From Mahalaxmi to Worli: Magic hues of spirituality, breeze and Mumbai’s glitter


Indulgence coated in simplicity has a name when it lands at your doorstep. The sea change for your step and the soul as you unravel the hidden gem and mystery of your city and country with a tinge of Divinity cum spirituality. Who needs luxury in one of the most expensive cities on the globe? No prize for guessing, downtown Mumbai has more for the eyes and doesn’t cost you a well of fortune. From Mahalaxmi Station to Nehru Planetarium and Worli sea face, you can hatch a conspiracy of joy and exploration as you take a spin along the stretches of the Arabian Sea.

Worli is a hub not restricted to the canvas of speed where the dock of life never stops but offers a wide canvas perched in the center amidst the stunning views and jewels, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, Haji Ali and Nehru Planetarium. Considered to be a separate island forming part of the Seven Islands of Bombay given as dowry by the Portuguese to England in 1661 for a unique union, Worli was successfully known was Warli, Worlee, and Varli.

The Worli sea face nestled in the center of the city and holding in its embrace the palatial sky rises, attracting hordes of admirers in SoBo as the fluttering breeze wind caress the cheek and smack the lip craving for a glass of chilled falooda at Haji Ali Juice Center. Worli is nothing less than a wonder that has everything in place to offer from the magnificent and inspiring at the same time, pulling you inside the city’s cradle.

 

  1. Mahalaxmi Station

Image credit: Google

 

One of the most frequented railway stations in suburban Mumbai on the Western lines, scything from Churchgate to Andheri and Borivali, Mahalaxmi Station stands tall in the middle. Between Churchgate and Mahalaxmi Station, it’s a ten minutes train journey as you hop out of one of the busiest station that attracts commuters in lakhs on a daily average.

The unique and friendly pathway covered in tin sheet as you wade inside and outside offers a sense of comfort and familiarity to commuters that lead towards the crowded road overlooking the Mahalaxmi Race Course and a one-minute walk to the bus stops towards Haji Ali or the Worli Sea face.

 

  1. Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Image source: Google/alamy.com

The Mahalaxmi Racecourse is rooted outside the station and standing in its midst gives an angular view of the city as it is chaperoned by tall towers, the sea, and the highway. The race course is glitz and glitter affair in the city which is one of the biggest attractions frequented by the who’s who’s of glamor.

Sprawled over 225 acres of land and stretched over 2,400 meters of race, the Oval shaped land overlooks the sea and borrows its architectural finesse and state-of-the-art from the Melbourne Race Course. Built in 1883 on a land donated by Sir Cusrow N Wadia, the structure was supervised by Major JE Hughes and is home to five Indian classics where the main attractions are 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Oaks, Derby, St Leger and Poonawalla Multimillion million, among others. Racing takes place between November and April.

Moreover, the spectacular Grandstand is ranked as a heritage structure that has under its roof, Club House and famous Gallops Restaurant for its patrons and guest. Glitz, power and its hall of fame witnessed not just the biggest Indian names in sport, politics, and cinema but also world personalities such as the Queen of England.

Standing tall in this iconic South Mumbai heritage is the Royal Western India Turf Club Limited (RWITC) considered to be the most ancient and vintage horse racing clubs in India. Tit-bits tell us that it was an exclusive club since its inception and boasted a staggering number of 7,566 members in June 2010.

 

  1. Worli Sea Face

Image source: Google/https://c1.staticflickr.com

 

The quaint, mesmerizing and picturesque view of Worli Sea Face where the blue azure water adds splash to delight lovers and admirers and evenings witnessing in drove the lusty congregation to gaze in delight the sun taking a dip in the pearl of the ocean. The water rising during every monsoon and wave lash coiling its might and unfurling its fury like serpents is a magnificent sight offered by the Arabian Sea that stretches and spreading its might. A moment to be captured as the salty water sprinkles and smothers on the face. Of course, SoBo is the queen courted by the sea of lovers. From the stunning view of Haji Ali at a distance and the architectural marvel, the Bandra-Worli Sea Face, you cannot just keep your eyes from the tale of love and obsession.

Tootling on the cobblestone promenade at Worli, the sight of the bounty waves crashing and surrounded by lovers snuggling, expensive houses strike the mind in offering a quintessential slice of SoBo. It offers comfort and brings alive a flurry of relaxed air by sitting on the bench and watching the sun bow out and tinting the sky with the dimming shade.

