Thursday, April 27, 2006


Last week, after visiting an Akanksha year ending project of their LTL programme at the Bombay International School located opposite the Babulnath temple, I strolled down to the Girgaum Chowpatty. Chowpatty brings back fond childhood memories. As it is located quite close to my home, we used to be taken there on Sundays and during vacations and had a good time playing on the beach.

Chowpatty has changed over the years. The coniferous trees (opposite the Wilson college) aren’t there any more, the bhel, kulfi and paan walas have been shifted to one end and so has Anando- the famous masala milk place, a huge new swanky police chowky has come up, the maalishwalas are gone or are at least less conspicuous, a ringed enclosure has been built for feeding pigeons, there are blue and white striped sun-shade tents which can be rented out for a fee, a Nana Nani park has come up, the public toilet has been mordernised to a Sulabh Sauchalaya, the fishermen have been moved and in their place is a pretty and shady(lots of trees) Godrej park (huge fishing nets and big boats used to be kept in this area), a small play area for children has also come up next to the pedestrian over-bridge.(opposite CafĂ© Ideal)

In fact, this bridge was a first of sorts for us, children. The first escalator in Mumbai was installed here. Thus, a visit to Chowpatty meant less time on the beach and more time going up the escalator. As the escalator only worked one way (upwards), we used to keep going up using the escalator, running down the stairs on the other side and running round the over-bridge to go up again. This was repeated many times till the elders accompanying us lost their patience and took us back home. All of us felt very sad when some years later, they removed the escalator. Now, of course, children do not look at them with awe, as they are not rare anymore.

Chowpatty still remains a weekend/ holiday activity for many Mumbaikars who come to the beach with their families especially children. The Chowpatty(beach) stretches from the Babulnath junction end right upto the Mafatlal bath. As I walked down from the Babulnath end, I saw some street kids tempting a stray puppy with grapes that he was merrily chomping on. Ahead at the Nana Nani Park, many senior citizens were chatting in groups or taking a stroll. Families were sprawled all over Chowpatty eating from picnic baskets or buying stuff from hawkers. Kids were running about on the sand and also playing at the children’s park under the watchful eye of their parents. Lokmanya Tilak’s statue was standing tall but lonely as the gate of the entrance was locked. This was the place where he was cremated in 1920. The staff at all the food stalls, now relegated to one end was trying to woo customers. I left Chowpatty with mixed feelings, sad that it has lost its old charm but happy that its one of the few open spaces that Mumbaikars can bring along their families and enjoy.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Mumbai names 1

Living in Mumbai, we must have always wondered the origin of names of neighborhoods that we reside in or have visited. Listed below are some of them researched from books like City of Gold by Gillian Tindall and Anchoring A City Line by Rahul Mehrotra & Sharada Dwivedi and other sources. If you love Mumbai and its history both these books are a must read. This list is incomplete and to be continued…

Mazgaon : The name was derived from

1) Maza gaon- which means my village in Marathi

2) Maccha Grama – which means a fishing village.

This was an ancient Portuguese township, which now houses the Sales Tax office, a court and the Mathapacady village, a heritage ‘quartier’ with old quaint houses struggling to survive with the huge and ugly skyscrapers in the neighborhood. Mazgaon was one of the original seven islands that Mumbai comprised of. Mazgaon is very close to Dockyard road station on the harbour line.

Umarkhadi: This name was derived from the fig trees, which must have been growing in this creek in abundance. Umbar = a fruit from the fig family and khadi = creek. This neighborhood is near Dongri.

Chinchpokli: This locality was so named after the hoards of tamarind groves that used to be here. Chinch = tamarind, Pokli = grove. This is the next station after Byculla on the central railway suburban line.

Santa Cruz: A prominent railway station on the Western railway between Khar and Vile Parle, Santa Cruz was originally known by villagers as Khulbawdi (Marathi khul = a mortar or also a yard, bawdi = well) Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) was so named by its population of Salsette East Indian Christians after a crude wooden cross they erected on a hilltop.

Ghatkopar: In Marathi literally means “ corner of a ghat’. This busy suburb of Mumbai is located on the Central line between Vidyavihar and Vikhroli stations.

Khetwadi: Literally means place of fields in Marathi. This area is located between Girgaum and Kamathipura.

