Category Archives: The Mumbai Diaries

Big Nite 2014 at Essel World

India’s largest New Year Bash!!! and we were most happy to be a part of it ūüôā

Essel World,¬†the ginormous amusement park that’s been regaling us Mumbai-ites for more than 2 decades. It is in fact our very own little¬†Disneyland of sorts and we take great pride in talking about it.

Built on an island called Gorai and away from the pandemonium of the city, Essel World promises an entire night (an entire day on rest of the days) of nonstop fun, food and adventure. After driving through the torturous city traffic, its a twenty-five minutes of undisturbed breezy drive that later squeezes through the quaint little village where life still seems to waddle with an wafting aroma of burnt firewood.
Welcome

We wanted¬†to reach before the countdown began.That’s one thing we love about celebrating the New Years. Every count backwards means one closer to stepping into the new year.
Oniel drove at a supersonic speed and made the impossible possible.
We were on the dance floor…when it was just 2 minutes to 12.¬†A million thanks to him ūüôā

Essel World has the biggest open air dance floor and four other smaller ones. Singer and DJ Ramji Gulati started the countdown.The clock struck 12 and we welcomed 2015 in just the way we wanted. Amidst an extravaganza of spectacular fireworks, electrifying lights, foot-tapping music and wonderful happy people, it was a great welcome to a brand new year.
2015

The DJ was at his entertaining best, belting out melodies that got us audience¬†into our groove. He sang, danced and made us¬†dance to the hits¬†from the 80s of Amitabh Bachhan to the 2014s of Alia Bhatt. It was a good two hours of letting my hair lose, burning away the extra flab I had gathered during Christmas ūüôā

Ramji Gulati
Essel World celebrated its Silver Anniversary this year. No wonder the entire territory¬†was¬†decorated in a way that¬†made it look like a¬†sequence¬†straight out of a Bollywood movie…divine!

The Magical Parade: The thing I love the most here is the Magical Parade of Essel World’s very own Fab 5 characters.

Parade1
There’s an assortment of rides and attractions for all age groups.

Thunder: is one such¬†adrenaline pumping ride. Once you are in, be ready for the heart-throbbing¬†out-of-the-world experience. And, this aint the one for the faint-hearted. We’d been in¬†this before. But this time, we decided to be on the other side…be spectators…and it was no less fun ūüôā
Thuder
Top Spin:
Its such a mean ride, true to its name! It literally spins you out and about… like a top. I’m sure the guys dint have a slightest¬†clue¬†what they were in for.

Topspin
Octopus: I don’t remember the name of this one. So Octopus is the name give by me ūüôā
Octopus
Zyclone and Rainbow are few other Adult Rides that set your heart pulsating faster than the rides themselves.

Crazy Cups: It was super¬†fun. We loved it so much, we did it twice ūüôā
CupsRide
Monsters In The Mist:¬†Cling on to your loved one tightly. You can¬†be attacked…any time…¬†Again, not for the faint-hearted.
Monsters
Prabal, The Killer: the most feared and now revered war-ship was in operation for 22 years in the Indian Navy. This mark of history is now converted into a life science museum for the visitors.
Prabal

Mirror Maze, Dodgem, Go-Kart, Carousel are few other kids and family rides.

Santa’s Town: Breathtakingly beautiful! It was like we were in Santa’s very own snowy paradise. There were these four gorgeous Santas who danced to our claps.¬†Amazing!
Santa2
Santa’s larger-than-life train carrying humongous boxes of gifts…
SantaTrain
Ice Skating: Wanna try your skills on ice?
Iceskating
There were Clowns, Jugglers, Fire Eaters, Face Painters, Mehendi Artists and more taking the entertainment up a notch.
Clown
And if you ain’t doing anything at all, just loiter around on one of those benches under the festooned trees sipping a cuppa,¬†whispering¬†sweet-nothings ūüôā
Trees
Food: And when your muscles protest from the dance workout and the rides have had your guts screeching, head straight to the shops serving scrumptious food and beverages. Food options had South Indian, Mughlai, Punjabi, Chinese, Gujarati, Pizzas and Burgers. Lip-smacking snacks included Chaat, Sweet Corn, Popcorn, Ice Creams, Candy floss, Ice-Golas and lots more.

We devoured the soft buttery Chicken Tikka Kebabs straight out-of-the-grill and served with mint chutney. The Chole Bature and Paav Bhaji were delectable too.

After four hours of pure non-stop fun and indulgence, it was 4 am when we finally decided to head home.