The evening walk offers a plethora of emotions that strikes your aesthetic senses that you cannot afford to miss in this part of SoBo. Waltz your way to a date that doesn’t cost much but makes for priceless moments, hither and yon at the promenade.

Of course, it’s a stunning view as you sit in Mumbai’s iconic yellow-and-blacks cab sashaying past the promenade and the breeze smearing your breath. It’s love at first sight.

  1. Nehru Planetarium

 

Image credit: Google

It was way back in 2006 that I visited the Nehru Planetarium at Worli and was dazzled by the serenity flowing in the surrounding. It’s hard to fathom that this place of immense beauty is anchored in the heart of the city that airs a complete view of SoBo. Surrounding by greenery and the splaying of palm trees that not only offers a scenic view but gentle air and breeze usher to make it a splendid affair.

There are 1000 various plants and trees sprouting in the spick-and-span garden to make it a grand and lovely affair to take a walk and to feel every single moment that runs deep down on one’s senses.  Spending one afternoon at the Nehru Planetarium soothes the soul and rejuvenate the mind. The state of the art architecture, cylindrical shaped building and the aesthetical dome is reminiscent of a tale concocted in heaven.

The Nehru Planetarium boasts of an art gallery, marble paneled auditorium replete with acoustic sensation, a wealth of diversity and knowledge in the library as well as exhibitions that make us discover the great Indian culture and heritage. As one is led to the vicarious discovery of astronomy, space science and the entire gamut of planets and gliding through the planetarium, equipped with Digistar 3, the planetarium projector transports us in a ubiquitous world, far removed from the earth. There is a certain sensation that draws one in this gibbous universe. It’s enthralling and mysterious, at the same time.

From the entire gamut of cubicles to be enthralled by the wonder of the solar system to the ‘Discovery of India’ science exhibition tracing the artistic and academic journey of India and the motley of activities such as science quiz contest, astro poetry and science elocution, tramcar, railway engine and supersonic jet demonstration the place is truly a one-stop-shop that has something for everyone.

  1. Haji Ali Darga

Image credit: Google/ http://twocircles.net

One of my favorite spots in Worli that gives the glimmer feeling of divinity and evoking spirituality is the Haji Ali Darga, the abode of the Iranian saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. Constructed in 1431 to honor the saint, the tomb is covered with brocaded red and green chadar enmeshed in silver and coated with a pattern of colors, green, blue and yellow chip of glasses which emblazons tiny mirrors like a dotted pattern.  The colorful myriad beautifully represents the saint’s spiritual magnificence and the divine form the Indo-Islamic architecture.

Sprawled over an area of 5,000 square meters where the 85-foot minaret is rooted, the Haji Ali Dargah houses a Masjid, Sanatorium, and Dargah that showcases the vibrant Mughal architecture. The large main gate is coated in pure white marble and at the entrance visitors, seekers and devotees thronging in numbers can get everything under one roof, from Chaddar to flowers, incense sticks and caps or tabeez (holy thread) from hawkers as couple of street urchins and beggars could be seen hollering near the entrance. The human clutter and chaos surrounding this heavenly and pristine beautiful place rekindle hope in everyone seeking the Baba’s blessing.

The pathway is less than one kilometer where it is flanked by sea on both sides and witnessing life flowing in peace and removed from the hustle bustle of the city. I would regularly visit in quest of peace and walk at the pathway wherein the monsoon you would schlep your way is a spiritual undertaking. Sitting in peace and watching everyone seeking the blessing of Baba where everyone, irrespective of their religious faith is seen tying the sacred thread on the huge plinth and pillar structure or women praying from outside. It’s only recently that women are allowed inside the sanatorium which is good news.

I remember visiting during the Monsoon where I was completely drenched and sat outside the mausoleum facing the sea water and feeling the cool breeze. It brought so much peace and inner confidence. One of my favorites was the canteen where I would gorge on piping hot samosa and child that warms the stomach.

On the main road, the Haji Ali Juice Center offers exquisite taste of fruit cocktails from New Zealand Kiwi Juice, Watermelon or Pineapple, and chilled milkshakes. After a trip to the shrine and offering prayers at the dargah, you deserve a treat at the juice center. Of course, the Falooda is top class always.

