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.


Full2 Faltu said...

You have lived in the South of Mumbai a lot and I have lived in the North all my life. But we share the same nostalgia for Bombay or Mumbai or whatever we want to call it.

Nice writings about the city!


Selma Mirza said...

Abodh, reading your blogs is such a pleasure!!

I love double decker buses too :-D The first seat on the upper deck is the most romantic ride when you're with somebody and the most entertaining one when you're alone!

writelearnings said...

keep straying and writing on- its fun reading this blog- esp- the nostalgia bit about old Mumbai- and ofcourse the double decker buses...the city has changed so much...

Abodh said...

Full2Faltu : have posted a message on your blog

Evenstar: Thanks. Yes , double-deckers are really great. Have you ever sat in the front seat in pouring rain without lowering down the window, did it on a 123 route and it was amazing.

writelearnings : Ya, the city has really chnaged. In some years I am sure I will have a long list of things I will miss in Bombay

Bombay Addict said...

lovely abodh, really nice...i thot the only thing that came close to the 123 was the open top buses that some tourism dept had started that ran the length of Nariman Point..but I think they shut them down as well.

Tugga said...

I remember the restaurant outside New empire theatre, they had the best pudding ever..

I hope Kyani's still there. I would be devastated if it weren't.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Abodh, I'm particularly glad you mentioned the Haji Ali roundabout. It was removed to supposedly streamline traffic, but the huge traffic jams at that junction should tell us something.

Abodh said...

Bombay Addict ; The MTDC still run the open double decker bus on Saturdays and Sundays from The Gateway of India. They take you for a tour of the heritage buildings in South Bombay. Will close in the monsoon.

Tugga : It was called Empire and now there is a Mcdonalds in it's place. Yes, Kyani is thankfully still open.

Dilip: Yes, The Roundabout might have been better

arzan said...


a great list.

I remember each and everyone of these and the memories that are associated with it are so vivid.

Where do you live in tardeo ?

I live in Wadia Street

MarvD said...

Hiya Abodh! Came here via Uma.

Lalita and I had a violent argument about whether the 123 was a double-decker. She took it every day from the hostel to work, she said. Sure, decades ago, I said.

My favorite double-decker route is the 66, from Bombay Central down Tardeo to Thakurdwar (where you're eye-level with some fantastic old shop signs), Kalbadevi, Princess Street, and VT. Worth the Rs. 5.

Great post!


Dadoji said...

Is double decker 85 still around? I will find out in July and I hope it is around. I want to take the Little Devil from Fountain (1st stop) to Dadar on top deck front seat. His mother and I used to do that years ago and it remain special for us till date.

Mumbai...cannot wait to return...the rains and the trains.

Abodh said...

Arzan: Live near Bhatia Hospital. I know Wadia Street well.

Mathew : You were right. It was a double decker maybe a decade ago or until 6-7 years ago. Ya, 66 is also a good route.. used to go to school in a 126 which went along the JSS Road and could see all the Jewellers etc. Only some 66's are double-deckers now.

Dadoji : Unfortunately not. 85 passes via my home and it's not a double decker any more. Take your son on 66 ,124 ,1( some of the few double-deckers that still plying). You have fun when you are in Bombay.

Dadoji said...

abodh: Thanks. My other favourite used to be #65 from Maheshwari Udyan to SP Mukherjee Chowk but that stopped being a double decker before I left Mumbai. Oh well! #66 it will be then. I like that route. Used to take that to visit my nanny in Girgaon.

Leo M said...

they're gone. so is cafe naaz. get over it.

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
B. Mehta said...

I use 2 live in the bungalow that was later converted into the sainik rst and now is a army club. My father Major J.B.L. Mehta at that time was the 2ic of the armysupply depot, this was are army accomodation (20 years ago). Our pet Shiba a german sheperd was buried in the left side of the lawns of this bungalow.Later i joined sydenham college and fre quented yankee doodle and years later the RG night club in natraj hotel.My parents still live in colaba and have used the army club(Sanik rst) at 20 pilot bunder road afgan church on many occasions.Thanks very much for a trip down memory lane

Rahul said...