“Essel World Mein Rahoonga Mai. Ghar Nahi Jaoonga Mai”…
This transliterates to “I will stay in Essel World. I will not go home”… the jingle¬†that used to play on the television since the¬†time I was a little kid.
Its true…. once you are in here, there’s no way you wanna leave ūüôā
(www.esselworld.in)

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Ganesh Chaturthi – The Idols I Visited

During the ten day Ganesh Chaturthi festival, there’s nothing more I enjoy than visiting as many Ganesh Pandals as I can and capturing the magnificent idols in my lens.
I was completely overwhelmed by the profound beauty and splendor that every idol exuberated. Totally awestruck, I kept gawking and wondering how much efforts and dexterity it must have taken the artisans to build these masterpieces.

Thought of sharing¬†some of these pics with you ūüôā

The Ganesh idol of our building:
Our bldg
The Kanjurmarg Ganesha:
Kanjurmarg
The Bandra Ganesha:
Bandra
The Bhandup Ganesha:
Bhandup1
The Nahur Ganesha:
Bhandup2
The Sion Ganesha:
Matunga
The Vikhroli Ganesha:
Nahur
The Andheri Ganesha:
Sakinaka
The Matunga Ganesha:
Sion
The Thane Ganesha:
Thane2
The Ghatkopar Ganesha:
Thanehouse
Magnificent would be an understatement! Each and every idol oozes divinity….
I wish I could have visited some more of them ūüôā

Ganesh Chaturthi – My Visit To Lalbaugcha Raja

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most awaited and celebrated festivals in Mumbai. A festival which brings the city together, which is a reason for happiness and in which religion doesn’t matter.
There are thousands of Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals vying for the title of the biggest, the wealthiest or the most beautiful idol of all. Efforts of the artisans who put their skills to test throughout the year are finally rewarded when their idol wins.

Among all these idols in Mumbai, Lalbaugcha Raja which¬†transliterates to¬†“The King of Lalbaug” rules ¬†the roost and how! I’ve been visiting the King of Lalbaug consecutively for the past 6 years.
I owe it to my sister who introduced me to this place in 2009. But I have to hand it to my beloved hubby who, despite being from a different faith, has helped me continue this tradition since then.¬†Yeah, we are two religions under one roof ūüôā

At Lalbaug, the idol is kept for public display for eleven days and thereafter it is immersed on the auspicious day of Anant Chaturdashi.
Its believed that this Idol of Lord Ganesha is Navsacha Ganpati,¬†which means the “one who fulfills all wishes”. No wonder¬†1.5 million people visit this Ganesh Pandal daily during the 10 day festival.
The idol, now in its 80th year, stands a magnificent 12 feet tall and has a divine aura around it.
Lalbaugh Raja
There are two queues for taking blessings of the Lalbaugcha Raja Рthe Navas or the Mannat Line and the Mukh Darshan Line.
The Mannat line lets you on the stage and touch the feet of the idol. It attracts huge public and takes around 25 to 40 hours to get darshan. Crazy is the word!
The Mukh darshan line gets you a glimpse of the idol from a distance without going onto the stage. This is fast-paced and less taxing.

My sister always opted for the former, the Mannat Line and coaxed me to do so in my maiden visit. It was a good 18 hours wait before we could touch the feet of the Lord. A  real test of patience and persistence!
That was my first and last experience of toying with the idea of the “Mannat Line”. I am a devotee but not the penance kinds. So from next year,¬†I was content with¬†the “Mukh darshan” itself ūüôā . Its equally exhilarating and with much less efforts.

My visit this year:
We planned our visit in such a way that we get darshan in less time and the place is comparatively less crowded. It was the fourth day of the festival. We started off at 4 am.
The place is as lively as it would be during the day hours. Brightly lit up area ensures your eyes are wide open however sleepy they may be. Gigantic hoardings stare right down at you. There are police men everywhere to maintain the law and order. Barricades maintain the queues. The tea-vendors roam around on their bicycles untiringly trying to sell tea even in those wee hours. There are few make-shift refreshment stalls to help grab a quick bite. Garlands and offering stalls are scattered everywhere. and there are non-stop announcements reminding you to take care of your kids and belongings.

Suddenly someone shouts an impromptu “Ganpati Bappa” and all the unknown others quickly and loudly respond “Morya”. A¬†wonderful feeling of unity that is!

Our cabbie, reluctant to dare making his way into the crowd, dropped us at least a kilometer before the starting point of the queue.¬†People were running, sprinting, jostling, doing every possible stunt to get ahead in the line. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, but none seemed to care, except for a few frowns. I saw a man carrying a child in his arms, who tried to¬†barge in the middle of the queue by squeezing himself and the child from the space between the barricade. In the meanwhile, he also managed to bang his head on the rod, and with a bit of “ouch” he rushed ahead to continue his mission.

