Menu of the day:
Egg to order
Beverages (Hot & Cold)
St Joseph’s connection
Aamir Khan and Rahul Gandhi vie for billboard space in South Bombay. While the latter has got nothing but his dimples to fight Modi, the former is weeping copious tears these days on his hit-on-social-conscience show Satyamev Jayate. If you perchance missed the inconspicuous St. Jospeh’s High School sign in the billboard litter, that is the oldest school in Juhu. Founded in 1905, the institution shares its origins with St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School, Baramulla (founded 1905). Both schools have their own churches and graveyards. Faith takes death seriously.
Hole in the wall
Bombay has a million hole-in-the wall mini shops. This one sells everything from beedi to cigarettes and betel leaves (Paan) in a tony part of the city. If you wish to make a phone call and do not have a phone, look no further than the quintessential next door cubby hole. You will also get a free tip on how to do a quick jugaad to balance your rickety plastic chair.
The very important syndrome
Last summer when I was in London I saw the British PM David Cameroon arrive at the Westminster on a silver and black Scott bicycle. A few days back while driving to work I instantly noticed the G63 AMG Mercedes-Benz in front of me had a unique license plate number: 1. Over here everyone knows that’s the ruler of Dubai. Out of curiosity I changed track and sped up to see who was in the driver’s seat. Indeed it was His Highness, driving all alone. No paraphernalia. The electronic reminder to the hoi polloi in Bombay however said it all: VVIP Visit Today, Traffic Regulated. Inspite of its Kejriwals India’s boorish VIP culture in public governance refuses to go away.
Back rubs, anyone
One quick gimmick that marketers have correctly learnt in recent years is that modern life is quite stressful. Working on this knowledge, a plethora of massage centers have sprung up all over Bombay. Like mushrooms. You come across signposts on run-down buses, disfigured walls, tree-trunks and corrugated tin-fences offering relaxing, natural, authentic, Thai, Tantric and a motley other massages. There is a phone number provided. Note: It has a shady ring to it, if you know what I mean.
The Don’s den
Amitabh Bachchan is the single biggest cultural export of India. Singlehandedly he epitomises the country’s soft power status. Naturally his home is a shrine to millions. If you are new to Bombay and the cabbie detects that, he will most likely point out the magnificent Bachchan villa on the Juhu Tara Road to you. Called ‘Jalsa’ (roughly meeting/gathering in Urdu but I was told it means fun and pleasure also), the 10,000 sq ft property has attained the status of a Bombay icon. Every Sunday, the guards told me, hundreds of people stand outside the gate to catch a glimpse of their superstar, who makes it a point to step out for a while to wave at the gathering. Now it begins to make sense, Jalsa: gathering. Only Bachchan knows the meaning but one dare not ask him on Twitter. His tweets often come laced with strange numbers and humdrum.
There was a time when films with protagonists working as shoe-shiners were big hits. Raj Kapoor-produced Boot-polish in 1954 won acclaim at Cannes and the Filmfare Awards but the era of 'lived-happily-ever-after' is over. Frankly the existence of shoe-shiners had lapsed in my mind (blame it on my overseas years) until I stumbled across one. Clad in a loose-fitting collar-less shirt, the shoe-shiner went about his job in the most diligent manner possible, unruffled by the din around him. I thought of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (ex President of Brazil), Alejandro Toledo (former Peruvian President) and Malcolm X (famed human rights activist). All of them had been shoe-shine boys.
Pomfret by the beach
You risk the chance of being branded a bummer if you go on the sea shore and come back without having seafood. Perched on the Juhu beach, Mahesh Lunch Home is the most authentic Manglorean seafood eatery in Mumbai. It serves the most delicious crabs, prawn gassi and black promfret curries in town. The USP is home-style food. However if you are into star-gazing (which I am not), you might bump into one of the film-stars. The Kapoors and Bachchans (who live nearby) are regulars. Brightly lit, Mahesh Lunch Home has a relaxed feel and attentive staff. They have something called Clams Kashmir also. I reckon, clams are non-Kosher/non-Halal, though I am not entirely sure.
The Maximum city has a very strong connect with the film industry. Although Mumbai’s train of thought criss-crosses through planet Bollywood, there is little comparison between the teeming masses and the industry's perfumed gaggle. Bollywood is essentially ruled by a gang of two dozen or more people. They are super-rich and comprise of the A-list of actors, producers, musicians, directors et al. Rest are the sub-cast, the also-rans. As a journalist I often get to go and meet up the best film folk. Yes, they smell fragrant and look beautiful and talk in a cultured, clipped manner but you don’t have to even look hard to detect that there is no soul in this enchanted world. Glamour, I daresay, is spurious.
Never meet your heroes, guys.