Mumbai Meri Jaan - A love letter to Bombay (Part1)

I had a long conversation with my friend Kitty, and we decided that it would be more practical for me to write about current happenings and what's actually going in my daily life in Singapore. Not that I won't be writing about New York or Bangalore or Bombay (YES! Bombay! I had a little escapade sometime ago, lets just never put a timeline to these experiences), just that I'd be writing about more recent things. SO since Mumbai is a little fresh in my memory, this post is about my newfound love for this city!

Mumbai (not Bombay is what the head of the right wing party in India - Shiv Sena now made everyone call it). is one of my favorite cities in the world. Its just so incredibly similar to New York yet so alarmingly different. Both cities are fast paced, chaotic and time literally doesn't stop. The beauty is to find solace, or comfort in this mess. From riding the cute black and yellow taxis (did I remind you of the song?!) to the small cafes in Kala Ghoda, from the gorgeous art galleries in Colaba to the green lit walkway to Haji Ali, Mumbai is a city one easily falls in love with.

The trip to Mumbai was rather impromptu and I planned on surprising my best friends P2 and Kitty! Kitty was interning there for a few weeks before she went back to New York for her semester. P2 found out (cause I couldn't keep it to myself), however we decided to maintain it as a surprise for Kitty ! It was so very worth it.

I got to spend a whole day by myself, discovering the tiny streets and boutique stores. I went to a bunch of art galleries and also visited the museum of modern arts. I wish I remembered to take a picture of the building, it was so incredibly beautiful. These buildings have the same architecture since the british ruled India. Rustic old walls, beautifully carved pillars and broken footpaths. The entry fee for Indians was Rs. 10 (USD 0.20) and for foreigners Rs. 150 (USD 2). I sort of found that amusing, but really really cheap specially for the art work displayed in the gallery. The museum allowed no photography, but the inside was beautiful! I made a friend there, Tom - from Manchester, UK (I think). He had travelled from australia to dubai to mumbai, checked into his hostel and came straight to the museum! We talked about art, soccer and travel among other things! We went to this really cute cafe right at the beginning of Colaba, called Cafe Mondegas! The interiors were done up by the late Goan Cartoonist, Mario Miranda. The walls were cutely painted with indian cartoons saying "Wah Mumbai" ! They even had a jukebox! Pay Rs. 10 and listen to whatever you like :)

I realized how chance meetings like this make trips so much more memorable. I love meeting random people and making random friends. I guess I'm just way too curious about people and in a way, I'm glad I am.

The above street art sort of needs no explanation to those who know hindi! For those who don't, the first letter is "Fe", the second letter is "Ke" which ideally translates to *f#ck!". I love how the artist mixed two languages and made it art! I stumbled upon this while trying to find my way around the tiny alleys of Kala Ghoda. I was headed to a photography exhibit and i'm so glad I saw it! My itinerary for Day1 is below.

It was easy for me to get around and enjoy doing these things because the weather was so so pleasant! It was absolutely lovely, not humid, perfectly windy and safe enough to wear shorts. Yeah! For those who are visiting, Mumbai is safe for girls to wear shorts or dresses. Just moderate the length!

At Gaylords

The evening I landed, P2 and I took a cab from Napeansea and went around Marine Drive. We got green tea at this beautifully dim lit restaurant called "Gaylords"(I have no idea why!) The waiters were old grumpy uncles who probably wanted to be at home chilling rather than serving at a restaurant on a lovely and pleasant tuesday evening. It was post 11 pm when we left the place and walked around the area. We listened to the waves hit the high walls of the sea face, stumbled upon an old parsi temple built in 1725 AD. The temple was right at the junction of Flora Fountain, easily goes unnoticed during the day but extremely gorgeous at night. We met her friend Prandy at Cafe Marina - a rooftop bar facing the taj, marine drive, gateway of India and Haji Ali. I cannot in words explain how incredibly serene, quiet and wonderful that night was. This picture however does little justice to the beautiful mumbai skyline :)

Cafe Samovar is probably one of my favorite places in South Mumbai. I love the crowd that frequents the place. Young office boys and girls looking to grab a quick lunch, gossip and enjoy some cutting chai in the monsoon. Anyone visiting mumbai NEEDS to have cutting chai, whether its at a cafe, or on the side of the street (which is where it tastes best!). Cutting chai is usually associated with Mumbai only. It is a beautiful concoction of masalas, sugar, ginger, tea leaves (chai patti) and milk made in large kettles and served piping hot in small glass tumblers. Usually the chai fills up only 3/4th of the glass, which is why it gets the term "cutting" - which means half.

I surprised Kitty at a Parsi restaurant in Bandra the same night. Amazing veg biryani (I'm a vegetarian), although the non-veg biryani would've probably been much better NO DOUBT !  She was absolutely shocked and her expression was priceless. When she left new york a week before I did, we talked about how we weren't the type who kept in touch cause we always just hung out together. But after the summer in the city and my secret trip to Mumbai, it was just impossible for us to stay away from talking to each other for too long :)

We had an amazing thursday together, went to Britannia & Co - another parsi restaurant. The place has an old world charm to it and is placed in an extremely intimate corner of Ballard Estate - in-between the cobblestone streets and amongst the old british rule buildings that are now converted into banks. Its one of my favorite restaurants in Mumbai simply because the owner was an incredibly cute 90 year old man who still served all his patrons. He was so proud of his restaurant and even shared some stories of his connection with the British Royal family (postcards and everything cutely laminated!). Everyone who goes there needs to have the Berry Pulav! It is to die for :)

Ballard Estate is one of the most romantic places i've seen, with tiny interconnected streets and gorgeous huge green trees - Its a place you could only dream of.

We walked around admiring the old buildings, the young vibrant faces, myriad of colors, overgrown creepers on rusted vespas, took a zillion pictures and tried some paan (beetle leaf with rose petals and sweet mouth fresheners!). Kitty didn't like it, so I ate hers :) We obviously got stared at for taking pictures because Indians often get fascinated at us when we show our fascination for our surroundings !

We walked and talked until we reached Colaba. We admired the beautiful facades of the library and enjoyed some chocolate brownies at Theobromas. Mumbai has some great architecture, the south has an old feel to it and thats what makes it my favorite area.

After all these adventures, we were always too tired to go out at night! We often passed out by 11 pm. Everyday is an adventure in Mumbai and I love that. There's always somewhere new to go, something new to eat, some new festival to watch and always a lot of new friends to make.

(...to be continued)