Girgaum: This means a hill village. No hill remains in this congested but old and fascinating part of Mumbai.Located very close to the Charni Road station on the Western line or near Opera House.

Vile Parle: Located in the suburbs of Mumbai, this station on the Western line between Santa Cruz and Andheri derived its name possibly from a combination of the Portuguese word Vehla that means old and the Marathi word pada which means a cluster of villages.

Kandivali: This station on the Western line between Malad and Borivali is supposed to have derived its name from khand, a jag or a sharp projection of rock, perhaps part of the stone quarries located there.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stray names

All names have some logic or thinking that goes behind them. I have always wondered how the stray dogs in Mumbai have been named by the paanwala’s the boot-polishwala’s, the slum & street dwellers and other people in general. Here's how…
Arvind, the boot polishwala outside Eros theatre at Churchgate found it relatively simple to name his dogs. Whenever he acquired a new dog, he used to look up at the hoarding of the film running at Eros and name them likewise. So he had a Pretty when Pretty Woman was released, a James after the Bond, a Tipu after some Tipu Sultan movie and he also had an Hritik and an Amisha when Kaho Na Pyar Hai was released. Hritik Roshan wouldn’t have been too happy with this dark, huge, hulky and big-Moose like (duh!) namesake.
Speaking of Hritik, many dogs have been named by street dwellers after their favorite stars. So there are Madhuris, Raveenas, Karishmas and Manishas. Not to forget the odd Shahrukh and Salman. Haven’t come across an Aamir as yet.
The most common name for strays is definitely Kalu. See a black street dog, call out Kalu and nine out of ten times he should respond to you. With so many Kalu’s doing the rounds we have to add prefixes to them for us to recognize which Kalu are we talking about. So there is the Regalwala Kalu, the WIAA Kalu, the Strand Book Stall Kalu, the Ghetto Kalu and so on. Once on a mass immunization drive, I was noting down the names of the stray dogs and asked a man to tell me the name of the brown dog that I had just vaccinated against rabies. He said ‘Kalu’. “Lekin yeh toh ‘brown’ hai”. Kalu nam pad gaya saab, kya kare”.
Other common names are Rani and Raja, all majestic in their own right and of course Tiger. Some of the Tiger’s would be so un-Tiger like that you would wonder if they should have been called ‘Mouse’
Its weird how dogs have been named Puppy and continued to be called so even when they have become 10 years old and some are Buddhi making you wonder from what age were they called that.
Then there are some strays, which are named after their physical traits… The dog, which has a permanent limp, is Langda, the poor fellow who has lost his eye is Kania, the thin one is Sukri, the fat one is Jadya/Kaddu, the tall one is Lambu, the short one is Chotu and a dog with a nerval twitch which shakes all the time is Disco. There was a dog outside the Ghetto pub, which used to love eating tomatoes and was called Tamatar.
Have heard of many pets that have been named after the drinks that their masters guzzle. Thus pets have names like Gin, Brandy, Coffee, Whiskey, Tea and Tequila. Haven’t come across any Santra, Mosambi, Narangi and Daru on the streets as yet.
At WSD, we name many dogs such that we can easily correlate with the person/place where he/she was brought by/from. So we had a Bandra who was run over by a train at Bandra station, a Bhaji who had maggots and brought from a Bhaji gully and a host of them with our volunteer’s names.
And last but not the least, sometimes its very embarrassing when you mix up the dogs name with the master/caretaker. Trying to lure a dog that was reluctant to come out from under a taxi, I asked some one “Iska naam kya hai”. "Vinod" came the reply. And I went on Vinod… Vinod …Vinod till I heard a man who dragged the dog out say in an angry tone, "Woh mazaak kar raha hai. Vinod mera naam hai”

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

True Bombayite/Mumbaikar

You are not a true Bombayite/Mumbaikar if you..

...haven't eaten bhelpuri on Juhu beach/Chowpatty or wada-pav on the street.

...have dined/partied at Indigo,Athena,Polly Esthers,JBTB,Lush etc but havent eaten at Aram,Crystal,Khichadi Samrat,Khau Galli,Prakash,Mani's,GuruKripa,AnantAshram etc

...haven't been to Banganga,Haji Ali or Elephanta.

...haven't taken a walk in the Borivali National Park.

