Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bandra Fort and Shubha Mudgal

Last week, I attended a Shubha Mudgal concert at the Bandra Fort. Bandra Fort is located ahead of the Sea Rock hotel at Bandra Bandstand. It is one of the better-maintained forts in Bombay though it has got destroyed over the ages. The fort was called ‘Castella de Aguada’ which could mean a fort by the water. The Portuguese built it in 1640 as a watchtower for the mainland (Salsette), which overlooked the Mahim Island and the Arabian Sea. Look up Bombay Addict’s blog with some good pictures here about his trip to Bandra fort. The fort has some high palm (tadgola) trees with a few of the arches and walls still intact.

The venue was just right with the sea as the backdrop for Shubha Mudgal and her group ‘Koshish’. This was not a pure classical concert but a fusion one with Merlin D’Souza on the keyboards/piano, Aneesh Pradhan on the tabla, Sudhir Nayak on the harmonium, Murad Ali on the sarangi, Benoni Soans on the drums and Brennon Deffer on the bass guitar.

They started the concert with a ‘tarana’ with Shubha Mudgal singing a poem composed by Dharni Das. After singing a composition based on a Gulzar poem, she enthralled the audience with a very powerful ‘Bol’ based on Faiz Ahmed Faiz's ‘s poem ‘Bol Ke Lab Aazaad Hain Tere’. Then, of course were some indi-pop numbers from the album, Ab Ke Sawaan like my favorites 'Seekho Na, Naino Ki Bhasha Piya' and 'Dere Dere'. A section of the audience went berserk when she started singing the very popular title track 'Ab Ke Sawaan'. The performance ended with the audience, which was packed to full capacity screaming encore after she sang 'Dholna' from the album 'Pyar Ke Geet'.
I am glad that I went for the concert not only because it was my favorite singer but also because of the venue. If you are in Bandra, do go and stray around at the Bandra Fort and experience a slice of Bombay’s history.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Train run

Received a forward from some one (you might have already read it) and thought it really demonstrates on how Bombayites literally (heh heh) 'reach out' and help people.A word of caution against attempting to jump out of a running train or crossing tracks. But here’s the forward….

The mega polis of Mumbai holds many a challenge for the 'rookie' who lands here unaware of the hurdles and challenges that he or she might have to face.

A recent incident saw one such hapless victim falling prey to the over enthusiastic nature of Bombay's local train commuters. Our hero, a man from Pune, wanted to go to Matunga, but as luck and trains would have it, boarded a fast train not halting at his destination. He panicked on realizing his mistake but by then the local had started moving. On seeing his plight, a sympathetic co-passenger decided to come to his rescue. It seemed that he had been commuting by that particular train (6:03 pm Kasara Fast) for the past 6 years and had noticed that the train always slowed down just before Matunga station and crawled at a snail's pace while passing through it. He told the man to jump out of the running train as it slowed down and that with a little bit of fleet-footedness, he would make it safely on terra firma. However, knowing the man's inexperience, he added some words of caution: "Keep running the moment you jump or you'll fall. Just keep running." He stressed the word "running" lest the man not know the laws of motion. The train did slow down just before Matunga station and at the prompting of his mentor, our hero jumped out of the train and started running as if all hell had broken loose. What he didn't realize, of course, was that he was running parallel to the train instead of running away from it.

Meanwhile, the train slowed down further, so that the man was running faster than the train. In the process, he reached the door of the next compartment and the footboard commuters there pulled him in thinking he was trying to board the train! To his agony, the train picked up speed and sped past Matunga and his new co-passengers started to congratulate him on how lucky he had been, until he told them that they had actually undone what he had done with great difficulty. Those standing at the door of his "ex-compartment" had witnessed the whole drama and just couldn't stop laughing at the poor man's situation, while he grinned sheepishly.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mumbai names 2

As promised, a continuation of the series on origins of the names of localities in Mumbai. See Mumbai names 1 here. This list is still incomplete and to be continued..

Bandra: This name is supposed to have been derived from ‘Bandar’, which means port in Marathi and Hindi. Bandra today has been designated as the “Queen of the suburbs” and is an important railway station on the western line between Mahim and Khar.

Parel: The area derives the name from a tree called paral or padal (trumpet flower tree) which used to grow abundantly in this area. This was a part of ‘girangaon” – ‘mill-town’ or literally “village of the mills”, which housed many cotton mills. It is also an important station on the Central line between Curry Road and Dadar.

