cafe Leopold

The first thing that strikes you when you walk into this venerable old lady of the Causeway is that she hasn't changed much over the years and that it appears to be a backpacker's haven! Only the colours appear to have changed, but the checked table cloths, a trademark of all Irani restaurants, remain.

A Cafe on Colaba Causeway, Leopold had evolved from being an oil store to a restaurant to a pharmacy and finally having found its true calling in the feeding people, has donned the avatar of a Cafe! The cafe, as an old Coca Cola Board at the entrance proclaims, been running since 1870s.. and it’s gained its share of fame (notoriety?) courtesy the novel Shantaram. I believe Gregory David Robert used to spend a lot of time here.

I remember when I first came to Bombay (apologies Mr Thackeray but that’s what it used to be in those good ‘ol days!), Cafe Leopold was one of the must dos on my list. A chequered reputation especially after dusk, added to the dubious charm of the place to an awestruck Delhite, first time in Bombay! Plus it was open and served food right up to midnight! But I must admit to being a tad disappointed when I first saw it. This is what everyone was raving about? But then you get used to Leopold, and it’s never changing decor and its laid back redolent atmosphere and the countless afternoons you can spend drinking beer, reading a book and munching its wonderfully oily snacks!

So it was not surprising that a walk on Colaba Causeway saw me heading to Leopold even though it was only 12 o’clock, a far cry from lunch time. Nothing much has changed – not the fresco on the wall, or the posters, nor the tables or chairs - only the colour of the table cloths, for I seemed to remember them being red. There is a very interesting poster with Presley and his ilk, which I suspect has been around for years as has the coke sign at the entrance.

The high ceiling adds to the old world charm of the place as do the long pillars. The slightly faded fresco on the drinks counter, the faded posters on the wall, the by and large Caucasian clientele (most of them backpackers) reinforce the sense of déjà vu! In fact, it is quite commonplace to walk in and find only foreigners / westerners thronging the place, some reading the paper while they enjoy their hot cuppa while others carry on animated discussions with local guides/ friends or simply enjoy their beer.

The bar and cafe has an air conditioned first floor which technically is the bar and a prominent sign that declares that you need to be a permit holder (Khayyam’s followers' contribution to the local exchequer) to be able to partake beer or even mild alcohol. But faith, the two lasses occupying the table next to me seemed too young to be holding a permit, but this is Mumbai!

Amongst its many other claims to fame, Leopold just added another albeit unhappy one last year. The Mumbai 26/11 massacre started at Leopold. If you glance up at the wooden partition that walls the first floor, you can see the telltale signs of the bullets shattering the glass, which have been preserved. It’s not the most comfortable feeling to know that you are sitting at the very place where it all started and where the floor was awash with red. I am not sure whether the management has preserved it as an attraction but they do say “those who forget history are condemned to repeat it”...a solemn remembrance of a lesson violently learned...

Since I wasn’t really hungry, just ordered a watermelon juice and a plate of chilly potatoes. They were not kidding when they said “chilly potatoes”! The dish had as many red chillies as potatoes and my mouth was on fire! Now I know why beer is the fastest moving beverage here, but for now the watermelon juice did fine. The Cafe has a Chinese and a Continental/ Indian menu offering a cross section of oily food which you thoroughly enjoy tucking into. A pitcher of draught beer will put you back by Rs 400 while a glass by Rs 110 which ain’t too bad. My chilly potatoes cost me Rs 175 and the juice Rs 80. Most entrees are around Rs 250 which doesn’t exactly make it cheap, but when you compare to how your salary has moved in the last 15 years, you can’t complain.

I have often wondered why Leopold is such a hit with its customers especially the Westerners since the food is decent but not exceptional. Be as that may, a trip to Mumbai is incomplete without visiting the Grand dame of the Causeway! Leopold is like your grand mom; she’s been around long enough to have seen any and everything and yet offer you the comfort of easy hospitality and non-intrusive familiarity.

Shop Number 5
Colaba Causeway
Shahid Bhagat Singh Road
Mumbai 400 039
Tel: 22828185

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Landlord's house, marbled corridors, this was the max that I could do!! Not too bad, even if I say so!! Its a different story that the next day I had to order maida, chillies, corriander powder etc since I had used all of mine in this major artistic effort, lol!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Its festival time again and the ubiquitous Toran is back in action. It’s incredible how it makes it appearance at every festive occasion in Bombay. Now I am not exactly a "toran" fan but my next door neighbours have this really gorgeous one made from banana leafs that’s tempting even me. Here it is...