 

Sources: Mahalaxmi Race Course (www.rwitc.com)

http://www.mumbai.org.uk/museums/nehru-planetarium.html

http://www.nehru-centre.org/planetarium/

www.hajialidargah.in

Love

V

SoBo: When time never stops (II)


Mumbai is a religion. South Bombay (SoBo) is a sacred prayer for its aficionados and loyalists for it adds zing to lives, adorning the city like sweet and pure desi ghee. I bring the second part of SoBo, narrating places for its larger than life character and appeal that never stops growing on us. South Mumbai is an obsession, right from shopping like crazy at Colaba to trawling for novelty at VT, cozying at Churchgate, gliding through Peddar Road or Kemps Corner and the trilled notes of waves at Chowpatty Beach. The dock of life just never stops in Mumbai and more so in our SoBo. It’s an obsession that never halts. It forms such a potent character in our lives and jaunty existence. We may carp about pot holes but we love the city to death.

  1. Colaba

 

 

A second view of Colaba.

There is no second thought about it: Colaba is one, if not, the most frequented place in South Mumbai where people living in the western part or outskirts of the city make it a point to throng in droves every single day or week. You name it, you get it! It’s a haven for everything where you haggle among the swarm of crowd at the Colaba Causeway for a steal.

It’s the destination where branded shops snuggle with street hawkers who haven’t left any space left or stone unturned to give wind to their imaginations. Fake Gucci bags, chains, fancy wrist watch with decorations or cover, perfect imitation of designer shirts or tees, lockets or bracelets where you can scribble the name of the special someone, colourful  bangles in all hues and size, wristband, clocks, beads, fancy bells, lamps, goggles, unique toys, belts, bracelets, handcraft made elephants and Goddesses and Kohlapuri chappals for women. The list is endless.

It’s the place to shop ‘cheaply’ for your favorite items as you are transported in a fancy world and lanes of the extraordinary and magnificent items to cherish over time. Your eyes and mouth want to scoop up everything as if it’s the last plate of yum biryani. Strolling leisurely at the Causeway and shopping for small items was one of my favorite activities where I would visit Colaba every two days to whine time or gape at everything ‘marvellous’. It feels like an invisibly mysterious force that sucks you inside some Chamber of Secret. I remember bagging my prized toy, the iconic black, and white taxi for 70 bucks after much haggling.

 

Image credit: http://www.travenix.com
Olympia Cafe at Colaba serves one of the most amazing cakes.

There is no dearth of eateries such as Picadilly, Cafe Churchill, New Apollo or Sahakari Bhandar that serves one of the best vegetarian foods, be it Pulao, Biryani or Pav Bhaji. One of my best places for breakfast was Olympia to gorge on the caramel custard and flavored cake, decorated in various colors, green, yellow, Orange, and pink coated with cream exuding a flavor of exquisite ice cream. I call it the cheap man breakfast served with amazing Indian chai or coffee. Of course, bread and Kheema are always something to die for. It’s delectable.

In the mood for yummy and mouth-watering non-veg food at an affordable price, Baghdadi which is behind Colaba Causeway and minutes away from Gateway of India and the grand Taj Mahal Hotel is the place to be. Beef and mutton fry masala were priced between 25 to 30 bucks in those days with a jumbo naan worth 5 bucks that fill the stomach to perfection. Of course, Bade Miyan serves a multitude of legendary food such as Seekh Kabab, Mutton Seekh roll, and Chicken Reshmi Tikka. The tables are set and spread on the bustling street as you relish your food with cars zooming behind you. It’s truly a jewel in South Mumbai.

There are so much to do and see in South Mumbai, stretching your legs at length wading past Regal cinema and entering the world of Colaba Causeway where you can spot small jewelry shop. Believe it or not, once I landed myself a decent room for 100 bucks in 2004/05. The room was enough to move luggage, legs and sleep with two beds, a small table, and chair.  It’s no shady place but was quite cozy which translates the spirit of Mumbai finding expressing and giving an identity in cramped space showing seamless happiness.

