Travel – From India Gate to Gateway of India

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The Delhi walli visits the rival city Mumbai and is impressed.

[Text by Manika Dhama; picture by Dharmesh]

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have landed at the Chhtrapati Shivaji Airport in Mumbai. Outside temperature 28 degrees Celsius.” The announcement brought a smile on my face on a recent afternoon. I was in Mumbai and it was raining.

My first trip to the city had been in 2005. That time I played the tourist and dutifully went to see the museums, the gardens, the beach and the film-star homes (from a distance). I quite liked it then, especially for the (albeit stinky) beach that doesn’t exist in Delhi.

However, this time around I wasn’t too keen on being a tourist. Friends in Delhi had given me a list of ‘must-visit’ places, especially since I wasn’t traveling with mother. I didn’t visit even half of those, but during my 4 nights 3 days there, I managed to pack in enough experiences to have a Mumbai-hangover.

Firstly, my host-cum-friend in the city gave me a lowdown on the Mumbai-life. He told me about the most significant survival kit in the city – the umbrella. It made sense, considering the whole time I was there it hardly stopped raining.

Another important thing to work on was my reflexes. On a fine Mumbai morning I dared to wear an off-white dress (foolish Delhi-ite me). I was barely out of my friend’s apartment building in Andheri, when a car sped by splashing water all over. Thanks to my reflexes, I managed to step back just in time to avoid the splash. Of course it took only a second to realise that I had stepped into a puddle. I cursed nobody in particular. A man walked by laughing and my friend said “Welcome to Mumbai”.

Rocky Night

During my first ‘night-out’ in the city, I followed my host and his friends to ‘Hard Rock Café’ (or HRC for convenience) in Lower Parel. This being the only ‘HRC’ in India, I decided not to miss any details. My eyes scanned the memorabilia on the walls – autographed guitars, concert costumes, and exciting posters. I found ‘The Kiss’, ‘The Rolling Stones’, ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ and others. I was a little surprised to see children (aged approximately 8) hanging around the place with their folks. These parents had to be rock aficionados to be initiating their kids into it so early on. Of course, now sitting miles away from the place, the one image of HRC that I can’t get out of my head is the Britney Spears poster (a big one at that) on the ‘Women in Rock’ wall.

Train to Bandra

Several drinks, starters and yummy desserts later it was only 11.30 pm and I agreed to travel in the local train to get to Bandra where the ‘party’ was to continue at a friend’s apartment. My host reminded me that earlier in the day I had vehemently refused to have anything to do with the ‘local’. But now I was a tad bit excited. I caught myself thinking of our dear Delhi Metro and whether I would ever take it at 11.30 pm. (I didn’t think so, even with 3 male ‘escorts’ as I had then.) I was asked to be careful with my purse (which if stolen would have made the thief richer by a digital camera, an iPod, around Rs 4000, a return ticket to Delhi and other precious items like Vaseline). Clearly I was clutching the bag a little too tightly.

Reassurance came in the form of “hey, it’s not that bad!” The train journey was short but enough for me to tell all and sundry that I have ‘been’ on the Mumbai local.

Mumbai Auto Anytime

On most days of the year, I am not a heels person (or woman, if you will). But this was Mumbai so what the heck. There I was, in my second best heels, walking through puddles at 2 am on a road in Bandra (with can-always-count-on male-friends of course). And just like that we were standing by the roadside wishin’ and hopin’ for an auto-rickshaw. And sure enough, it came!

That’s the thing about Mumbai. You get in an auto, you travel for what seems like ages, you get out to pay the man and the meter reads something like 36 bucks. I don’t know if Mumbaikars appreciate it enough. But when you’ve had auto-wallas in Delhi make you pay as if you went to the moon, you cannot but love these non-CNG, black and yellow three-wheel rides in Mumbai.

Doing Sarojini in Mumbai

Very often I would ask Mumbai-returned friends where they got the fancy shoes/clothes/belts they were wearing, and the answer was always the same…Lokhandwala Market. It was definitely on my to-do list before I got to Mumbai. But when we were actually walking through the area, I couldn’t excite myself enough to even look at the things on display. I’m sure they were nice but who was I kidding. I can hardly get myself to visit the Sarojini and Lajpat Nagars of Delhi. So I passed up Lokhandwala with the usual shopping tip to self – I don’t REALLY need anything.

The other thing I ignored was ‘Mall-viewing’. I realised that I never associate Mumbai with malls. So while waiting for friends outside a certain Phoenix Mills (supposedly a very ‘happening’ mall) I didn’t have it in me to ‘check it out’. Gurgaon, NOIDA and dear Delhi are doing enough for the all-important Mall-cause. Mumbai should be left alone. I doubt if it even has the space.

Hawa Hawaii

Forget malls, but if you’re looking for Hawaii in Mumbai, you can head to the ‘Hawaiian Shack’ in (what I think was) Pali Hill. It had come highly recommended, so being an obedient friend I decided to try it out.

There was the waitress in a sarong, waiters in bright floral shirts and fishing nets on the wall. It was a shack all right. You could’ve picked that place up, put it on a beach in Hawaii and no one would’ve noticed (except the Chelsea vs Manchester United match on TV could’ve been a giveaway). I had a real good time there. I also learnt that they apparently drive people out by 1:15 am. I didn’t stay long enough to give them that pleasure though. Again the ubiquitous Mumbai auto came to the rescue and took me on my last night-ride in the city.

See You Mumbai

Couple of hours before my flight back to Delhi, I was sitting in a decent restaurant (‘Salt & Pepper’ in Andheri West) eating Palak Khichdi for lunch. “It’s like home-food” is what my non-vegetarian friend said. Others had been raving about it in Delhi. I loved it. It was light, healthy, satisfying and very green!

The flight was delayed so I reached the airport comfortably and had enough time to admire the clean and nice departure lounge at the Mumbai airport (better than Delhi, if I may dare to say so).

Few hours later we were at the Indira Gandhi airport in Delhi. “Outside temperature 35 degrees Celsius”.