If you haven’t figured it out already, I love Bombay (erm, Mumbai) and just hate losing little bits of this city’s vivid cultural landscape – especially ones I’ve grown up with.
I was distraught when Merwans, the Irani Café at Grant Road was supposed to shut down (how would we survive without its delicious mawa cakes?) and pained by Café Samovar’s disappearance from Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda.
Image/ Kunal Shah
However, the recent news of Café Mondegar’s possible shutdown left me heartbroken.
I love Café Mondegar. The vibrant art on the walls, a living tribute to the man Mario Miranda. Early morning breakfast meetings with my girls (omelets and orange juice) and hot afternoons with rounds of Kingfisher on tap. Tables packed so close, you overheard conversations without even trying. The jukebox tucked into the corner, belting out ballads from the ’90s. Visiting “Mondy’s” and “Leo’s” a few doors down was definitely a rite of passage for visitors to South Bombay.
No doubt, this city is perpetually changing – and nothing will ever be as it is today. Suddenly, I can finally relate to my granddad when he speaks of the ‘Good Old Days!’
That’s why here’s five experiences in Mumbai you must have before it’s too late. And because Miss Wanderlust likes to be dramatic, we shall call it ‘The Great List of Endangered Experiences in Mumbai.’
- Visit the Watsons Hotel: Now a shadow of its past glory
The Watsons Hotel (at Kala Ghoda) originally opened as an all-white hotel in 1869 – and was the swankiest hotel of its times. At its peak, Watson’s hotel employed English waitresses in its restaurant and ballroom, inspiring a common joke at the time: “If only Watson had imported the English weather as well!”
As the folklore goes, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel came into being after JRD Tata was denied entry into the Watsons Hotel. This is also the oldest surviving cast iron building in India.
Today, the building is crumbling and in dire need of repairs. It is filled with tiny offices and shops, mostly small time lawyers. Amble in and take a walk around – relive the nostalgia of a hotel that once was.
- Ride in a double decker bus, they’re on the verge of extinction
Mumbai has been home to double decker buses since 1937 – and it’s one of the few cities where they continue to exist. Today, they are fast disappearing off the city’s roads and ply on limited routes (notably from Churchgate to CST). Isn’t it time you rode one, enjoying a front row seat on the upper deck?
- Bun maska, chai and nostalgia at an Irani Cafe
Going, going gone: Starring Mumbai’s Irani cafes. Bastani’s at Dhobi Talao closed down recently; it’s only a matter of time before more fatalities are added to the list. Till then, we’ll continue to enjoy the delicious caramel custard and wash it down with a Pallonjee’s Raspberry.
A must-visit is Britannia at Ballard Estate. Spend time to chat with the owner, 93-year-old Boman Kohinoor Irani, who always has a kind word or story to share.
- Drive in a Premier Padmini Taxi: A dying breed
Amid the onslaught of Santros, Zens and Maruti vans and caught in a web of regulations, the good of Padmini taxi is dying a slow but steady death – not unlike the good old Ambassador.
We make it a point to always choose a Padmini cab over anything else (if we have a choice, that is). Also, if anyone’s up for buying a cab for posterity’s sake, let Miss Wanderlust know!
Image/ Kunal Shah
- Catch a flick in one of Mumbai’s heritage single screen theatres
A whole lot of beautiful, old school single screen theatres are perishing – Edward Theatre at Dhobi Talao (dating back to 1918), Alfred Cinema at Grant Road and Capitol Cinema opposite CST (a heritage structure) are struggling to stay afloat. How about a break from the boring multiplex screens in malls the next time you catch a flick?
Image/ Zubin Pastakia
Image/ Zubin Pastakia