Waltzing at the Gateway of India for the first time becomes an enthralling affair where you set on a path of discovery and indulge in a squinting exercise. It’s marvelous, the deep water at the bridge, admiring the boats on all four sides and taking a walk where visitors and couples strike a pose.  Be wary of photographers who hound you and pressing for money in advance for hunting them may be quite a task. Not quite so in today’s times where everyone has a smartphone with camera. Monsoon is one of the best times to visit Gateway of India and the waves crashing and water splashing behind your back as you stand with your back firmly entrenched to the bridge propel you to jump or feel the cold waves with the wind blowing in your direction. One of my favorite past time was to bend my body on the bridge and watch the deep water, spritzing walk, the caress of the sea waves, breeze, and water accompanying me as a protective force. The Taj Hotel is one of the city’s monuments and an architectural marvel that your eyes doesn’t want to leave since it’s a tale of glittery gold. I enjoyed walking in the concrete pathway where Taj is housed, admiring the branded shops on the ground floor and the marbles where the bricks are done with an aesthetic taste that makes it a blissful moment in life.

Drinking in Colaba and clubbing finds echo the spirit with much-frequented places like Leopold, catching a cricket or football match at Sports Express Bar and guzzling beer at Cafe Monde. Of course, Gokul is always a cheap option but worth visiting in a lifetime.

One of my best places at Colaba is Barista off Hanuman Mandir. You can reach there either by walking through the Gateway and Taj Pathway or on the main road at Colaba Cause where you take a left just after the Hanuman Mandir. It’s quite big and spacious. There are two sides to the coffee bar, one is the AC room and the other compartment gives a colonial ambience since it’s an open-air shelter made of mortar bricks and spacious with wooden structure where you can enjoy your thick cappuccino, smoke and watch the traffic swirling outside with the cars and buses screeching their way. In short, it’s cozy, comfortable and super friendly.

2. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)

 

Originally and famous as Victoria Terminus, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) is one of the biggest central railways in SoBo for the Central Lines and translates into the culture enshrined by Mumbaikars. Trains are our lifelines chugged to thrust us on our feet.   Every single day, 6.3 lakhs commuters travel on the iconic station that was built in 1887 and bearing the imprint of British architects Frederick William Stevens and Axel Heig. The Gothic structure and the huge clock make it a very thematic and aesthetic marvel that finds its way among the gems in South Mumbai. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage which is never shy in attracting tourists in drove.

The iconic station was earlier named Bori Bunder before it was christened VT and now CST, has two main lines, one is local Central Railway and the second is, Indian railway traveling from one destination in India to the other. The booking counter for traveling outside Mumbai is enshrined in a large, spacious and amazingly done Gothic structure adorned with huge steel pillars.  The window and dome structure is crafted in a half circle, circumference form coupled with dotted and shiny window structure which bears its signature design, owing to the Raj era. The booking is super efficient with the token system as you sit and admire the delightful structures and in no time, the job is done. At night, the station shines in iridescent colorful lighting that sparkles in all corners and forms where the place becomes truly alive.

The CST area is one place which is no short on entertainment, be it the nonveg food on the street stalls, cheap restaurants and semi-luxury or comfort for foodies. You name it, you get! There was a small, dingy non-veg place as one get out of CST station and scything past the bus terminus which was the place to be for me.  It’s a small and cramped place but bearing a homely feeling where the mutton curry or Biryani was available during those times for 15 bucks.

 

 

Taking a detour, the bus terminus at CST was always a favorite for the fruit salad, Bombay sandwich, bananas, Vada Pav for cheap and the delectable taste quenched the hunger raging in the growling stomach.

Off you walk past CST towards the JJ school of Arts which is one of the landmarks to your right and keep walking at a stretch and sweating it out in the heat, you come face-to-face with the Maharashtra Police Department which is not far away from Crawford Market. It’s another iconic and colonial building made of brick in the hustle-bustle of city life. There is more to the entire sprawling space when I had a chance to zoom my way inside to see the numerous police chowki and police quarters.  Trust me, you can zigzag and lose your way if you don’t ask for directions from the cops stationed inside their vans. There are the north and south wings, grand entrance floor where the panel teak ceiling will grab your attention. It’s called the nerve centre where major decisions and planning are taken to ensure Mumbaikars sleep peacefully at night and the city breath.