It intrigued me enough to look up toran on the internet - my instant guru for most queries, which I must admit was not too helpful. I am still clueless about the origins of a Toran. Must make it a point to ask my Gujarati landlord about it. They are quite religious and well versed with traditions and culture.

A Toran is essentially a decorative door hanging, usually decorated with marigolds and mango leaves or a string that is tied on the door with the flower on it as a part of traditional Hindu culture on the occasion of pooja. Regular torans esp in Saurashtra are made of cloth while the ones adorned on doorways during festivals tend to be made from fresh flowers.

The Toran technically is the first thing that someone sees when they come to see your house and is therefore reflective of you. So expect to see Torans ranging from the basic to the exquisite to the just simply overdone! It is always string across the doorway in welcome for all guests that step into the house. As someone explained to me, in earlier times, a typical Indian house would have the door opening into a courtyard with rooms surrounding it. I can understand that – the haveli at my ancestral home in Rishikesh is still like that no matter how modern the interiors.

But I am detracting! Given that the door led into a large impersonal courtyard, the Toran was supposed to make the guest feel welcome and Indians are famed for their hospitality. “ Atithi Devo Bhava” - a Sanskrit verse, from ancient Indian scriptures, that mandates hospitality akin to God’s worship, it’s the cornerstone of Indian hospitality.

Interestingly enough, Toran is also an old English family name with its own crest! An Anglo-Saxon name, it comes from an Old Norse word which means “thorn’. So technically, Toran refers to people who lived near thorns /bushes. Strangely enough a connection of sort, however tenuous between something made of plants / flowers / leaves from a bush and people who lived near a bush? Far fetched but who cares? Food for some speculation or imagination.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan!

Mumbai has a new four letter word, or so the MNS would have us believe.

Denizens of Bombay better revamp their vocabulary, lest the brain dead followers of a desperate-for-attention chief of an increasingly redundant-facing-obscurity party decide to make you revisit it.

Does anyone in their right mind actually believe that calling Mumbai Bombay is an insult and offensive to the Marathi sentiment? I know of at least 3-4 Marathi families where the kids routinely call the city Bombay cos thats what they have grown up with! Maybe he needs to ask the average sensible Marathi if his sentiment is so shallow that it takes a word uttered by a fictional character in a Hindi movie to shake it.

Well, probably to Thackerey and his brand of vigilantes it does, cos face it, other than being jhingoistic, does MNS or he have a platform to stand on? From prince-in-waiting to a wannabe, the ignominous journey has clearly prompted delusions of grandeur with Raj Thackerey donning the mantle of a self-appointed champion of the Maratha pride. What better way to ger air time just before elections?

In fact my recollections, what little I do have, of the man are blinkered, conniving but always opportunistic - no North Indians in Mumbai, Kini murder case, Kohinoor Mill controversy, pledge to plant 76 lakh trees across Maharashtra, a project that started, but never completed etc... I could understand and pity the guy if he suffered from parochial attitudes but this is naked, shameless political opportunism.

Are Thackerey and his goons blind, deaf and mute or have they deliberately missed Bombay Central Terminus, Bombay Brassiere, Bombay Suburban Electricity and Transport Corporation, Bombay Blues etc..the list is quite long! After all, it's easier to take on Bollywood when they are dependent on your goodwill to ensure that your goons don’t destroy their initials?

Inane stands taken by an aging inconsequential politician are not a cause for cynicism as is the obvious opportunism of the ruling party to take advantage of this man's inherent stupidity. Clearly his brand of jingoism, appeals as it does to a minority, cuts the Shiv Sena vote bank benefitting the ruling coalition. So the defenders of our constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression choose to turn a blind eye and allow Thackeray to remain unreprimanded.

Should Karan Johar have not caved in? Maybe, but he is a business man and he'll do what it takes to protect his business plus he didn’t volunteer to be the safekeeper of our rights. We entrusted that right to our elected representatives who are so mired in their greed for power that they forget why they were elected in the first place.

So finally it boils down to whether each one of us is willing to allow a Thackerey to dictate what we can say and do, even a simple thing like calling Mumbai Bombay! History is witness that India is a civilisation that is very tolerent and has welcomed and embraced every intruder that crossed her borders and invaded her and has made them her own whether it was the Aryans, the Moghuls or the Persians...and anyone who did not get absorbed had to retreat (the English, Portugese etc). So Mr Thackerey be warned, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fashion to the rescue?

