Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bahubhashik Bahurangi Natyotsav

A five-day theatre fest is currently going on (September 28-October 2, 2006) at the Mumbai Marathi Sahitya Sangh at Girgaum, near Charni Road station. This festival organized jointly with the Saraswat Co-operative Bank in memory of the late Dr Shrirang Adarkar, a theatre enthusiast and an ex-director with the Saraswat Bank.

The festival has quite a mélange of plays in Marathi, Malvani, Hindi and English. The first one called Bin Baykacha Tamasha, as the name suggests has no women but men dressed as women. It was wonderful to see the men dancing in the tamasha form and the male singers who were singing in both male and female voices. Look at this link here and you will find it difficult to identify that the actors are all men.

Then there was Sangit Swayamwara, the Natya Sangeet form of theatre in which the plot was of Rukmini’s Swayamwara with Lord Krishna, Rukmini, Rukmini’s brother Rukmi, her father Bhishmaka, the King of Vidharba all part of the plot and were emoting out scenes through dialogues and moreover through classical singing. The photos that appear here are from this play. This form of theatre was made popular by the legendary Bal Gandharva.

The other plays that are going to be staged are Magni Taso Puravtho, a play in Malvani by the famous comedian Macchindra Kambli, Katha Collage II directed by Naseeruddin Shah and Tamasha Mumbai Ishtyle, a comedy by Bharat Dabholkar.

Do pay a visit to this old theatre, which used to be an open air theatre in the 1920’s and for many years now is an enclosed auditorium named after Dr Bhalerao who was responsible for reviving Marathi drama in the 1940’s when the audience for plays had thinned out after people started turning towards films.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Champi !

No, this is not a story about a malishwala or a dog owned by a malishwala but about a stray called Champi.

If you ever walk down around the Oval Maidan (South end), it would be difficult for you to notice a brindle colored dog sitting on the side of the footpath opposite the sugarcane juicewala or lying under a broken crate. You really have to look for her as her color and the small built camouflages her with the surroundings.

That’s Champi who is looked after by Mauryaji, the old sugarcane juicewala. Mauryaji brought her when she was puppy and when he was still living on the footpath at the Oval Maidan. Some time back he moved into a ‘kholi’ in Ghatkopar and commutes everyday to the Oval Maidan. He and his son run the sugarcane juice business and everyday quench the thirst of hundreds of passerby’s and young cricketer’s who play at the Oval with their freshly churned ganne –ka –juice. Champi, ofcourse continued to live at her ‘home’ outside the Oval

Mauryaji fondly talks about his Champi and says that she is twenty years old (she must be sixteen). Champi has now gone frail and has one bent hind leg due to an accident she suffered many years ago. We have seen her for the past eleven years. Some months back she has another accident and that too on her other hind leg. Thankfully, she responded to the treatment and could hobble around again. Currently she is being treated for a maggot wound on her bent leg (paw). She is a very good patient and wags her tail gently when we approach her, letting us treat her without a squeal.
So if you happen to walk down from the Oval maidan (South end footpath) towards the Institute Of Science building, look out for Champi or chat with Mauryaji about her and it will surely make your day!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bombay Books 1

Here is a list of books that are either about Mumbai or the backdrop of the story based in Mumbai. The list is in no particular order but includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, compilations and so on. If you want to ensure that I add all of them to Bombay Books 2, 3 etc, do leave a message. The obvious ones like Maximum City, Shantaram and Sacred Games along with the many others that I have in mind will be added in due course. The list is exhaustive and will be continued..

Kala Ghoda Poems

Poems penned by a simple man, the late Arun Kolhatkar while sitting at the erstwhile Wayside Inn at Kala Ghoda make their way into this book. . I was fortunate to have met him once, very briefly. My favorite for obvious reasons is Pi-dog but the compilation of 28 poems brings out Mumbai’s ethos on a Kala Ghoda backdrop.