 

https://i1.wp.com/static.dnaindia.com/sites/default/files/styles/half/public/2017/04/30/570481-crawford-market.jpg

View of Crawford market. Image credit:@ dnaindia.com

Time to get a peek into the crowded and popular Crawford Market nestled between CST station and the Mohamed Ali Road. The market was built during the British Raj and has been renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandi but is still apparently known by its iconic name. The market has a charm of both the old and new world, boasting of its old colonial structure, cone building that reminds one of the traditional Bombay at a time where every city is losing its spark to the new, superficial structure and every old legacy is being razed off. The Crawford Market stands tall as you enter the world of birds, parrots, fresh fruits, imported chocolates, cosmetics, dry food, spices and goodies, garments and every imaginable thing under one single roof where you will never be tired of shopping and visiting. It brings to the mind the ubiquitous charm and simplicity of the old Bombay days at Mohammed Ali Road.

 

View from JJ Flyover.

Everything vintage Bombay is sprawled in this part of the city merging branded and small, modest shops, old flats in the buildings dating back to ages. Taking a ride on JJ Fly is a wondrous trip snuggled between the old, decrepit buildings and apartments. Of course, Eid is one festival where this part of the city sparkle with the best food, deserts, and delicacies cooked spicy hot on the streets, restaurants serving unique dishes and shopping for garments, kurtas and salwar. The uniquely amazing crowd throng during Eid showcases the cosmopolitan culture of Mumbai. Tootle your way below the JJ flyover and you are chaperoned by a line-up of hotels and restaurants where you should absolutely try the Chicken Sanju Baba at Noor Mohammadi Hotel on Mohammed Ali Road. The recipe was given by superstar Sanjay Dutt who visited the place late at night and entered the kitchen to concoct this amazing dish.

Of course, CST boasts of several cinema theaters right from Sterling, New Excelsior, and New Empire. One of my favorite hang-out was at Barista which is minutes away from Mc Donald and New Empire Theatre where I was a regular almost every day sitting with the gang outside, having coffee, chatting and smoking.

3. Chowpatty Beach

 

https://i2.wp.com/footage.framepool.com/shotimg/qf/120694282-girgaum-chowpatty-die-zukunft-der-staedte-mumbai-stadt-der-inseln-beach-life-embracing.jpg

Image credit: http://footage.framepool.com Chowpatty Beach.

Girgaum Chaupati our famous Chowpatty beach off Marine lines is one of the biggest city attractions with the crystal clear white sand and various food outlets, Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji, Pani Puri, Bombay Sandwich, Masala Dosa, Bhel Puri, Papdi Chaat steamily cooked right in front of your eyes and the Bombay Falooda or Gola sipping at the beach. It takes the Mumbai spirit to a whole new level. The beach always teems with children running and prancing, lovers stealing a silent intimate moment at dawn to watch the magnificent sunset. There are balloon sellers set to make a killing to the children’s delight and you can sit on the beach and plod the naked feet watching the waves crash. It celebrates the spirit of Mumbai in all its forms and colors.

There are numerous coffee shops such as CCD opposite to the beach, popular branded shops such as Levis but also Wilson College just opposite the sea. As you walk towards the beach, you can spot the restaurant owned by actor Sunil Shetty H20 and of the course, the beach is walking distance from Nariman Point and Marine Drive which makes for good 20 to 25 minutes exercise. But, you also get the BEST buses from Marine Drive that ferries passengers to Chowpatty beach. Of course, the Taraporewala Aquarium and the Savitri Phule Girls Hostel are very near to the beach and keep walking off Girgaun Chowpatty, there is a sea of discovery that awaits you. One of the best place to visit is during the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi to witness how Mumbaikar come together, singing Ganpati Bappa Morya and immersing the idols of Ganpati in the sea.

Whether it’s the Marine Line flyover where vehicles storm the way in a rush as you make your way to Bombay Hospital or Liberty cinema at Marine Line or Inox Metro, it gives a feel of life moving at blistering pace.

There are a couple of landmarks very near to Chowpatty and one of them is Walkeshwar Road which you can reach by turning right after Wilson Collge and keep driving. There are several interesting spots such as Walkeshwar temple and the Hanging Gardens as well as St Elizabeth and Kemp Hospital. Aditya was one friend who stayed at Mumbai Central with whom I would initially stay in my earlier days and at night, he would drive me on his bike. The night drive is dazzling with the lights adorning the city. Of course, Dhobi Ghat which is the spot of washer men cannot be missed in the city to get a feel of the real Mumbai.

