Mumbai ki Hawa – Revisiting Mumbai after seven years
A day in Mumbai
Mumbai like Chennai is not just a city to me, it is an emotion. I was all of 21, when I landed on the shores of the city, wide eyed and raw but with an ambition. .I used to call it my second home. It’s a city that had groomed me and had given me an identity, set me on a professional career which gave me great opportunities and exposure. It is a city where I studied, worked, lived and made so many friends. Even after I left its shores, I was always welcomed with open arms on every business trip. And yet, when I quit my media career seven years ago, Mumbai seemed to literally shut its doors upon me. Until last month when I revisited the city.
I was on an emotional high and every moment was dripping with nostalgia. Every street and area had a memory associated with it as I wandered around . Images flashed in my mind – walking around Breach Candy where I lived in the hostel, getting lifts at Peddar Road, watching sunsets at Marine Drive while munching moongfali (groundnuts), taking the train to Churchgate at non peak hours, shopping at Fashion Street. But it was not always about the town. If it was Bachelors in town, it was Naturals in Shivaji Park. I lived in Bandra and then in Mahim but I had friends everywhere. Sitting atop Mount Marys till late night or walking in the middle of the night to watch the stranded ship at Carter Road and being caught unawares by high tide or just roaming around Lokhandwala to shooting late at night at Goregaon Film City or visiting friends at Meera Road – I was simply overwhelmed remembering these moments.
The city was welcoming as always but it was no longer home to me. And it was the first time I was visiting Mumbai not on a business trip, but on a vacation.As a guest of Hyatt Regency, I was here to put my feet up, get pampered at the spa, dine at their famous Italian restaurant and taste their signature dish – ravioli and tiramisu and forget all about work.
They gifted me wine and cheese, besides a box of board games, including my favourite Monopoly as a part of their “Get Carded” Initiative. After all, vacations are all about doing nothing and making the most of being away from home.
But then the itchy feet in me decided to push me out into the streets. I wanted to get a feel of Mumbai ki Hawa. I wanted to roam around in the markets and bite into the street food. And so we headed to the Dadar Flower and Vegetables Markets and the Mahim Fish Market.
I lived initially as paying guest in Bandra and then moved along with a kind Maharashtrian lady who lived in Mahim, near Matunga Road Station- West. The area had been my home for over fie years. Although aunty is no more today, she was like a mother to me during the days here when I stayed with her in her room. She was probably the best room mate I ever had.
Dadar was just the same – hot, dusty, colourful, filled with people and typically ” Amchi Mumbai.” When I walked around with a camera in hand, everyone wanted their photograph taken – from Tiger in this photograph to this girl who called out to me in the crowd and demanded her photograph be taken.
The markets were a make shift barber shops while dabbawallas waited with their boxes. Women cooked and prepared boxes of poha and sabudaana kichdi and sold them at shops. From vadapavs to bajjis , stalls of street food were tempting us.
Our next halt is the Crawford Market at South Mumbai, now called Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai, the first building to have been lit with electricity .There are so many memories associated with this place but one of my favourites is an interview that I did with for the TV show that I was working for with celebrated author Rohinton Mistry as his book, ” Such a long Journey” was made into a film.
The market which is almost 200 years old is not just a wholesale fruits and vegetables market but also sells poultry and there is also an area where pets are sold. But you can get virtually everything – from shoes to bags to trinkets.
And while we were there, we tasted fresh apple milk shake on the streets and walked into the Magaldas Market, the heritage textile where over hundred vendors sit in narrow covered lanes with their mattresses spread out as they sell every kind of fabric from around the world. A shopper’s haven, I would call it.
How can I visit South Mumbai and not visit the famous Chor Bazaar, the most popular flea market. Mentioned in Such a long Journey as well, Chor Bazaar I was told was a corruption of Shor Bazaar, meaning a noisy market. You can get anything and everything here. And the saying goes if you lose anything in Mumbai, you will get in here as it became a legendary destination for thieves to sell their ” maal”.
Apparently during the days of the British Raaj, the story goes that some of Queen Victoria’s personal items were stolen and sold here . Even now if you walk into the lanes which hosts the antique market, you can get a feel of the colonial era in the items sold from crockery to clocks. Another fascinating aspect is the sale of old Bollywood posters here . If you are ever in Mumbai for just a few hours, then you must not miss it.
And our last stop for the day was Colaba Causeway as we then decided to head back to beat the peak traffic and therein began the marathon drive from Colaba to Andheri East driving through the Worli – Bandra sea link where the driver pointed the Worli fort out to me. I have worked in Worli for several years and I had no idea that there was a fort out here, but I decided that I would come back for another trip again.
The jaunt did not end here. The markets were colourful but chaotic and I decided to head to a place which is truly hidden from most of Mumbai. Even most locals have not been here – the Kanheri caves lying atop the Borivali or the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Barely half an hour from the hotel, we reached the National Park as joggers were returning home.
The green cover was a welcome break from the concrete jungle. We drove up and reached the caves, Dated from the 1st to 10th century, these Buddhist caves were usually viharas or chaityas – prayer halls a where Buddhist monks lived, studied and meditated. While some caves have sculptures and paintings, others are largely empty. There were over 90 caves, I barely got time to see 30 of them.
This however was not my first trip to Kanheri Caves, which was once a university under the Mauryas. I discovered it with friends purely through serendipity more than two decades ago when we came here to have a picnic. The monkeys of course had then devoured all our food items and I smiled to myself when I saw the board that said , ” No food items.”
It was time to head to the airport and we had to make a dash. Two days in Mumbai and I felt swept by a wave of nostalgia. But I was glad to have broken the seven year itch thanks to Hyatt Regency for being a gracious host and for giving me a chance to explore the city again.