Devotees included people across all ages, backgrounds and faiths. There were office goers in formals and with their laptop bags who seemed to have headed straight after their office hours. There was septuagenarian lady who sauntered with the help of her middle-aged son at one hand and her old husband at the other. There were parents trying their best to keep their kids together, teens who seemed in more of a party mood. The homeless slept under the flyover, oblivious to all the hustle-bustle around them.

Buying of offerings and a little rambling later, we were inside a huge pandal where the queue was strategically planned, and which would lead us to the main area of darshan. Inside the pandal was an enormous LCD that incessantly gave a live feed of the happenings in the vicinity of the idol.

It took us numerous pushes, shoves and twenty minutes to get in the open and the final stretch from where we could see the beaming Lord. Not clearly though, with all those raising hands trying to capture His glimpse on their cellphones. My husband had volunteered for this, while I began mumbling all those prayers I knew and the long list of wishes I had on my mind, till the time I reached the idol. Finally, after battling the crowd, it was my turn to get the sight of the Lord in His full glory. It was just ten seconds, before I could even soak His mesmerizing beauty, I was pushed towards the exit. Its narrow already and is further narrowed by the flooding of small stalls that sell the Ganesh merchandise. The brownish Mawa Pedha sold here is otherwise a rare find.

A¬†heavy heart , ten minutes walk and a sip of coffee later, we hailed a cab back home. “Ganpati Bappa Morya! Pudhchya varshi lavkar ya”¬†echoed in my ears in a rewind-and-play mode. Such is His intensity!

The latest news that was flashed in the newspapers was that the pandal had around around 1.5 crore visitors during those eleven days when the idol was for display. The pandal also has an insurance cover of around Rs. 50 crores and reportedly got donations of around 7 lakhs in cash, about 6 kg gold and 100 kg silver. Can you imagine, people donate cars too!

Its amazing how faith makes us do things that are beyond imagination and understanding.
I am a worshiper too and its my faith in Him that pulls¬†me here every year. But the thought of bartering with the Lord, somehow doesn’t agree with me. I mean, what’s God gonna do with cars, gold, silver, money? Does He even understand these worldly materialistic pleasures? How can anyone even think of asking something from God for something in return? Basically its a way of bribing the Lord, isn’t it? Big people, big bribes!

I still remember a chapter we had in¬†school, about¬†a poor man who earned his living breaking down huge stones in the sweltering heat. That was when I first learnt what “Sweat of one’s brow” literally meant. And that was when I first learnt that God is present right here, in the destitute and the deprived.¬†I grew up, but never did forget that chapter. Since then, I try and do my bit¬†whenever and in whatever way I can. We owe a lot to the society we live in, don’t we?
I wish, these opulent guys understood even a bit of it. Imagine how many empty stomachs would be fed by a simple shift of thinking.
The Lord would rather be happy this way, right?

Lord For Sale

Ganesha
Since when did they start selling Ganesh idols in supermarkets? Whats gotten into the minds of people these days? Its really heart-wrenching. Now the Gods come with an attached price-tag, may be even an offer, sitting in the the midst of that commotion just like any other commodity, waiting for someone to pick them up.
Am I over-reacting? I donno… Wonder what the Almighty himself is thinking…

Aquaba Opens In Lower Parel

When it comes to Lower Parel, there’s no dearth of options to drink and dine. Adding to this list is the new restaurant/lounge that opened this month in the Peninsula Business Park.

Aquaba2

Aquaba is a 3000 sq. ft. restaurant with 1000 sq. ft. al fresco section named after the quaint and picturesque city in Jordan.

This plush restaurant specializes in Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisines. It brings together an array of dishes from Greece, Turkey and Lebanon with provincial specialties from Italy, Spain and North Africa to offer the patrons a relaxed meal with tranquil atmosphere.

Varying from the soothing shades of taupe to cerulean blue, Aquaba is elegantly decorated with minimalistic yet modern interiors, and can accommodate approx 70 guests indoors and 25 guests in the al fresco area.
Aquaba also facilitates 2 indoor banquet rooms of approx 1000 sq. ft. collectively complete with audiovisual connectivity and can accommodate up to 80-100 guests.
Also available are two open-to-sky- banquet areas of 4000 and 5000 sq. ft. each for events, private parties, etc.

Getting there: Aqaba, Club House, Level P5, Peninsula Business Park, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai.