4.Kemps Corner, Nepansea Road and Cuffe Parade

The posh, high flyer and most expensive localities in the suburbs boast of city heavens like Kemps Corner, Peddar Road and Nepeansea Road that lie at the crossroad, offering breathing taking views.  High-end shops, hair parlors, upmarket shopping outlets, banks, coffee shops frequented by the creamy crowd have found a place in the frame of filmmakers capturing the city to perfection on celluloid with the wide roads amid fanfare, frenzy, and chaos of a city life. Make no mistake, property prices of sea facing ostentatious flats and bungalows start above Rs 8 to 10 crores. The sloppy roads are a treat to walk in the monsoon and admiring the vehicles swarming their way and honking can blow your ears like splitting glasses.

 

Kemps corner.
Image credit: http://d131n82dij7gxv.cloudfront.net

It makes the city life a tale worth captured in your memory box. Of course, Cuffe Parade makes for a joyous outing to one’s aesthetic senses, appreciating everything grand and marvelous in an opulent fashion.  It wouldn’t be ludicrous to state that Cuffe Parade bears the great divide in the city where on one hand you have the rich and famous snuggled in palatial sky rises and swearing by obnoxious wealth but on the other hand, slums dwellers of Ambedkar Nagar surviving on morsels and living in match box, which was partially demolished this year.

No wonder Mumbai is a city where folks crave for the extraordinary, opulent, simple and below ordinary in the same fashion. Elphinstone Road is your go getting place for everything electronic be it mobile, laptop or repairs. The world impossible simply doesn’t exist on Elphi and ask it, you get it.

5. Churchgate

Back to sashaying one’s way to Churchgate as promised and you can read the earlier post here. This part of the city has never ceased to fascinate and intrigue me at the same time, be it the fashion street for cheap stuff or Khau Galli off the station. Churchgate station has always remained a favorite spot which I made home eons ago for two years. It seemed like a life time. The Biryani sold outside Churchgate station for a measly 20 bucks, paperback books and the uncle who sells all of the wares from China, be it fancy gas lighter, scissors, newspapers, and magazines, imported cigarettes during those days-aha the Marlboro pack of ten from Malaysia. You will find him under the umbrella near LIC building. Take a walk towards Baroda Bank and there is this shop I call magic, Enkays with its fancy lighters, zippo and imported cigarettes were a luxury in those days off Dinshaw Vacha Road.

Of course, the guy making anda burji at night was the place to visit, and soothing drinks like Mango which was a favorite, rose or chikoo flowing in a huge container. Mango drink was always a favorite for me that soothed and cooled the heels in the hot summer.

Our real treat started past midnight outside Churchgate station gorging on the yummy bun maska and sipping hot tea. It’s one of the road stalls that concocts a delicious serving of bun maska at nightfall as we admired the city, right from the Rajabhai Tower at Fort when the clock struck and Bombay High Court or the last train siren at 1.40 a.m

Strolling around ITC and Ambassador Hotels off Marine Drive is always a pleasurable activity where we would be spending our time in the cafeteria past one in the morning and in those days, a coffee worth 70 bucks came with a refill, enough to keep our body and brain well oiled to study till the wee morning hours.

Discover a fancy world in Asiatic Department that has everything for you as your body temperature sizzles to the ac, flitting your steps from one place to the other, boasting of snobbery, simplicity and jazzy where you get everything in this ‘fairyland’. It was my feeling when I first entered this haven for the first time in 2002 which became my favorite that displayed home wares, spices, dry fruits, food, medicines, footwear, cards, flowers, memorabilia and anything your mind can ever imagine.

Simply Mumbai

Love

V

 

 

 

Simply South Mumbai: An enthralling SoBo affair (1)


You know the story, right?! After all, it’s Mumbai, the city that never sleeps and an addiction that you cannot live without. While Mumbai is a world in itself similar to the tale in the movie Inception, a universe in itself as you wade deep inside the city. It’s South Mumbai that we affectionately call SoBo. Posh and glamorous. Once you set foot in SoBo as a traveler, resident or a plain visitor, it grows on you in more than one way where you can spend hours exploring its various facets and populace that merge seamlessly like a whole mass. Today is Friday. I take you on a tour in SoBo which I made my home for two years. For sure, it’s super expensive to afford living there but hey, it’s a lifestyle with the spacious roads, eateries, sea view, our lifelines the local trains, beautiful and sexy damsels, of course, street food, paperback books…and much more. It never cease to fascinate and intrigue.

