Monday, 28 December 2009

Once in a blue moon in Bombay

Yup, not only was it a blue moon but a lunar eclipse as well! According to NASA's Five Millennium Catalog of lunar eclipses, this combination happens only 11 times in a thousand years. So I guess this holiday must be an auspicious one especially since we were basking in the moonlight during the New Year at the Bombay Gymkhana with 3,000 other revelers.

It's not my first time in India but my first time in Bombay as the residents refer to Mumbai, the financial capital of India and the most populated city in the world with 20 million people. It is coined the 'city of dreams' and draws mostly dreamers seeking a better life. That's why the city is the most ethnically diverse than the other states - aside from Maharastras, there are Gujaratis, Parsis, Muslims, etc.

Bombay is also a city of extremes where you can see a billionaire's mansion towering more than 20-storey high (left, Andani's new mansion taken on Peddar Road) and next to it are the slums, about 2,000 where the 55% of the population live.

I joined the Reality Tour to Dharvi the largest slum in Bombay, and the largest in the world. Honestly, after reading Shantaram and watching Slumdog Millionaire, I was expecting to see people in dire straits. I was pleasantly suprised to see Dharvi abuzz with thriving SMEs- from plastic recycling plants, tannery, sewers, soap-making. And although the homes are a little bit tiny with sizes varying from less than 10 sq ft, 10x10 and 20sq ft shared with average 4-5 people, most of the homes have split-type aircons and flat TV screens.

Bottom-line is, I enjoyed Bombay - the food, shopping and the sights. I didn't get claustrophobic or experienced the infamous deli belly. I must thank Rae, Angeline and Michael for the trip even though a former Philippine resident likened Bombay to Quezon City! Har har... Here's wishing everyone an auspicious 2010! Happy new year!

Must check out:
1. Sardar Pavbhaji (maharastra) at Tardeo Circle for the best local Pav Bhaji! Open until 2:30am. Bhaji is a potato-based curry and vegetable dish. Beware since both the pav (bread) and bhaji are loaded with butter!! Check photo on the right.
2. Bademiya (arab) behind Taj Mahal on Tulloch Road for the best kebab and tandooris. This is a roadside place which seats at least 50 people. Some use the hood of their cars for table. Open until wee hours. They also serve vegetarian dishes.
3. 87-year old Britania (parsi) on 16 Sprott Rd. where I agree with the motto "there is no love greater than the love for eating". Try khemma berry pulao, sali and dhansak dishes. The line gets long so go early or later. It closes at 4pm.
4. Trishna (Mangalorean)on Sai Barba Mag for its stir-fried with butter and garlic dishes - seafood galore especially known for its king crab dish!! There is a branch in London so this may be a bit touristy.
5. Joss (fusion) in the Business district (near Fab India). Note that Joss catered Bombay Gymkhana's New Year feast!

Shopping picks: Good Earth, Anokhi, Fab India, cotton world and for the fab cotton kurtas go to wholesale stores located at Crawford Market next to the old vegetable market

Sights nearby Bombay: Matheran Heights (stay at the Veranda in the Forest by Neeram), take the ferry and see the stone sculptures at Elephanta Caves, visit Ghandi's home (reco to read his biography before going) and take a Reality Tour in Dharvi's slum (photo on the left with our guide who is a resident of Dharvi) and a side tour to Dhobi Ghat.

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