Time Out Mumbai

Mumbai finally has a magazine of her own (for two years now) after many years since ‘Bombay’ and ‘Island’ disappeared from the scene. Edited by Bandra boy Naresh Fernandes, this fortnightly previews probably everything that you can do with respect to Mumbai’s Food and Drink, Art, Books, Dance, Films, Music, Nightlife, Theatre, Happenings and also has a section for Kids.

Anchoring A City Line

This book details the history of the Western Suburban Railway (the life line of this city) and its Headquarters in Bombay from 1899 to 1999. It contains some beautiful old photographs of different aspects of the railways i.e. trains, tracks, stations, engines, bogeys etc with well researched information by well known heritage writers Rahul Mehrotra and Sharada Dwivedi.

50 And Done

Tara Deshpande, the actress has written some short stories and verses that provide glimpses of Bombay through stories like Wicked, which is about a loney old woman and a bunch of wicked children out to seek revenge over the loss of a cricket ball at a building in Marine Drive. Other Mumbai mentions in the book include Mondegar Cafe, Grant Road’s Topaz, St Xavier’s College, Mid-Day, Carter Road and Ruparel College.

Busy Bee (From Bombay to Mumbai)

Busy Bee or Behram Contractor’s compilation of his columns ‘Round and About’ which he wrote initially for the Mid-Day and then for his Afternoon Despatch and Courier that struck a chord with millions. Many people used to buy the newspaper just because of his column. Nobody and I say nobody can write about or know Bombay as well as Busybee did. He wrote simple, everyday stuff about the life in this city by creating a character for himself as a family man with a wife, two sons (Derek and Darryl) and a dog (Bolshoi). Busybee loved Bombay and this is what he said about the city, “ Everybody has some place he calls home. This is my home, Bombay. I would not live anywhere else even if I were paid five month’s salary in a lump sum.

Bombay Gothic

Christopher London takes us through the fascinating history of Gothic Bombay through color photographs and rare archival material. This book presents a comprehensive perspective of Victorian architecture (here ,it is Gothic Revival architectural style adapted to local conditions) of Bombay as envisaged by Governor HBE Frere.

Bombay Time

Thirty Umrigar work of fiction is based in Wadia Baug, a Parsi colony in Mumbai where she introduces us to its Parsi inhabitants, men and woman who have grown up together in the Baug’s aging community. Here she takes us through the life of Rusi Billimoria, a middle aged businessman coming to terms with his bad marriage.

The Mumbai Nature Guide

Sunjoy Monga, the Mumbai based naturalist surveys a selection of natural sites in and around the city. He takes us to Borivali’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Chinchoti, Tungaresjwar, Elephanta, Karjat, Aarey Milk colony, Uran, IIT Campus, Malabar Hill and the Mahalakshmi Racecourse and many many more green places. The book has beautiful photographs of the flora, fauna and birds found in these areas.

City of Gold – The Biography of Bombay

This book was published in 1982 and is a must read for anyone who wants to know Bombay’s origin and history. Gillian Tindall has done immense research and in her foreword says “ battered, dirt, overcrowded and choked with exhaust fumes, it may be, but it is also a city of dreams”

Times Good Food Guide ( Mumbai)

This has a listing with ratings on the food, service, ambience and expense of mostly all the restaurants, bars, pubs, paan shops, caterers, restobars and nightclubs classified zone-wise, cuisi ne-wise, area-wise and alphabetically.

Swimming Lessons and Other Stories From Firozsha Baag

Rohinton Mistry’s first book with short stories is about the life in a fictional Firozsha Baag, a Bombay based Parsi colony. You will laugh and cry along with the residents such as Najamai, Khorshedbai, Nariman Hansotia, Tehmina, Viraf and others.

Rediscovering Dharavi

Kalpana Sharma narrates stories from Asia’s largest slum Dharavi. She takes us through Dharavi which for many is just a mere cold statistic, through its history from the days when it was one of the six great Koliwadas to the present time and also talks about it’s people like the potters and the chikki maker.