  1. Churchgate

One of the most expensive places in SoBo, cosmopolitan in outlook and bearing obnoxious wealth with the super expensive abodes but, at the same time, showing a human face. So many things that you can indulge in Churchgate where I stayed and be surrounded by the local railway station where millions commute daily, hip and cool colleges like Jai Hind on B Road, Sydenham and Government Law College on A Road, KC College/HR College near Oxford bookshop and opposite Oval Maidan where the great Sachin Tendulkar trained. Of course, Cyrus Broacha would be seen on Sundays with his family for a lunch outing at Oval Maidan, watching Mumbaikars playing football and cricket.

One of my favorite places at Churchgate is ‘Not Just Jazz by the Bay’ and it’s not a rare sight to see Shibani Kashyap performing. The best part about Churchgate is that it’s a minute walk away from Marine Drive to your right and to the left is Eros Theater and eateries such as Stadium Restaurant and Gaylord. Stadium serves one of the best kheema, scrambled eggs and of course, tea. There is also a cyber cafe upstairs and post my meal, I would hop upstairs to surf the net.

Guzzling a beer and pizza by the wooden window as the waft of breeze air flows from the sea-facing Marine Drive kissing the cheek is pure bliss. Not Just Jazz by the Bay is thronged with the creamy crowd. It’s the best way to relax where the waiters dressed in black are on their feet almost tirelessly to serve the growing crowd. You walk straight, past HP filing station, and hop on to Gaylord which serves the most amazing coffee, pastry, bakery and French bread. The restaurant is divided into the pastry shop, restaurant on the ground floor and dining upstairs. There is a host of celebrities whom you can often spot and one afternoon, I saw Perizaad Zorabian chilling out with friends.

There is more to SoBo and after a sumptuous dinner, you could always treat yourself to ice cream at K Rustom that serves an exquisite variety adorned with wafers and life couldn’t get better than that. I remember the elderly uncle and aunty, going the extra mile to serve and giving orders to the staff to ensure that patrons are comfy. It’s a place that you couldn’t skip in this part of the city. Mocha’s hookah is always sinful and the place is frequented by a bevy of young students as you sit down to enjoy in a very cozy and comfortable ambiance to steal an intimate moment. It also happens. After all, it’s Mumbai.

Sundance Restaurant is just after Eros Theater and one of the best places for beer and the best non-veg food that should quench your thirst or satiate hunger for everything extraordinary. Of course, the street shops are a must to visit even if you don’t buy anything or books spread on the pavement makes it an exciting choice for book worms.

2. Rajabhai Tower, Fort area

The University of Mumbai at Fort is one of the main tourist attractions in the city where sits the famous Rajabhai Tower, designed by the famous British architect Gilbert Scott. The iconic clock is a huge 280 feet structure and it’s near impossible for someone to plod its steps in the city and not fall for its charm. You can see it from a distance as you get out of Churchgate station, standing outside Eros or the Oval Maidan. It bears an out-of-the-world structure which is aesthetic and the 13.5 feet in diameter clock bell striking loud like a drum to remind us of its rich legacy and place of prominence in India’s history.  It stands tall like the majestic Gothic structure building on which it sits atop. During my student days inside the Rajabhai Tower library, the bell reminds us it’s time pack up and you know it’s closed at 6 p.m to be precise or 8 p.m during exams time.

The Rajabhai clock Tower owes its name to the mother of millionaire broker at BSE, Premchand Roychand who funded the construction cost for a princely sum of 2 lakh at that time in the 18th century. Legend goes that Roychand’s mother was a devout Jain but was blind and the evening helped her to know the time by herself.

The Fort area stands home to the architectural delight of the Flora Fountain at Hutatma Chowk which is majestic, elegant and bears the old world charm. It marries water, architecture, and sculpture depicting the Roman Goddess Flora. I am sure the Goddess witnessed beautiful and tragic romance of young couples swarming in the city. The Bombay Stock Exchange, Planet M and of course the lining of shops under the concrete roof where street stalls cohabit together in the Fort area. It’s the place where you get the mouth watering Bombay sandwich designed with capsicum, onion, tomato, and cheese. There is no dearth of restaurants in Fort as you walk your way in the lanes that host BSE, veg or nonveg food, depending on your culinary taste, be it mutton, chicken but beef deleted. Of course, shopping for clothes, you name it, you get it…branded shops, clothes scattered on the road in the same vein as paperback or Westside housed in the gothic style architectural Army Navy Building. Before I forget, you should check out Cafe Military which is famous for its bun and chai, one of the best Irani cafe at a touching distance of Bombay High Court.