Mandvi: It is said that the first residential buildings in the Umarkhadi area came up at Mandvi in the eighteen century, as Mandvi was a low-lying area and thus the first to be reclaimed. In Marathi, it means the Custom House probably because it was located on the eastern shores of Mumbai and the harbour customs used to be located here during Portuguese days. In Gujarati, it means a market.

Pydhonie: It is known as Pydhonie as it was located the tip of the creek at Umarkhadi where the sea water (through the Great Breach, now called Breach Candy) used to touch and therefore called Pydhonie or ‘foot wash ‘. Pay means feet and Dhoni means wash. As Gillian Tindall rightly says, “It is probably the best part of three hundred years since anyone had the opportunity to wash his feet at this dusty cross-roads”. Pydhonie is a busy commercial area, which is located near Kalbadevi, and Mumbadevi (patron goddess of Mumbai) temple is located here.

Dhobi Talao: This area was named as washermen (Dhobi) used to come and wash clothes at a tank, which existed here, in olden times. Though the tank like most of the others in Bombay were covered up, the area continues to be called by the name. This area of South Mumbai houses the Metro theatre, The Xavier’s High School & College and the Elphinstone Technical High School

Walkeshwar: It was named after ‘Wallukeshwar” – the sand Lord, there still exists the Walkeshwar temple (not in its original form) which was originally built by the Silhara dynasty kings. This area is located in South Mumbai before you climb onto Malabar hill and the Governor’s bungalow and the heritage Banganga Tank is located here.

Matharpacady: Dilip D’Souza has a good explanation, He says, the name comes from "mhatara" (old man) and "pakhadi", which may be like "wadi" meaning a small locality. See his post on Mathapacady here. This is truly a heritage precinct with old Portuguese cottages and houses.

Lalbag: This area was named because of the country house that Pestonjee Wadia; brother of Jamsheji Wadia built for himself. Today, this country house is probably “Wadia Baug” as it was converted into a complex of low-rent flats for Parsis. Lal Bagh is located in Central Bombay and used to house many mills and factories.

Gowalia Tank: Another tank existed in this area, which was used to bathe cows. Comes from the Marathi word – Gaie – Cow and Wali – owner of the cow. It is said that the August Kranti Maidan by which the area is known today was built on top of the tank. This also was the historic site from where Gandhiji launched the Quit India movement on August 8, 1942. This area lies between Nana Chowk and Kemps Corner in South Mumbai.

Goregaon: One version says that Goregaon was named after the Gore family who were active in politics. Another says that it was so named as it means white village in Marathi, as it was a large milk-producing center since olden times. This important suburb of Mumbai is also a station on the western railway line between Jogeshwari and Malad.

Charni Road: The name is derived from Charne in Marathi, which means grazing. Grazing lands were supposed to have been located in this area and cattle and horses used to be brought here for grazing. Charni Road is an important train station on the western line located between Grant Road and Marine Lines.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dog statue

Have you seen this statue before! I think, it's the only statue made for a dog in Mumbai. If there are any others that you know of , do let me know. Any guesses on the location ?

This statue which is a memorial to the family pet dog is located inside the compound on the right as you enter Esplanade House. Esplanade House was the residential mansion of Jamsetji Tata and is a beautiful heritage building. It is located next to Alexandria School on Hazarimal Somani Marg ( the road behind Bombay Gymkhana)

So next time you are at Fashion Street or Fort/Fountain do look up Esplanade House and the statue of the dog.


Take me home !!
This adorable and mischievious one month old kitten named Gremlin is looking for a home. Call The Welfare Of Stray Dogs(WSD) on 23733433 or e-mail:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I wish these were still around in Bombay

The Double Decker bus on the BEST bus route no 123

Some years ago when they started converting the BEST double-decker buses into single-deckers, route no 123 was among the first to go. One of the ‘BEST’ routes in Mumbai, the 123 commences at Tardeo, takes the Marine Drive and goes right up to R.C. Church. As kids, we used to sit on the front seat of the upper deck and watch the world go by below us, through the busy Nana Chowk, the laburnum trees at Gamdevi, Wilson college, Chowpatty beach, the blue sea waters, Marine Drive, Bal Bhavan children garden, the gymkhanas’, Churchgate station, University, Museum, Regal theatre, Colaba Causeway, Sassoon Dock, the green and woody naval area,the heritage Afghan church and R.C. Church. Sitting in the same bus, we used to take the return journey back home. I wish they would convert the single-decker which plies on this route today back to the double-decker.