Bombay, Meri Jaan

This book edited by Jerry Pinto and Naresh Fernandes is a compilation of writing on Mumbai by authors like Pico Iyer, Adil Jussawalla, Rudyard Kipling, Suketu Mehta, Sunil Gavaskar, Kiran Nagarkar, Khushwant Singh etc and poems by Nissim Ezekiel, Arundhati Subramaniam and Dilip Chitre.

Love and Longing In Bombay

Vikram Chandra paints a vivid picture of Bombay, its ghosts, its passions, its feuds and its mysteries through five stories called Dharma, Shakti, Kama, Artha and Shakti.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I don’t know who named him or why he was called Bullet. He was black (and for a change not named Kalu) and used to live at the Cross Maidan near the Khau Galli side. I had known him for the past ten years. Bullet died last week of old age. Another stray whose photo I regret not having taken.

Bullet used to be looked after by the caretaker of the maidan. This responsibility was passed on to Shiva who liked all the strays in the area and used to call us for any first-aid requirement. Shiva had a shop on Fashion Street and strangely for the past 4 years I had not seen him. During this time the policemen sitting at the Fashion street signal used to call us for any help that Bullet needed.

I ran into Shiva last week co-incidentally just before Bullet died, while we were re-vaccinating strays dogs against rabies in the New Marine Lines/Fashion Street area. He told me that he now had 3-4 shops on Fashion Street. We were also remembering olden times about how he had seen Bullet as a puppy, about all the strays on fashion street which are no more and also about Bullet’s companion Sheru who used to live at the same place and died many years ago when he was sixteen

Bullet was a very quiet and docile dog and used to never show any expressions. I had never heard him bark. One would find him quietly sitting either in the tent, which was used, as a pavilion when cricket matches were on or under the policemen’s bench at the Fashion Street signal, which everyone passed if, they were using the short-cut to go to Churchgate station from Azad Maidan via Khau Galli. Else he would be sprawled out in the corner of the maidan watching a cricket match.
Bullet had slowed down for some years now and signs of ageing could be seen on his black face with the grey hair making him look sweeter. Bullet lived a good life in cricketing company and he surely will be missed. He was seventeen.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The RBI Monetary Museum in Mumbai

Go down Phirozeshah Mehta Road in the Fort area and almost at the end, towards Ballard Estate you will come to Amar building, which houses the RBI Monetary Museum. The entry fee to the Museum is Rs 10 (students – free) and you won’t be allowed to take cameras or bags but you can leave them in a safe deposit box at the office.

This museum has a ‘rich’ (literally speaking) collection of coins and information about everything to do with money, coins, notes, currency and the RBI. The Museum brings out the great numismatic history associated with India through a time line of all dynasties, foreign rulers and princely states. Here is a virtual tour of the Museum

The Museum is divided into Six Sections

Section One: Concepts, Curiosities & the Idea of Money.

This section provides the definition of money and gives information on its evolution. It talks about the Barter system and also displays all the items that were used as commodity money including cowri shells, Neolithic stone, axes, silver bar money, knife money and beads.

Money used to be in various forms like the bent bar, the punch marked coins, canoe money, bullet money and bracelet money. Coins would be pentagonal, hexagonal, square, triangular, rectangular and of course circular.

The nomenclature of coins in India were anna, cash, dhinglo, dokdo, doudou, dub, escudo, fanam, faruqi, karshapara, kas, kon, mohur, naya paisa, pagoda, panam, pice, pie, rupia, suvarna, tanga and tanka.

Coins were made from different Metals and Alloys. Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, Nickel and Alloys like Electrum (Gold & Silver), Billon (Copper and Silver), Alu-Mag (Nickel and Brass)

Section Two: Indian Coinage

This is the most impressive section and you can spend hours here as it displays coins through a time line right from 6-4 century B.C. to those of Independent India. It seems that the earliest documented coins of India are the silver punch marked coins which were issued around the 6th cent BC. Punch mark coins were made by punching symbols with the history or something associated with the period when they were made. Sometimes there could be up to 4 symbols punch marked on the coins. Thus, punch-marked coins were issued by the Gandhara (6-4 cent BC), Avanti (5 cent BC) and the Mauryan and Magadhan empires.