...dont think cats,stray dogs,crows,sparrows and pigeons are a part of the urban jungle you live in.

...haven't seen the flamingo's at the Sewri mudflats.

...haven't sat on the front seat of the top deck of a BEST double decker bus.

...dont know what the dabbawallas are.

...haven't waded in knee deep water during water-logging in the monsoons.

...haven't walked through the narrow gullies of a slum.

...haven't eaten bun-maska with chai in an Irani restaurant.

...haven't travelled in a packed local in peak-time.

...think the city is progressing with skyscrapers,multiplexes and malls.

...haven't gone to work when there was a bandh/heavy rain.

...dont know where Chinchpokli,Matharpacady,Foras road, Dharavi & Linking Road are.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Do drop in at Dhanraj Mahal on April 9, 2006 for our adoption mela. here is the information....

The Welfare Of Stray Dogs(WSD) will be hosting the WSD ADOPTION MELA at Dhanraj Mahal, Apollo Bunder, Near Cottage Industries Emporium, Colaba on Sunday, April 9, 2006 between 5 pm and 7 pm.

There would be around 10 dogs put up for adoption. These dogs are either abandoned pets or pariahs brought from the Mumbai Airport area. All these dogs require a good and loving home. All the dogs have been temperamentally tested to ensure that they would make good house pets. They are all sterilised and immunized.

The WSD veterinary physician and volunteers trained in dog behaviour will guide the prospective adopters to make the correct choice, and advice the new adopters about dog care, diet, behaviour, vaccinations and grooming.

Prospective adopters would be screened and interviewed by WSD adoption counsellors to ensure that the dog goes to a loving and responsible home. If found suitable,they would be allowed to adopt the dog. The new adopters will be given vaccination certificates, leaflets on Dog Care. The adoption counsellors will also accompany the new owners with their pets to their residence.

The objective of this ADOPTION MELA is to encourage people to adopt dogs that really require a home instead of going and buying one. Hundreds of dogs (abandonded pets and pariahs) have been adopted by people from The Welfare Of Stray Dogs (WSD) in the past and have made wonderful pets. WSD has organized two Adoption Mela’s in the past through which 13 out of 15 and 8 out of 10 dogs had been adopted.

There will also be a SALE OF WSD PRODUCTS for doggies and their owners

For the Doggies – Tags, Ruffs, Pillows, Mattresses, Scarves
For the Owners – T-Shirts, Mugs, Trays, Jute & Cloth Bags, Notepads, Towels & Caps.

WSD contact nos: 23733433/23891070
E-mail :


1) Suraj: He was rescued from the airport. He is dark and handsome. He is very sweet, timid and can be slightly mischievous too. He will make an excellent family pet. He loves attention and enjoys going out for walks.

2) Lara : She is a Pomeranian who was ruthlessly abandoned by some one. She was left to die on the highway near Sion till a WSD volunteer found her with both her hind legs incapacitated. One leg had a fracture and the other was eaten up by maggots. At the beginning she used to walk around on her front legs but now she can walk around. She is very gentle and sweet and needs a very loving and extra caring home.

3) Laila She is a tan female, very sweet gentle and mild. She longs for human company but she is equally happy to sit next to you and enjoy the world go by.

4) Brandy: She is short-haired with black and brown fur, brandy colored eyes and erect ears. She is calm and peaceful. She is slightly shy but give her some time and she will be your good friend.

5) Milo: You look at him and you will remember Jim Carey’s Milo in The Mask. His short stature will not come in the way of jumping high to attract your attention. He was found abandoned at Powai. He is a mixed breed dog with grey and white markings.
6) Kalu : He is fat ,podgy but will jump on you to greet and will love to play with you. He was brought from the Mumbai zoo. He is very sweet, loving and timid. He loves being fussed upon.

7)Mamta : She is black and will make an excellent watchdog. She will be always exited to see people.

8) Bholu: He is very good looking and can be quite a clown. He will run around you with excitement. He takes a little time to know you but once he is friends with you, he will give to all the love and attention in the world.

9) Sucheta : She is a tiny little bundle of joy. She is always full of life. She will make the perfect family pet. She loves other dogs and some of the cats are her best friends. She is brown in color and very furry.

10) Raja: He will be true to his name and be the king of the house. He will guard it with all his might. He is very good looking and will love and protect you with his heart.