Whatever the season, a visit to Mumbai is special – family, friends, nostalgia ad nauseum and this visit was no different. That ‘corner in Mumbai’ that has been a constant for the last 6 decades is this first floor flat in this building in Sion West …… the street was then a small single lane gali off the Pune Road (no highways then), that led to a slum cluster called Dharavi. I have seen it go through many transformations, the building of the medical college across the street, the repeated widenings……but this building itself has been frozen in time.
Morning walks, while staying at Sion are usually to Dadar, Parsi Colony, Hindu Colony (how these names reflect the history of the city) and this time was no different. Five Gardens in Parsi Colony was my destination, and the garden was as always abuzz with joggers and walkers and lots of kids (as schools are closed) playing football and cricket and the groups into yoga, aerobics, zumba and what have you – and of course, the outdoor gym was really busy. The character of the area is changing, albeit slowly and the older houses are falling victim to the changing FSIs and commerce!
And then as I headed back, I walked right past Koolers, the Irani place at King’s circle, resisting the temptation of its famous bhurji-pav and headed for Matunga Market. A lot catches your eye as you walk along, some very special to Mumbai – the seasonal nongu or palm fruit on sale, the cow tethered to a tree with grass that you can buy and feed to the cow to gain your days share of browny points, a strange contraption locked down to the electricity pole etc.. There is also the fixation with long, title filled street and chowk names – this Lion did not roar I am sure!
Matunga itself has transformed hugely over these years, but retains its essential ‘Tamilian’ flavor, with its temples, flower shops and of course the corner Udipi place. The energy in this place at 8am on a Saturday is amazing – a lot of young groups, family and singles – you share a table where-ever a spot is vacant, strike up instant conversation, your order is taken and you are served in minutes – and you are on your way.
I was not sure whether my usual pavement supplier of snacks and savories would be open so early. But there he was, and I got my stock of banana and jack fruit chips, authentic, fresh pappadam from ‘Natu’ (home or Kerala) – skipping the appams and polis as I had another 2 days in the city and I was not sure these would keep. Mr Unni told me that his father had set up this shop in the mid-1960s on this pavement and he has been open every day since. I have myself patronized him since the early 80s.
So all in all, a good morning in a city I feel very close to……