There are coins displayed of the Kuras of Kolhapur (1cent BC), Satavahana, Indo-Greek, Kushana (issued the first gold coins), Gupta (issued lots of gold coins), Early Medieval North (6-8 cent AD), Northern States-Indo-Sassanian, Kalachuris of Tripura, Early Medieval South (9-13 cent AD) like Chalukya, Kerala, and Pandyas. Coins from Delhi Sultanate and others, Sind Lodi Sur, Muhammed Bin Tughlaq, Provencial Sultanate – Bengal, Malwa, Gujrat, Madurai. (15-16 cent AD) Then the Bahmani, Adil Shah and Qutb Shah coins of the 16-17 cent AD.

During the Mughal era Sher Shah Suri (AD 1538-45) was the one who introduced monetary reforms. He standardized the silver coin by a weight standard of about one tola or 11.6 grams. Later this was the coin, which came to be known as the rupee.

Coins are displayed from the Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb, Shah Alam I and II, Marathas (called the gold coins hons), Awadh (had fish motifs), Sikh (had leaf mark), Shivaji and Peshwas (Ankushi rupee from Poona), Wodeyar – Chamundi (had animal motifs of lion and elephant). Northeastern States included Ahom rulers of Assam, Manikyas of Tripura (octagonal shape coins)

The Post Uprising Regional States had coins with the Mughal rulers name with the name or portrait of the ruler of England on their coins. In 1947 Hyderabad, Mewar, Jaipur, Travancore, Kutch, Gwalior, Jodhpur, Indore and Baroda were still issuing their own coins.

Then there is a whole section on The Indo-European Coinage (Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, French and the East India Company with denominations of the pie, 1/2 anna, copperron, pice, ½ pice, ½ anna, star pagoga, dub, sicca rupee, ½ rupee, 1/3 rupee, ½ rupee. It continues with British India Coinage, Coinage from Republic India and Commemorative Coins (IX Asian Games series, Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Series etc)

They have tried to make this section somewhat interactive with two information kiosks with a lot of information and also interactive games for children like match the currency with the country and so on.

Section Three: Coins to Bank Notes and Section Four : Indian Paper Money

This section deals with the transition of coins to Bank Notes. It displays Promissory Notes, Cheques, Bills of Exchange, Hundies and Early Bank Notes. Notes issued by the Bank Of Bengal (Unifaced, Commerce and Britannia series), Bank Of Bombay, British India notes with hand-made paper of denominations of 10,20, 50,100, 500 and 1000 have been displayed. There are notes from the Underprint series (1903-1911), small denomination notes of November 1917 of a rupee two annas eight, King portrait series, first notes issued by RBI in 1938, first notes issued after Independence to the current RBI notes. The display also incudes representative notes of the Princely States and a collection of exigent money.

Section Five: Know Your Currency

This section talks about how currency is managed in India and the features of the contemporary Mahatma Gandhi Series of notes.

Section Six: RBI and You

This section covers everything you wanted to know about the RBI and didn’t know whom to ask. There are portraits of all the governors of the RBI – right from Sir Osborne A Smith ( the first Governor ) to the current Y V Reddy. It displays the functions of the central bank of the country, its role in the economy and how it touches the day-to-day life of the common man.

So if you are interested in the history of our money and have at least 2-3 hours to spare do visit this museum. The timings are Monday to Friday: 10:30 to 17:00 hrs and Saturday: 10:30 to 13:00. The Museum is unfortunately closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Mumbai Names 3

This one comes after a long gap after I wrote Mumbai Names 1 and Mumbai Names 2. The Bombay Gazette also mentions that many of the names of places in Bombay are very naturally of Koli origin. Kolis are nature and tree worshippers and thus names of so many areas are associated with trees and vegetables. This list is still incomplete and to be continued…

Cumballa Hill: This area near Kemps Corner is named because of the huge number of ‘kamals’, i.e. lotus groves that used to grow here. Today, Cumballa Hill does not have any lotuses growing but has many skyscrapers and some old buildings inhabited by Parsis.

