Big Nite 2014 at Essel World

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

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂
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 🙂
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 🙂
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 🙂
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 🙂
(www.esselworld.in)

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Sbarro, R-City Mall, Ghatkopar West

Sbarro was just another pizzta (that’s my version of pizza+pasta) haunt for me, until I got a peek of it in one of the daily sitcoms. Intrigued and a bit of RnD later, I learnt that it’s a franchise of the quick-service Italian food joint Sbarro, NYC.

Here, in Mumbai, Sbarro is one of the crowded joints on the third floor of R-City Mall, Ghatkopar West. Malad and Chembur are some of the other places they are branched out.
Reception2
Ambience –
Brightly lit space, vintage photographs adorning the wall and pleasant staff provide for the perfect peppy ambience.

Reception
Seating – Although tucked away inside the mall and space being a constraint, seating is quiet well-managed. Four tables and long wall-to-wall sofa-table seats can easily accommodate 25 to 30 people . I’ve mostly visited this place on weekends, so having had to wait dint come as a surprise. May be its different on the week days when the mall is less crowded.
Seat 2

Food – An array of eclectic Pizzas, creamy delectable Pastas, lip-smacking sidies like Cheese Sticks and Baked Chicken Wings, small range of salads and beverages all deck up the menu. Mouthwatering desserts like Chocolate Mousse, Blueberry Cheesecake, etc. sum up the course.

We’d ordered the Chicken Pepperoni Pizza, Garlic Breadsticks, Chocolate Mousse, Cheesy Dip, Cold Coffee and Ice Tea. The pizza portion was enough for the two of us, although it didn’t quiet satiate me. The base was soggy, a total turnoff for a pizza-gastronome. I absolutely loved the crunchy Garlic Breadsticks and Chocolate Mousse.
Food
Service – is super-quick. Make the payment at the payment counter and get your order at the display counter… in a jiffy.

My Verdict – I am pizzta-obsessed. So whenever its R-City Mall for me, it has to be Sbarro…well…almost 🙂

Village, The Soul Of India, Mulund (West)

Village, The Soul Of India, on the first floor of the Nirmal Lifestyle Mall seemed to invite us every time we visited the mall. With a number of people going in and out, this place always looked happening in the otherwise quiet mall.
Intrigued by the charming entrance and the name, we decided to pop in for lunch.
Village 1
The  manager gave a heart-warming welcome and escorted us to our seats. The staff are dressed in traditional Gujarati wear.
You are greeted with a welcome drink as soon as you enter.

Ambience – The place is spacious and can easily accommodate around 100 people at a time.
Village3
The name is apt for the literally village-like setting… decorated trees, bicycle, etc.
Village2
The jail themed seating –
Village9
Food – Veggies delight! They serve Chinese, Gujarati, Punjabi, South Indian and Maharashtrian food.
They also have couple of Chaat or street food counters and a counter serving desserts. Starters are served at your seat. Main course is buffet system.
I specially  loved the marble-sized Potato Vadas.
Village4
The Punjabi Counter:
Village60
The neighboring Roti Counter serves Chapatis, Puris, Phulkas and Puranpolis. Puranpoli straight out of the pan and served with a stream of Ghee (clarified butter)  is super-delectable and a must-have. I crave to go back here for just that.

Other Attractions – Crushed and flavored ice or Gola is unique. Although, it wasn’t as good as expected.
Village7
The Bangle Counter – Ladies, rejoice! Customized bangles made right in front of your eyes. I got one for me with my name etched on it.  The guy hails from Jaipur and has inherited this business from his forefathers. He also caters to various functions and parties and charges on an hourly basis.
Village8
There’s also a Puppet Show, traditional dance and DJ playing songs on demand.

Plus Points – Full marks to the ambience. The place is full of energy and entertainment. Worth spending time with family and friends, perfect for all age groups. We went for lunch and landed up spending two whole hours. They organize birthday parties and other functions on request.
Service is superb. Staff is friendly.

Minus Points – very few. Food is average.

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 – the 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 🙂 . 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…

Persian Darbar, Andheri East

Nothing entices my taste buds as does Moghlai food. Cooked in aromatic spices and fresh herbs, the flavours linger in your mouth even after you are done eating. Persian Darbar is a perfect deal for Moghlai, North Indian, Tandoori and Chinese cuisine.
We’d been a number of times to their branch on the Linking Road, Bandra West to devour their ever-famous Dum Biryani. And each time I passed by the one in Saki Naka, Andheri (E), I always remembered just that. Finally, we couldn’t hold back our craving and made our way to the grand looking restaurant.
PD1
Ambience is mesmerising and you are treated with a royal Persian feel. The chandeliers, the seating, the lighting…doesn’t impugn the fact of it being a Persian restaurant to the core.
PD6
So does the reception…  Craving for some privacy, they also have a private AC section upstairs.
PD5
They have a never-ending menu comprising of not only the Moghlai and Punjabi dishes like tandoori, grilled, raans,  biryanis and sea-food but also an array of Chinese dishes.
A good wholesome meal for two can cost you Rs. 1000 – Rs. 1300/-. That makes Persian Darbar cost-effective also.

For starters we ordered the Chicken Special Mix Kebab – a platter of Murgh Hyderabadi, Murgh Jalandhari and Murgh Dahi Lasuni Kebabs. All of which were melt-in-your mouth and strikingly delicious. I wished I could grab a more of them, but the platter was to be shared between the two of us 😦
PD4
Mutton Biryani served as main course was incredible. It was way better than the one served in their Bandra outlet and the best among all the Biryanis I’ve had anywhere else in Mumbai. Silky soft rice with yummy masala, perfectly cooked and tenderized mutton pieces are bound to vow you. This should undoubtedly make Persian Darbar the “King of Biryanis”.
PD2
We ordered for a Coke but much to our dismay, the waiter said Persian Darbar is a Muslim Restaurant and Coke and other aerated beverages were banned in there. All these beverages are banned in all the other Muslim restaurants too. When quizzed about the reason, the guy couldn’t give an answer that would satisfy us or anyone else for that matter. Bizarre is the word!

They had their own local product instead, the Big Cola, which he said was sweeter than the others. Not chancing it, we settled for a Fresh Lime Soda.

Last but not the least was the Caramel Custard with its sweetness to perfection. Keeping the calorie-obsessed mind aside, we went for seconds 🙂
PD8
Service, I give a 11/10. If you ever happen to visit Persian Darbar, and if you are in luck, a person somewhere in his 50s might serve you. I respect his attitude and salute his service. Don’t hesitate to loosen your purse strings while tipping.

Persian Darbar hits all my check-boxes – ambience, service, food…
Except for the Coke disaster which seemed a bit racist, rest everything here is perfect.
A must visit for every Moghlai food and Biryani lover.