3. Marine Drive

A confluence of souls converges in one of the most breathtaking spots in SoBo. It’s Marine Drive where the Arabian sea stretches in a seamless stream of water that makes it the favorite spot of not just the residents of the neighboring Churchgate area but also from far-flung places who comes in the city to get a peek of its soul.

In the hustle bustle of city life, there is no guessing which is the place that provides solace to lovers stealing a secret moment, elderly walking at night, street urchins begging for alms, people jogging as vehicles honk and screech their way in the mad dash. The palm trees offer shade as one take a long walk from one end to the other, towards Nariman Point and on the opposite side to Chowpatty beach. It’s quite a sight at night from your room where Marine Drive becomes the Queen’s necklace with light adorning its pathway. I enjoyed my walks towards Nariman Point and climbing atop the boulders to watch the sea flowing down from top. Anil Ambani was often spotted, sweating it out at 5 a.m in the morning followed by his black cats commandos and once I saw in the evening where the sun was surfacing, Priyanka Chopra and Bobby Deol doing a dance sequence atop a roofless double-decker bus, waving to cheerful fans shooting them on their camera phones.

Sipping a hot cup of steamy cup of tea which is sold by vendors walking and on a bicycle is common spot on Marine Drive. The afternoons and evenings witness a flurry of activities with people thronging this spot. There can be no better place than this hotspot in SoBo. Of course, ITC and Ambassador Hotel lingers on the main road where you can hop on in the wee hours of the night in the AC restauranr and you get a refill of your filter coffee for the price of one. Cool, na!

Staying in the hostel at International Students House (ISH) has its own perk as you just need to cross the road to find yourself at Marine Drive. The roads that elongate at Marine Drive, starts from A-Road to D Road and Wankhede stadium is 10 minutes walk away. Standing and walking on the parapet is always bliss and the pathway is a good exercise to stretch the limbs and legs. No wonder, Marine Drive is everyone’s favorite.

4. Nariman Point

Strut your feet at Marine Drive and you will ultimately reach the posh and richest places in South Mumbai, Nariman Point, that houses Trident Hotel, Mantralaya, consular offices and embassies as well as a host of names such as Birla. It’s a haven for office goers. The place serves the best of street foods such as Pani Puri, Bombay sandwich, fruit salad, fresh fruit juice, masala dosa and of course my favorite breakfast menus, Idli, Poha and the amazing Sheera. It was my morning ritual at 5 a.m to walk from Churchgate towards the station past Asiatic Department Store to reach Nariman Point for chai and the sweet Sheera. On Sunday, Nariman Point abandons its cloak of corporate and hospitality look to transform into a family haven and fest for everyone, elderly, young or very young.

It’s a shimmering sight that serves the plate full with entertainment for children, horse and buggy ride for the small ones and lovers, munching on channa and bhel. It’s nothing less than a festival of sort with lassi, falooda and sugar cane juice cooling your heels. You can always catch a movie at Inox inside CR 2 mall or a play at NCPA. Of course, before the ban of the Tonga (horse carriage) ride, it added sheen to the SoBo experience at Nariman Point.

Postscript: This post has been written in mind taking into account the time I stayed in the city. Of course, it has been prompted by Sharukh Bamboat’s Mumbai blog and this wonderful post on Mumbai: An Unlikely addiction. As it, we all have our own Mumbai stories. Of course, there are places such as Suryodaya supermarket outside Churchgate station which is now closed. I have also omitted Satkar veg restaurant where I was regular for afternoon snack and dinner. It’s hard to do justice in one single post on my beloved SoBo and reason why there will be a second part, where I might revisit Churchgate again as well as other places such as Chowpatty, CST and Colaba. Hope you enjoy it as I did revisiting the iconic places which I made my home less than a decade back and revisited four years earlier. Happy weekend and hope you can soon plan a trip to Amchi Mumbai if you haven’t yet and fellow Mumbaikars in the suburbs, what are you waiting for?

If I have omitted something, feel free to add spice to the SoBo adventure.

Love and happy weekend

V