Famous Eating Haunts

I always love making things easy for myself and everyone. We normally have a habit of digging a well when thirsty… Me, on weekends for example… I reach out to all possible sites to search for restaurant and the reviews weekends delicious. Thanks to Google and Justdial for making our lives so easy.
I owe a lot to one of my dear friends for his painstaking efforts and the time he put in compiling the list of famous eateries for me.
Finally here we are with 50 must eat delicacies in Mumbai.

Eat your way though Mumbai… at a glance!

1. Schezwan Crab, Fish Balti at Mahesh Lunch Home, Juhu
2. Berry Pulao and Caramel Custard at Britannia and Company Restaurant, Fort
3. Kheema Pao at Kayani & Co., Marine Lines
4. Mutton Dum Biryani at Zaffar Bhai’s Delhi Darbar, Mahim (W)
5. Mutton Raan Masala at Zaffran
6. Shahi Paneer at Cream Center
7. Vada Pao outside Kirti College, Dadar (W) and N.M College, Vile Parle (W)
8. Fish Fry & Prawns Koliwada at Jai Jawan Foods, Khar (W)
9. Dal Makhani at Preetam Da Dhaba
10. Butter Pepper Garlic Prawns at Gazalee
11. Baida Roti and Kebabs at Bade Miya
12. Biryani at Lucky Restaurant and Persian Darbar, Bandra (W)
13. Fish Curry Rice at Leopold Cafe, Colaba
14. Bun Maska at Sassanian Bakey and Boulangerie, New Marine Lines
15. Mava Cake at Mervans Bakery, Andheri (W)
16. Dal Makhani at Moti Mahal Reataurant, Bandra (W)
17. Chilli Chicken at Gypsy Chinese, Shivaji Park, Dadar
18. Fish Tava Fry at Jai Hind Lunch Home, Dadar (W)
19. Shwarma Roll at Maroosh, Carter Road, Bandra (W)
20. Patrano Machchi at Britannia and Company Restaurant, Fort
21. Chicken Club Sandwich at Cafe Noorani, Haji Ali
22. Misal Pav at Dutta, old Pune Highway
23. Bharleli Vangi at Gypsy Snacks, Shivaji Park, Dadar
24. Bhurji Pao at Santacruz (E) highway.
25. Jaggery icecream at Bojohari Manna, Lokhandwala, Andheri (W)
26. Veg Lunch at Govinda Restaurant, ISKON, Juhu
27. Maharashtrian snacks at Prakash, Dadar
28. Vodka Pani Puri at Pratap da Dhaba
29. Chilli icecream at Bachelorr’s, Charni Road
30. Misal Pav near Mamledar office, Thane
31. Filter Kaapi and Upma at Madras Cafe, Sion
32. Idlis at Idli house, Matunga (E)
33. Dal-phulka, Ganthiya Sabji, Masala Chaas in beer bottle at Bhagat Tarachand, CST
34. Dal Pakwan at Jhama Sweets, Chembur
35. Khichdi at Swati Snacks, Tardeo
36. Pav Bhaji at Sardar Pav Bhaji, Tardeo
37. Pancham Puri Wala near CST
38. Sizzlers at Kobe’s
39. Rustomjee’s Biscuit Icecream, Near Churchgate Station
40. Teesriya Sukha and Stuffed Pomfret at Sadiccha Restaurant, Bandra (E)
41. Sea food at Highway Gomantak, Bandra (E)
42. Falooda at Badshah Snacks, Crawford Market
43. Kakori kebabs at Kakori House, Saki Naka, Andheri (E)
44. Bakery items at Oven fresh,  Shivaji Park, Dadar
45. Churma Papad at Bhagat Tarachand, Zaveri Bazaar
46. Rajasthani / Gujarati Thali at Golden Star Thali
47. Chat at Elco Market, Bandra (W)
48. Dal Pakwaan at Vij, Chembur Camp
49. Chat at Bikaji, Malad Link Road
50. Stuffed crab at Goa Portuguesa, Mahim (W)

Please feel free to suggest if you have some more¬†in mind. I’ll try to add them here.

Ramadan in Mumbai – A Street Food Fiesta

Yesterday I logged¬†on to¬†my Facebook account only to see it loaded with Ramadan wishes from my Muslim and non-Muslim friends. Couldn’t believe that a year had passed since I had treated my gut to the¬†authentic Muslim delights on the streets of Southern Mumbai. And once again, it’s time to rewind and repeat. Its Ramadan folks!!! Its time to feast! Time for dates (the edible ones), biryanis, shwarmas, khiris, kalejis, kebabs, phirnis, malpuas and the list goes on…

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar. Every day during this month, Muslims all over the world traditionally fast daily from sunrise till sunset. Fasting is not just related to food here. They abstain from drink and other physical needs during the daylight hours. They also refrain from evil actions, thoughts and words. Recitation of their holy book, Quran is also an important practice during Ramadan.
Its that holy month when the Muslims make peace with those who have wronged them, strengthen ties with family and friends, do away with bad habits Рessentially to clean up their lives, thoughts and feelings.
As a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice, Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking. The fast concludes with Eid-ul-Fitr, the day of rejoice and celebrations all over the world.