The Haji Ali Roundabout and fountain

Many people would remember this well maintained and round traffic island with a fountain, which also functioned as a round about. It used to manage traffic better than the state it is at the Haji Ali junction today. It was a pleasure to watch the fountain while driving past, especially in the night, the jets of water rising more than fifteen feet high and simultaneously changing its hue from white to blue to red to green to orange to yellow and back to white. Today, you will see traffic jams at this junction.

The Yankee Doodle Ice cream parlour at Natraj

Hotel Natraj was closed down and so was the Yankee Doodle Ice Cream parlour in its compound. This ice cream parlour, which had a beautiful sea facing view on Marine drive used to be very popular with the college crowd. It had a variety of ice cream flavors and toppings to choose from and you could sit on the small swings or semi-circular marble seats and slurp away your ice cream. Thus, if you visited Marine drive, you had to stop by at Natraj, have ice cream and then cross over to enjoy the sea and the sunset. Today, you will find the Intercontinental standing in its place with no ice-cream parlour.

A Sainik restaurant

Yes, it was called ‘A’ Sainik restaurant and was located in the lane opposite Afghan Church going towards the Parsi Agiary. Open to civilians, you could sit at the table on the verandah on the first floor and get the most amazing view of the sea. The food was nothing much to talk about like all places with a beautiful ambience. Today, it has been converted into a party place for the ‘men in uniform’

My Grandmother’s house

My grandmother had small cottage located at Rajawadi in Ghatkopar. We needed to change buses at Dadar T.T. to get there, as there were no direct buses from Tardeo to Ghatkopar in those days. It had a small garden at the front and back with sitaphal, chickoo, drumstick, mango, jackfruit and many fragrant flowering trees, and a Mangalore tiled sloping roof. Opposite her cottage there used to be a narrow gauge railway line over the huge water pipeline, which was used by the water department to travel in a funny contraption operated by a manual lever. They used to go back and forth checking the pipes. Rajawadi had a very village feel with lots of trees and many cottages. Today, Rajawadi has been transformed into a crowded suburb with ugly looking bungalows and skyscrapers.


Among the dying breed of Irani restaurants, Bastani for me stood out not only for all that the Irani café’s dish out but also for the compassion that Mr. Kohinoor showed towards the cats. Among the chais, the bun maskas, the bruns and the cakes you would always find cats roaming around or sitting on one of the Irani chairs in the restaurant. Everyone would also remember Bastani for its patent NO board that must have been photographed by every media photographer sometime during his career. Here are the No’s … No talking to cashier/ No smoking/ No fighting/ No credit/ No outside food/ No sitting long/ No talking loud/ No spitting/ No bargaining/ No water to outsiders/ No change/ No telephone/ No match sticks/ No discussing gambling/ No newspaper/ No combing/ No beef/ No leg on chair/ No hard liquor allowed/ No address enquiry/ — By order.

Persian Restaurant & Stores

Yet another Irani café and store, it was located ahead of Novelty theatre at the junction popularly known as Charni Road junction. I remember Persian because I used to accompany my grandfather to buy bread, brun, wine biscuits etc regularly from here. Like all Irani restaurant and stores, the restaurant used to serve the regular bun maska, brun maska, khari etc and the store used to be the takeaway for freshly baked bread which used to be neatly packed in newspaper tied with a string and given. I distinctly remember the huge glass jars filled with different kind of cookies arranged towards one side of the exit. Now, there is a Lord’s shoe store in its place but Persian still does have a little store without the restaurant down the lane.

Jai Hind Cold Drink House

This huge, airy cold drink house with a very high ceiling was a famous landmark at Nana Chowk. I have a faint recollection of the place as I was quite small when it closed down. It had glass shelves with different colored fancy ice cream glasses arranged neatly against the walls and a huge fridge that used to display colorful desserts in glasses. It was truly a cold drink and desserts place that served cold drinks, ice creams, faloodas, lassis, jellies and other desserts. Now, there is a plywood store in its place.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

14 May is Stray Dog Day

In 2005, The Welfare of Stray Dogs decided to celebrate the second Sunday of May every year as “Stray Dog Day.” This year it will be held at the Dhanraj Mahal in Colaba( Near Cottage Industries/Gateway Of India) on May 14, 2006 at 4:30 pm.