Dharavi: Asia’s largest slum located between Sion and Mahim gets its name as it was at the site at the doors to the island. (dar - door in Marathi)

Bhuleshwar: This very old area of South Bombay which also houses the flower market gets it name from the God-Shiva in the form of “Bhola” and thus Bhuleshwar.

Byculla: This name is supposed to be of early Hindu origin. This area used to have a lot of ‘bhaya’-'cassia fistula’ shrubs and this word was combined with ‘khala’ or level ground. Byculla is a very important train station on the Central Railway between Chinchpokli and Sandhurst Road.

Tardeo: This area near Bombay Central station derived its name from the trees of 'tad’or palms that were flourishing below the Cumballa Hill. A deity('dev') was also named and installed here and thus the name tad-dev.

Babulnath: There used to be a huge plantation of ‘Babul’ or acacia arabica in this area, which is at the foothills of Malabar Hill. The deity of the temple built later (Shiva) also took this name and is a well-visited place of worship and is located very close to Chowpatty.

Chowpatty: The name became generic for all the beaches in Bombay- Girgaum, Juhu and Dadar but it was meant for the Girgaum ‘chaupatty’ because of the probable existence of four channels of inlets of sea near Girgaum.

Wadala: This area located near Dadar T.T./Kings Circle was so named because of the banyan tree rows it that used to exist in this area. The name is a corruption of Wadali. Wad, which is the Marathi name for Banyan and Ali, which means row.

Mahim: Mahim was a desert island washed by the waters of the western sea and sparsely populated by families of Koli fishermen. According to the Bombay Gazette, King Bimbadev (A.D. 1300) the mystery King and indisputable founder of Bombay, had built a city called Mahikavati from where the name Mahi or Mahim has been derived.

Naigaum: This area (Nyaygrama) near Dadar (Central) was so named as King Bimbadev used to have a palace here where he used to have a ‘court of justice’ and a ‘hall of audience’. Nyay means justice in Marathi.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pudhcha Varshi Lavkar Ya

There must be no other day when Mumbai’s streets are thronged with so many people as I saw yesterday on Anant Chaturdashi, the visarjan day when Ganpati is immersed into the sea at various places like Girgaum, Juhu, Shivaji Park, Versova and also in various water bodies(lakes,ponds and wells) in Mumbai.

I was standing in the midst of lakhs of people at Girgaum Chowpatty who were either a part of the visarjan procession or like me watching the Ganpatis pass by. Women, men, children, young and old people, some of them drunk were either dancing away in the din as a part of the procession heading towards the beach or standing or sitting on whatever space was available… footpaths, dividers, roads, building walls, rooftops of terraces and shops.. on or in any vacant space available. One foreigner was dressed for the occasion and was wearing a Ganpati shirt.

The Ganpatis came in all sizes and colors. There were small, medium and big Ganpatis. There were household, wadi, building, galli and area sarvajanik Ganpatis. There were white, blue, silver, golden and yellow Ganpatis. There were rajas and maharajas. (The most prestigious Ganpati in a particular area is suffixed with a raja or maharaja like Lalbagcha Raja or Girgaumcha Maharaja). There were lone Ganpatis or Ganpatis with accompanying gods and goddesses. There were Ganpatis being carried in hand carts, carts, tempos, cars, jeeps, trucks and the really huge ones were being pulled on manual trolleys by the people itself. There were Ganpatis from Agripada, from Khetwadi, from Girgaum and from Lalbaug. There were Ganpatis from Sutar Galli and from Satta Galli, from Dhobi Talao and from Chinchpokli. Well, they were coming in from all directions and from all over Bombay.

I walked to Girgaum Chowpatty which is just a kilometer away from my house. The traffic was being diverted onto different routes. Many roads were closed or made one-way. Many offices had declared a holiday and those that were open would have left their employees early. All along the route, various political parties had put up stalls and were offering sharbat, water, cold drinks and even laddoos for the people who were dancing in the procession. Each group had the Ganpati generally in the front followed by the people dancing to different tunes of Bollywood numbers, Ganpati songs in Marathi or to the sound of dholaks and drums. They were bursting firecrackers, throwing gulal or even spraying confetti from cans which looking like shaving foam cans. One group danced to the traditional Marathi dance form of Lezim.