In 2000 , when i was working in Mumbai , there were several double decker bus routes being operated by BEST in downtown , central mumbai & suburban mumbai as well, i was fond of travelling by Double Deckers when i was a kid.In 1987-88Kolhapur Municipalty Transport (KMT) was also operating leyland double deckers along several routes.There were one or two double decker buses in cities like Nagpur , Nasik , Sangli-Miraj also which were being operated by MSRTC.Even Pune (PMT) & Pimpri-Chinchwad (PCMT) were operating double deckers.Hyderabad city was also having a APSRTC double decker bus.Now they are all history ,golden childhood memories.Now u can find only few routes in Mumbai where double decker buses are still operated.66-CST to Rani Laxmi Chowk , Kurla Stn.(W) to Bandra Terminus are amongst those which i have seen in recent past & travelled by 66 in 2008. Chennai(MTC) is also operating 10 double deckers still.Solapur Municipal Transport (SMT)is also operating a double decker bus still today.In 2000 , the few double decker routes in Mumbai which i used to travel regularly were , 446 -Kurla Stn.(W) to Baman Daya Pada via bail bazar,jari mari,airport runway beautiful view,Saki Naka ,Fire Brigade Marol , 443-Agarkar Chowk to Baman Daya Pada , Prabodhankar Thakare Udyan , Vaishali Nagar Mulund, Ghatkopar to Chembur, Kurla (E) to Deonar,Shyamaprasad Mukharjee Chowk ,Kolaba,Prabhadevi,Borivali to Gorai beach , i don't now exactly how many routes amongst these are still under operation & how many are closed. Whatever it may be , Mumbai life is incomplete without double decker bus & it's heritage.What should be the reason to end the journey of double decker buses from the roads of Mumbai & other cities in Maharashtra? Whatever it is , i miss them a lot & a lot & a lot.

Anonymous said...

It has been a long time since I have seen the Hotel Natraj on Marine Drive. I remember eating Ice Cream at Yankee dodly many times. It is too bad the hotel has been closed.

It was 1978. It has been almost 30 years. I was a young man then, 20 years old, new in Bombay with full of energy and desires to become something in Bombay. I organised an Handicraft Exhibition/Sale under the name of Village Handicrafts. And, did have a good run in business! I stayed at Bentley hotel on - D Road, Marine Drive. I lived in Bombay for 5 years.

Today is Nov. 25, 2007 and I have been thinking about the time I spent in Bombay.


Now, I have been living in the U.S. for last 21 years. But, the memories of Marine Drive, Bentley hotel, Oberoi Hotel, Natraj Hotel, Studio 29 Night Club in Hotel Bombay international etc., are still as fresh in my mind as yesterday.

I could never forget the day when I got drunk at Studio 29 in Bombay International hotel and was thrown out by security staff because I caused a seen at the night club.

I came outside of the hotel and it was raining hard, the road was covered with water, I crossed the road (MARINE DRIVE) and stood right across the street of Bombay International hotel. Now, I am on the sidewalk.... As soon as I took a step to move and BAM....... BULUP..BULUP and I found myself in the GUTTER.

The lid of the Gutter was missing. Apparently, the city workers forgot to place the lid on the Gutter after fixing it that day. I lost my shoe in the gutter but managed to keep 700 dollars which I was hiding in my Shoe. Thank God, nobody was around, it was 1 in the morning and was raining. I would have been very embarrassed if someone would have seen me in the GUTTER.


I learned my lesson that day and NEVER GOT DRUNK ever since.

Funny story but woke my eyes up for ever!

Dear Bombay, I will visit you again and WILL TAKE A PICTURE OF THAT GUTTER where I fell.

If someone reads this Blog and would like to do me a favor by sending me a picture of the gutter... I will appriciate that.

The Gutter is right across the Bombay International Hotel on Mrine drive. You cross Marine drive and go on the sidewalk where people stroll next to the sea. Just look down on the sidewalk and you will see a city drain with a lid on it. THAT IS THE GUTTER. I need a picture of it. If you can send me a picture then please send it to me through my e-mail, or to my address B.K. Sharma 715 S. Mitchell ST. Bloomington, INDIANA 47401 U.S.A.. I would not mind to pay you for it.

That Gutter changed my driking habit and now I have been sober for 30 years. I DID NOT HAVE TO ENROLL MYSELF IN ANY CLASSES TO BREAK MY HABIT. Funny......Laugh out Loud.........Sharma

Brahmin said...

Thanks for displaying my story! I am a same person who dipicted his story yesterday under ANONYMOUS. A "SOBER DRUNK."

Poppy Brahmin

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