If I ever thought if was only the Mumbai or Delhi affected who would be partial to such an affectation, I had clearly forgotten the Emirates.

Chanced upon this rather amusing newsflash.

Gucci seatbelt plan to get young drivers to buckle up
by Elsa Baxter Sunday, 23 August 2009

FASHION BRAND: Officials hope branded seatbelts will make young motorists buckle up.

Gucci seatbelts could be distributed to young UAE motorists as part of a nationwide safety campaign to get them to buckle up.

According to a report in the National, the Fashionable Seatbelt campaign will be launched after Ramadan.

The scheme, run by the Salama Road Safety Public Awareness Initiative, will see seatbelts adorned with images of the UAE national flag, top football team logos and fashion houses, like Gucci

The latest figures by the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) showed that only 11 percent of Emiratis and 44 percent of expatriates wear seatbelts.

Many young drivers have said they do not wear seatbelts because of peer pressure, according to the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy (EFP).

Maytha al Habsi, the director of the public awareness programmes at the EFP, told the paper: “Young people like fashion in general. Many people would love a Gucci seat belt, for example. Or a seat belt that carries the name of their preferred football team. Also, Emiratis like so much to carry their national flag. It may very well be that fashion is the way to go. Maybe this would encourage them to wear it.”

Local designers will also be invited to submit ideas for the seatbelts, which will be distributed in petrol stations and eventually car showrooms.

“We need to try this now and see how effective it is. Car dealerships, in the future, can perhaps get you to choose the colour of your seat belt, just like you get to choose anything else,” al Habsi told the paper.

Though once you stop and ponder, probably a worthwhile manouver if it gets the Emirati to buckle up!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Great Treasure hunt!

Our search for the Holy Grail, well almost that, is finally over! We have, despite landlords conspiring to the contrary, found ourselves a nice cosy apartment in South Bombay!

In course of searching for apartments, I have developed a new found respect for developers who can pass off a matchbox for a house. We saw fantastically finished apartments with swimming pools, tennis & squash courts, gyms, the works. The catch? Much like the Vitruvean man, if I stretched both my arms out, they would probably make contact with solid concrete on both sides! The trick being that you essentially live outdoors, in the pool, in the gym or at the squash courts, but never at home, lol! An ingenious way to promote a better lifestyle!

Nope, am being facetious here, but we have finally signed the lease of a nice 3 bedroom house on Napean Sea Road, which is the heart of South Bombay. Its not huge, in fact far from it, but its not small either.It dapples with sunlight and a wonderful breeze flows through every time you open the windows.

My sis-in-law is literally a stone's throw away which is comforting. So the next time, hubby and I have an argument, he won't have to walk too far!!!

The TRAI continues to deem unacceptable, my nomadic state, so my mobile number continues to be temporary till God knows when!

Son has got addmission into a school on our list and seems to be settling in well. He is something of a novelty amongst impressionable 2nd graders with his American vocabulary and mild accent and is of great curiosity value much to his amusement!

House finalised, now is the Herculean task of settling in and figuring out what to throw and what to keep, sigh! And unless you are a hoarder like me, you cannot even begin to imagine how painful the process of getting rid of things can be, lol!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Breakfast at Four Seasons

Since I had time to kill in the morning, decided to go to the new Four Seasons. I must admit the location completely fazes me..Bang on Dr. E. Moses Road with not so eye-pleasing surroundings, I was a little surprised at the choice of location but it is central. Not so far from CBD and not too far from the wealthier burbs!

Be forewarned, they do not allow cabs in for security reasons! Now I am a little lost on that one. Private cars are just as liable to be bomb carriers and cabs can also be frisked and sniffed, but I suppose they clearly feel that cab drivers are more likely to immolate or be human bombs…clearly a man togged in an Armani suit and being driven up to the entrance is likely to have far "more" reasons to not self immolate than a hard working, sweaty taxi driver who has little earnings and many mouths to feed!

I cursed hubby dear for keeping the car, but it’s a short walk from the gate to the entrance, so no fear! But the principle of it is the moot point or maybe I am just grumpy being made to get out of the cab and walk ! Especially when I am lugging a laptop and a BIG handbag (why did tote bags come back in fashion?)!

Once you go past the gate you can be forgiven for forgetting that you are on E Moses Road…the place is verdant, with green being the only colour that you can see.....the lobby is nice enough, done in wood panels, marble and long French windows affording a lot of light.


