I just got back from a Finely Chopped Walk in Bandra.
This month has been more about private walks with tourists than group walks with lots of folks visiting India in winter from abroad. Today’s walk was with Leah and Reed from NYC. They had found about the blog and the walks through Google and had got in touch with me. We discussed a few walk routes over the mail till Leah zeroed in on the Bandra one. Today I found that she had read online that Bandra is apparently like the Brooklyn of Mumbai and that’s what intrigued them. They later said that it was more crowded though! Brooklyn is supposed to be a younger part of NYC according to them and I said that in a way this would hold true for Bandra compared to the rest of Mumbai too>
Leah and Reed have planned their Mumbai trip well. They landed yesterday and spent their time taking in South Mumbai…Fort, Colaba and Chor Bazar with food stops at Britannia, Trishna and a chai bun maska stop at Olympia and a peep into Samovar. They seemed fascinated by what they saw. The seemed to like it. They also said it was not as dirty as they thought it could be. The crowds a new experience for them. The sense they got was that there aren’t many tourists around. Something which puzzled them. They have started their 17 day long trip of India with Mumbai. They said that they knew Mumbai is not a place where too many tourists stop at when they came to India. Yet, they did stop here before they headed to Kerala, Rajasthan and up north in the more touristy circuit. After their first day in Mumbai they wondered why more people didn’t stop in Mumbai. It’s such a wonderful city they said.
Today they came to Bandra to walk with me. We started with my favourite Candies Cafe, a place they fell in love just as we have. Over cappuccinos, chutney sandwiches and mutton potato chops, dishes which had them in their spell, we spoke about their experience in Mumbai the previous day and how Bandra seemed so much relaxed and different from the part of town they were in. So they got a sense of South Mumbai yesterday, a suburb today and tomorrow they head out for a Dharavi walk to see a third side of Mumbai, it’s slums. Another observation that they had about the South of Mumbai was that the folks on the streets were predominantly men there while more equally distributed in Bandra. Probably stemming from the fact that the South is more of an old business district I said.
Next a walk down Pali Market and then to Punjab Sweets. A chance to taste the street foods of Mumbai in a slightly sanitised environment. We went for pani puris and it was great to see both Leah and Reed’s expression of amazement followed by joy. ‘What wonderful flavours’. This was followed by a Bhel Puri. Again it seemed like they couldn’t have enough if it. Reed said that it in the US some Indian restaurants offer ‘chaat’…. but not different types of chaats like this.
Then a walk down Pali Naka past Toto’s to Shiv Sagar for a basic introduction to South Indian fix of the trinity of dosa, medu vada, idli. They loved the dosa, found the medu vada novel and Reed loved the idli too. We sat there for a while and chatted about lives, our cities, their impressions of Mumbai, their plans for the Indian trip that awaited. The talk was peppered once again with their views on how different Bandra was from the side of Mumbai they had seen the previous day. There two days here had given them different perspectives and a rounded feel of the city of Mumbai.
Then we set off again, walking down to 16th Road. Our last stop, another personal favourite and Bandra legend, Khane Khaas. Once again, as in Candies there was a sense of being home for me and this showed in the warm greeting we got from Mr Hardeep, one of the owners of Khane Khas. He has such a lovely smile noted Reed and Leah. We were quite full by then but the tangdi kebab that started our lunch won the hearts of our guests to Bandra. As did the black daal that followed. Best Indian food that we have had they exclaimed again and again. A sentiment which made me so proud. They loved the rotis too. Mr Hardeep sent some rabdis our way to add to the sweetness of the afternoon.
Our visitors were ready to leave and I handed over some gajak and Christmas karanjis from Regal Plus as a gift from Bandra. They looked happy and so convinced about their decision to stop at Mumbai. To come to Bandra.
For someone who has lived in Mumbai for 16 years now. For whom Mumbai has been home. Whom Mumbai has welcomed so warmly. Given me my wife and a family that one married into, a livelihood, the blog, the many friends I have made, a sense of belonging, Bandra of course…Leah and Reed’s falling in love with the city, my home, is really what the walks are all about.