The clock strikes 6 in the evening and the Muslim brethren are out to recite their mass prayers, the Namaz. During Ramadan, I always get to see this sight outside Bandra (West) railway station. After Namaz, its time to break the fast which is called Iftar. Dates are usually the first food to break the fast.
Ramadan prayers
In Mumbai, this is a fantastic opportunity to gorge on the tastiest food dished out in the so-very-famous streets of South Mumbai.

In the evenings, the streets around Mohammed Ali Road in south Mumbai are flooded with people and the tantalizing aroma of the freshly roasted meat. It’s not for the faint hearted though, as the road gets very crowded.¬†Surroundings are replete with shops and stalls selling a variety of items ‚Äď clothes, jewellery, make up accessories, shoes, toys, books, etc.
ramadanstalls
But what draws the whole of the city to this place is of course, the food. Mohammed Ali Jouhar was a leader of the Khilafat movement and also a co-founder of the Jamia Millia Islamia university. Dedicated to him, this road stretches from Crawford Market and goes right upto JJ Hospital and is lit up during these 30 days.
Ramadan 4The kebabs are a highlight here. Beef kebabs cost 20 rupees, and chicken kebabs are 60 rupees.¬†If you’re not a real adventurous eater, be careful to avoid the more exotic body parts. Khiri and Kaleji are a popular delicacy. It’s cow’s udder, seasoned, cooked, and chopped up into little bite-sized pieces.
Ramadan kebabs
Situated in densely populated area of Minara Masjid at Mohammed Ali Road, the Khau Galli¬†comes to life as soon as dusk sets in as the faithful break their day-long fast. If you are a hard-core foodie with non-veg taste buds, you definately can’t afford to give this place a miss. This lane also boasts of few Bollywood celebrities, sending their regular diet routine for a toss and relishing the food.¬†Not just the Muslims, but a large number of non-Muslims are also faithful visitors of this street.
Ramadan4
The moment you step in, food-stall owners on either side of the lane start dragging you towards their stalls that offer Meat Kebabs, Chicken Tikka, Khichda, Liver, Kidney, Brain Fry and lots more. My favourite – the smoking hot seekh kebab served with coriander and chilly chutney, a squeeze of lime and onion. Yummm!!!

My favourite seekh kebab:
Ramadan seekh kebab
Khiri-Kalegi:
ramadankeeri
In desserts, I love the Malpua – the sinful, fried, delicious egg-filled, syrup-doused delicacy.
RamadanMalpua2The Phirni is served in an earthen pot which adds its earthy, muddy flavour to the milky delight. I absolutely love it. I always ensure I parcel a couple of more phirnis to relish them at home.
ramadanphirni
There’s also a famous stall that serves¬†Shwarma, a Turkish delight served¬†like a sandwich or in wraps. Lamb,¬†chicken, turkey,¬†beef or mixed meat are hung on a rod like thing, grilled for a day and it‚Äôs ready to eat. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating rod.¬†We got our¬†Shwarma Wrap for Rs. 40.
Ramadanshawarma

Its a delight to see the food being cooked right in front of your eyes. This sight and the aromas are enough to get your brain into action and tantalize your taste-buds.
ramadanmalpuaman
There are a lot of juice and falooda stalls scattered around. The faloodas are also parceled to be taken home. They are colourful and are bound to attract your attention.
ramadanfalloda
This place is amazing and the food is absolutely pocket-friendly. You can hog as if there is no tomorrow and undoubtedly add inches to your waistline.

Still have some space left in your tummy¬†for the regal, yummilicious yet humble Biryani? Bade Miya is the place to be. There is hardly any Mumbaikar who hasn’t heard of Bade Miya. It is situated right behind the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel near Gateway of India. We had the boneless Chicken Biryani, Butter Chicken and Roomali Rotis. They are high on price and the servings are way too little to fill you up.
Ramadanbademiya
Ramadan gives me a reason to visit Mohammed Ali Road which otherwise never finds a place in my itinerary. Its a festival which makes us break all the religious barriers and be one. And the reason for this reunion is nothing else, but food!

Happy Ramadan and keep eating!