This year, the organization will felicitate seven individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the cause of stray dog welfare, public health and above all, furthered the goal of harmonious co-existence of dogs and humans. Seven of these awardees are human, two are dogs.

WSD will felicitate two “ Stray Dog Friends”, five “Stray Dog Saviours” and two “Stray Dog Heroes.” WSD products (for humans and dogs) will also be on sale. People can buy gourmet vegetarian food prepared and sponsored by the Taj President, Mocha, Zaffran , Joss & Patchi chocolates. Cyrus Broacha will compere the event and Mr. Cyrus Guzder, CMD, AFL will hand over the token of appreciation to the awardees. The honorary director of the Helen Keller institute, Ms Behroze Vaccha will also be present.

Kids can get themselves photographed with the kennel dogs and the “Stray Dog Heroes”by WSD volunteer and professional photographer Rohan Mukherjee.

Meet the Stray Dog Heroes
Jerry - Those of us who are different from the mainstream are usually burdened with the pity and low expectations of our fellow human beings. Perhaps only in the eyes of dogs are we truly equal. Adopted from WSD four years ago, Jerry lives at the Helen Keller Institute of Deaf & Deaf Blind . She performs a valuable and unique service by providing love, companionship and lots of fun for the students. Like all dogs, Jerry does not discriminate in any way, and to her the children are simply her beloved playmates, no different from other children.
Lara – She wasn't born a stray, but she became one when her callous owner abandoned her on Sion highway. Not surprisingly, she was soon hit by a car and both her back paws were severely wounded and fractured. In fact, the toes of the right hind paw were completely severed. When she was brought to the WSD kennel in January 2006, she was unable to get up. Instead of sinking into self-pity as most humans would have done, Lara made the best of what she had and started propelling herself around on her front legs. As her wounds healed, she started using one of her hind legs, and finally, a couple of weeks ago, she began walking almost normally on all four paws. WSD salutes this quiet, gentle little dog for her tenacity and will to survive, and above all for retaining her trust of human beings even after the cruelty she had suffered. Read more about Lara here

Read more about the Stray Dog day on Indianwriting and hope to see you there !!

Monday, May 08, 2006


When Lara, an abandoned pomeranian was brought to us by WSD volunteer Suresh Naidu, many people thought that she had no hope. Deepa Suryanarayan of DNA wrote about Lara in the May 7, 2006 edition. Find the link to the article

If you know any one who would like to adopt Lara , do call WSD on 23733433 or e-mail Lara needs an extra caring and loving home.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Yes, that’s what the dog in the picture above has been named. Blue resides in an aesthetically built, open and airy bungalow in Alibag with a huge garden and lot of shrubbery to loll about in. A very likeable dog, mild and sweet, the best words to describe Blue could be ‘garib’ or ‘bechara’, some one who you will like and would empathize with, at first glance.

Blue, as his owner informed me, came in with the laborers into the plot when her house was being built more than 11 years ago and stayed on after they left. Thus, he adopted the house and the owners. Whenever the lady of the house visited Alibag and returned back to Bombay, Blue used to accompany her all the way to her bus stop (enroute to catch the ferry), wait with her patiently till her bus arrived and then return home.

Blue is quite a wanderer. He keeps disappearing, long spells at a time and comes back as if he has just returned from a war zone. Thus, sometimes he comes back with parts of his ear missing, sometimes with wounds and bruises and sometimes with terrible maggot wounds. The local vet then treats him and when he fully recovers, he ventures out again and the same story is repeated.

Last month, I saw Blue after a long time when we had gone to Alibag for a WSD dog adoption. Surprisingly, this time, he didn’t have any bruises or cuts on his body. He bravely lead us (WSD volunteer Rohan who took Blue’s photographs and I) through a short-cut which went through a creek, two villages, people’s compounds, under wired fences, rough trails, fields and of course spells of barking (of neighborhood strays who sighted him treading on their territory) to the beach which was more then a kilometer away.

So why was he named Blue? The stray that used to hang around the house during its construction didn’t have a name till one day when the owners saw a blue colored dog in their midst. Well, not only was the dog blue, so were the caretakers kids. They were amazed when their caretaker told them that after white washing (blue washing!!- The chuna obviously had a blue tint) his hut, he used the leftover chuna on his kids and the dog. (God knows why!) The dog managed to shake-off his blue color and got stuck with the name ‘Blue’.