banganga: lord ram’s stopover in mumbai en-route to lanka


“Excuse me, Banganga kahaan hai?” [Where is Banganga?]
This is the umpteenth time I have stopped to ask. There are no sign posts of any kind. Guided by countless shopkeepers, cab drivers and Marathi women with flowers in their hair, I finally find my way off the main road on to a small side lane with stone steps leading down into a valley.

Yes, I am confused. Around me urban Mumbai throbs with concrete high rises and bustling markets. The corner store keeper assures me, “Down the stairs on your right.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, sure.” And smiles.

So down the stairs I go, and at the bottom look to my right. A huge water tank guarded by deepstambhs, pillars to hold diyas, and surrounded by temples and dharamshalas clinging to its walls greets me with old world whimsical charm. Continue reading

britannia and company : parsi food at its best : south bombay


[This post is not a food or restaurant review, and has not been commissioned either. It is a place I have eaten at and fallen in love with, at times for the food, at times for the ambience, and often for both. And like me, countless others have been smitten by it too. Such, that it is today part of the very fabric of Bombay’s history and culture.]

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Ninety-three year old Boman Kohinoor comes to our table to take our order. Charming, suave and gentle, he is the owner of Britannia and Company, a Parsi restaurant founded by his father, Rashid Kohinoor, in 1923. His son, Romin, is the chef.

Britannia and Company has remained virtually unchanged from when it was set up 92 years ago. The peeling paint, crystal chandeliers and Polish Bentwood furniture within are evocative of another era; the Iranian flag draped across the side wall a proud acknowledgement of the restaurant’s heritage.

It would be fair to say that the restaurant is driven by emotion rather than profit. The nominally priced meals could easily go for small fortunes apiece, taking the restaurant’s global repute and heritage into consideration, but the Kohinoors are happy selling them for a few hundred Rupees instead.

The family-owned eatery on a quiet street in colonial Ballard Estate opens only for fours every day to a packed house and long queues. If you are not eating you have to leave. Its patrons come from far and wide, from the office crowd in the Fort District to Parsi NRIs on holiday yearning for a taste of home.

I am charmed, to say the least. 🙂 Continue reading

the grand ol’ english churches of south bombay

Memorial to the first Bishop of Bombay, Right Reverend Thomas Carr at St. Thomas Cathedral; he died in England. His cenotaph was put up at the cathedral by his wife, in his memory.

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In keeping with the spirit of the festive season, I continue my exploration of Mumbai’s churches—from the quaint to the grand this time. 🙂

South Bombay’s two oldest churches can be traced back to the British Raj. Two very different churches representing two very different chapters from this period. They are also two of the most imposing in the city. Whereas St. Thomas Cathedral is a symbol of early British settlement, the Afghan Church is a dedication to the 16,000 soldiers who died in the first Afghan War. Continue reading

south bombay’s most beautiful church

When I think of churches, I invariably think of Italy and England. Bombay aka Mumbai? Nope. Not at least until I moved to this city.

Bombay has some of the most beautiful churches I have come across. Some grand, others unassuming and humble. And the most beautiful of all I chanced to walk into this weekend – the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Name in Colaba, South Bombay. Continue reading

a walk through 175 year old khotachi wadi

The Virgin Mother with Infant Jesus, Khotachi Wadi Chapel wall painting

Just behind the buzz and lights of Chaupati aka Chowpatty beach in Mumbai’s third southern most island Girgaum, is a historical precinct – the village of Khotachi Wadi.

When a friend’s facebook update showed up saying that she was taking a guided walk through the precinct, I, a rather self-acclaimed art and history buff, nearly jumped with joy and excitement, determined not to let this opportunity go by. 🙂 An itinerary which consisted of endless strolls and complimentary high tea in a 155 year old bungalow, over lazy conversations with its fifth generation owners, was both the carrot and the cherry. Continue reading

elephanta caves: mumbai’s 7th century shiva temples

Trimurti or Sadashiva – The Creator, The Protector, The Destroyer 

Some 10 kilometers into the Arabian Sea, off the coast of South Mumbai, is a verdant island covered with five 7th Century rock cut temples dedicated to the Shaiva Hindu sect. Known as Elephanta Island and originally as Gharapuri, literally meaning the ‘city of caves’, its basalt rock hewn temples pay homage to the various forms and legends of Shiva. Continue reading

art focus – a terrible beauty – meera devidayal

Where is the lake? 

I was first introduced to video art in Cape Town, South Africa, at the National Art Gallery.

The video art of South Africa, as most of the country’s other modern art, finds itself emanating from the turmoil of its apartheid era, leaving the viewer ripped apart and then brought together into some semblance of wholeness. Video art, I learnt, was not meant as a once off viewing. Every time one watches it, a layer gets peeled, both in the narrative and in oneself, and the journey of exploration thus continues. Continue reading

the road to haji ali

“When I was at my barest, my ugliest, my weakest, you took me out to the open square, to be pelted upon with stones by yours. My tears cloaked me – buffered the pain – for in the tears, my God was crying along with me. And flowers grew over my wounds instead.”

The road to the Haji Ali dargah is paved with sweet offerings to a beloved saint, doorways to zakat, human suffering, and faith. Continue reading