An Akhada, N M Joshi Marg
Bollywood flash, big-business blitz and the crushingly poor.” That’s how the Lonely Planet website introduces Mumbai. The largest independently-owned travel guidebook publisher in the world features our city in its Go List section as one of 30 most exciting destinations for the year 2008, and one of the top 5 places to “lose yourself” in. Then under subsections, it attempts to capture objectively the breadth of the Bombay experience. We’ve chosen the same sub-sections, to attempt to capture, very subjectively, its depth.
PILA HAUS, KAMATHIPURA
The name derives by bastardisation, from ‘play house’. Once renowned as the city’s entertainment hub, this area has grown infamous today for nightlife of a different variety altogether. Which is why we’re not touting the nightlife. We’re touting the play houses, which have now been converted into cheap cinema halls showcasing 80’s Bollywood cinema for tickets as cheap as Rs 12. What with multiplexes being available the world over, and the dollar not doing too well, it might be worth a checkout? Not far from here is Naaz Theatre and building, the canteen of which once served as a stock market for Hindi film distributors. It still services those dealing in Bhojpuri, or B grade films, or English films dubbed in Hindi.
DHARAVI, FROM MAHIM, BANDRA, SION OR DADAR
To discover this NGO magnet, you must ask. Ask at Mahim Station for Dharavi. Ask at Dharavi for Sakinabai Chawl — wherein lies a colony of goldsmiths; for Kumbharwada — where migrant potters have settled and worked since long; for textile factories, for leather manufacturers, for auto parts… uncover in what is designated Asia’s largest slum, Asia’s most magnificent enterprises. Why should factories interest you? Because they overlap with homes, with workspace being rented out per table.
CHINESE TEMPLE, MAZAGAON
What better way to learn about a city than from its minorities. The city’s only Chinese temple, declared a major landmark in the area, actually comprises only two rooms at best. Yet if you visit it in the evenings, the lighting will be simple but spectacular, reminiscent of the spirits of Chinese sailors who started it. If you’re lucky enough to catch the Chinese New Year, with its fireworks, the lighting will be just spectacular.
AKHADAS, N M JOSHI MARG.
Equidistant from Lower Parel and Curry Road station, this mill worker bastion still flourishes with six or seven of the one thousand akhadas that once dotted the city. Watching office goers and factory workers step out of their metropolitan outfits to wrestle traditionally in the mud can be a very interesting experience, by virtue of being unlikely. Near the Girni Kaamgaar Akhada in the same area, a 93-year-old gentleman called Netaji Palkar lives and teaches fighting with ancient weapons
(including the battle axe) for only Rs 10 a month. Why? Find out.
NOOR MOHAMMADI AND SHALIMAR, MOHAMMED ALI ROAD
Old restaurants serving the city’s most authentic Moghlai fare. Noor Mohammadi, frequented regularly by film star Sanjay Dutt, has a chicken dish prepared as per his recipe — called ‘Sanju Baba’. If you sit in the non-family section you’ll hear the following exchange repeatedly: “Ek Sanju Baba Dena.” “Ek Sanju Baba Jaldi.” “Ek Sanju Baba Tayar!”
Shalimar has special rooms, where one can sit cross-legged on mattresses and lean against bolsters in an enclosure to enhance the Mughal experience.
And why would anyone want to shop for electronics or computer ware in Mumbai? Because this area provides you components for the same, at prices which are likely to match those at a Hong Kong flea market.
MUJRA, BACHUBHAI WADI, FAARAS ROAD
Ask here for a “Mehnati Mujrawaali”. This would mean she’s trained for long in both Kathak and classical singing. Mujra is an amalgamation of these classical forms, with added variation over time. It is often frowned upon and likened to prostitution, but enjoying it in the right spirit will provide you a unique experience from these exponents settled here for over many years.
NARANGI BAR, … ANYWHERE!
The Deshi Daru, if good, will knock you out for the night. If mixed with battery, it’ll knock you out for life. Reliable names don’t remain reliable and change frequently as ownership does. So do try to catch a regular consumer of such liquor, and ask him to recommend a place he currently inhabits. If possible, take him with you and ask him to raise the toast.
This article appeared originally in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/abbi