I don’t belong to Mumbai. Or shall I say that I thought I didn’t till recently. I have spent 14 years in this city, just 4 years short of the number of years I spent at my birthplace. It was around the same time – Ganesh Chaturthi – when I first set foot here oblivious to how my life was going to be tossed and turned around; that from being a jobless nobody, I will see my name (and recently my face too) published in some of the best magazines and newspapers. Every time I thought the city took away from me, it doubled it up and gave back, not always in ways I expected.
So while I have been in the city for 14 years, it was only in the early 2018 that I fell in love with it which – not to my surprise – coincided with me falling in love with someone who made Mumbai even more desirable to me. It was also the time when I was finally entering the happiest phase of my personal and professional life. Love and work took me to places I wouldn’t have explored otherwise. And slowly, beyond the traffic snarls and peak-hour rush, I could see the Bombay (or Mumbai) that I love to call home now.
A walk in an old village
You’re walking on the noisy street in Girgaon, you turn into a tiny lane and BOOM! you’re in a completely different place, almost like being in a different era. Khotachiwadi, the tiny East Indian village in Mumbai has that effect. A lane strewn with Portuguese houses and a small chapel welcome you to this Hamlet where you feel cut off from the chaos of the outside world. Khotachiwadi was founded in 18th century when the locals sold their lands to East Indian families who built their homes here and made the place what it is today.
A cup of Parsi mint chai
I chanced upon this little Irani gem called Cafe Dela Paix while walking back from a meeting. It stood there frozen in time; the kind of Irani cafes you’ve only heard about but don’t see anymore. It’s a slightly rundown place managed by the owner’s son Gustav and just one helper. Cafe Dela Paix opened in 1932 and was named after the famous cafe in Paris. The landlord of the building apparently had traveled to Paris and loved Cafe De La Paix located at Place de lOpera. He requested the owner to name his cafe after it. The menu at Cafe Dela Paix is limited – a few egg dishes and Maggi. The scrambled eggs with toasted kadak brun pao is must have. However, what you shouldn’t miss is the mint tea – strong milk tea flavoured with fresh mint leaves.
Two shops in Mumbai that I’ll never leave without picking a book or two – Paperback at Prithvi and Wayward and Wise in Fort. Both have the power to transport me to a different world. The time seems to stop as I pick one book after another and flip through the pages, read the blurb and make mental note of what I’d buy on my next visit. At both the shops you get personal recommendations from the owner and staff.
I love Matunga! Its flower shops, its newly graffiti-ed walls, its vegetable market, the aroma of freshly ground filter coffee in the air and most of all its restaurants. Matunga was the first planned suburb of Bombay and a hub of colleges which gave way to its many south Indian joints. I have lost count of the many satisfactory meals I’ve had here – chomping Mysore onion dosa at Ramashray, hogging paniyarams at Arya Bhawan, downing cups of filter coffee at Amba Bhawan and relishing meals at A Ramanayak. To a north Indian girl who has been brought up on a steady diet of home made idli, dosa, sambhar and chutney, Matunga is home when it comes to food.