The place technically does not have a coffee shop, but an Italian restaurant called Prato where the buffet breakfast is served…there is an open air patio where you can order tea and a la carte breakfast but I can't see it being very useful beyond a few months in the winter months, given the humidity that Bombay has….at least not for most air conditioned Mumbaikers!

The buffet breakfast can be described in only one word- disappointing! Being used to the fantastic spreads on offer in places like the Taj, Oberoi, Sheraton and Holiday Inns of the world, the breakfast is at best meagre. In fact the Four Seasons’ breakfast spread very effectively drives home the point that recession is indeed here, lol!

Essentially a continental breakfast, priced at INR 900 (USD 18 approx), the bread spread is decent. A Danish, some chocolate stuffed croissants, plain croissants (which were stone cold and I could taste the congealed butter) and a couple of whole wheat buns…but I happen to be a strange creature who loves her whole wheat loafs and the pleasure of slicing them and putting them through the toaster and watching them slowly disappear only to magically re-appear all browned up! That’s also my son’s favourite part of the breakfast!

The cheese selection is disappointing with only brie on offer, though I must admit it was good quality brie. The standard single helping packs of Kellogg are on offer, though I missed my dry muesli. There is an adequate spread of fresh fruits not to forget some ham, bacon and some salmon. Tea, coffee and juices are part of the offering,

The only difference between the continental and the Four Seasons breakfast is an Indian hot preparation (today it happened to be a South Indian preparation) and eggs to order. The price of the difference? INR 400 which is not bad for eggs and Uttapam given that it is Four Seasons!

The service is pleasant and not intrusive. The ambience of the Italian restaurant is very appealing with high ceilings and wood panelling. I only wish that the spread was as exciting!

So if you plan to go out for a breakfast buffet on a weekday with the family, Four Seasons is definitely not the place to head for, unless of course, it’s for the snob value of having had breakfast at “The Four Seasons”!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

First week in Mumbai

We are settling in...its a welcome to Mumbai, the city of glitz, grime, excitement and endless opportunities....

I think 3 redolent years in Kolkatta followed byanother two in Cairo has absolutely ruined us (**grin**) for the buzz that's Mumbai! But its nice to be back in a familiar milieu, and match steps with the buzz in the air around you, the city has a pizzaz and attitude that difficult to match!

Mumbai has changed so much in the 5 years that we have been away though some things remain quitessentially Mumbai, like the ubiquitous dabba wala, the enterprising hole in the wall guy who does everything from pay your electricity bills to get you a mobile connection, shops home delivering everything under the sun, the pan chewing plain speaking Marathi bai...its fun to be back!

The first week is over though my harrowing search for apartments is not! Again, spolit for space by Cairo, it took a while for reality check to set in, but we have found a couple of apartments that we like, so inshaallah, we shall wrap up something soon!

Of course the first week was spent in complete gastronomic decadence be it a gujarati thali at Thakkers and Rajdhani, crisp hot dosas at Shiv Sagar, pani puri at Elco Arcade, bhelpuri off the roadside vendor, not to mention finally a VEG burger at McDonald (making up for 2 years of deprivation in the land of red meat, lol!)

And how can the homecoming experience be complete without good old Hindi movies...saw Ghajini, Rab neBana di Jodi in Eastman technicolour, lol, complete with the cheese nacho and hot samosa experience!

So far its been fun! Hubby has joined back work and has to drive to the suburbs for work. Am convinced the man must indeed love me to agree to stay in South Bombay and do that trek every single day!

We are well but miss Cairo and our friends tremendously....inshallah, shall make a trip to Cairo sometime this year!

The catch? Dont have mobile number as yet...correction, got one but it has been deactivated on account of my current nomadic status being deemed unacceptable by the TRAI, lol! Once they beleive that I am here for the long haul, maybe they will relent and grant me a mobile connection.....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Schools in Bombay

I think by the time I am through, I would be pretty clued in to the different schools in Bombay, responses to expect, the running around to do, and the sweat and blood you need to shed to get your child in...

The first conclusion? Faith, I think its easier to for me to get a job, the market notwithstanding, than for me to get my son admitted to a school.....

The second conclusion? Schools are the best business to be in infalliable business model that is recession proof! All you need to do, is to find the capital!

My wish list - Cathedral, St Mary, Ambani school, Bombay International and Campion!

Third conclusion? Expand that darned list!