Visarjan also brought out ‘entrepreneurs’ selling foodstuff all along the route. Yesterday there must have been some kind of Guinness book record set of the most number of ‘wada pavs’ being sold in Bombay. One of the guys selling wadas at the corner of Nana Chowk told me that he would sell at least thousand wadas till 6 am in the morning. There were enterprising homemakers also selling wada and bhaji pav along with the regular vendors of dosa, dabeli, sev-puri, pani puri etc. Most of the places to eat out at Chowpatty were closed.

We thought that the best way to go to the beach was to be part of a Ganpati procession. So we joined a group which had a medium sized Ganpati. Each group had people holding a thick rope tied in front and back of the truck, which encompassed and thus protected and segregated their group from the rest of the crowd. The beach had lakhs of people who were either going towards the sea immersing the idol they had come with, standing or sitting around watching the idols go into the sea or going back after immersing the idol they had come with through a long drawn exit which came out opposite Wilson college. If one looked towards the sea one could see many idols at different distances being immersed in a sea of humanity.

There also were VIP viewing galleries, which had some politicians and foreigners with garlands, various stalls with a First-Aid facility, Announcement booths, May I Help You booths and toilets. One could hear announcements of “ Chotya mulancha haat pakda’ – Hold your small child’s hand, Chala chala pudhe chala – Go on, walk ahead or - “Yeto aahe ata Girgaumcha Maharaja”- indicating which Ganpati was about to pass by next.

The police and the security that one saw were unprecedented. They were all over the place. Volunteers were helping out in the water distribution stalls. The Traffic police, Mumbai police, riot control police, Senior citizen volunteers, NCC and volunteers from an organisation called the Anirudh Institute Of Disaster Management were handling traffic and crowd management excellently. It is said that the traffic management is so good on visarjan day you would have taken less time to drive through Marine Drive yesterday than on a normal working day. One also spotted the Municipal Commissioner, Johnny Joseph, Police Commissioner A.N Roy, Chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh and other ministers at Girgaum Chowpatty.

I did not wait till the Lalbagcha Raja arrived at 3 am but I am sure that there would have been a lot of cleaning to be done at Chowpatty on the next day when the crowds had disappeared and all the Ganpatis had been immersed.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Trivandrum's Street Tea Vendors

Thought that I would get coffee when I approached this beverage seller near the main Trivandrum railway station and I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was making tea. I was even more delighted at his ingenious way of making it.
He had a kerosene stove on which he had placed a large stainless steel (others had brass) vessel with a tap at the bottom (more like a vessel which one uses for storing water). This vessel had another vessel inside it. This the large vessel underneath stored the hot water and also acted as a double boiler for the small vessel which stored the milk. The lid also had a small hole, which kept a conical shaped stainless steel vessel, which contained the tea infusion. So when you wanted tea he would put a little of the infusion through a sock shaped muslin, add sugar and milk and then open the tap to pour the hot water into a glass and voila the tea was ready.
I have seen them make tea in a similar fashion in Bombay’s Irani cafés but they use different vessels for the hot water and milk unlike the all-in-one container used by the street tea makers in Trivandrum.

24 hours in Trivandrum

Kerala was always one of my top 5 destinations to visit in India. Earlier this month, I went to Trivandrum for some animal related work and though the stay was short but sweet, I promised myself that I would go back. My 24 hours in Trivandrum left the following impressions.

I got out of the airport and planned to take a bus to town when a very friendly rickshawala told me that he would reach me to a good hotel in Rs 50 and after some bargaining settled for Rs 30. The hotel was a foot away from the railway track and I decided to look for another one, as I did not want to stay awake all night, I decided to look for another one. My rickshawala was still waiting and he told me that he would take me to another one for “no charge”. So finally, I checked myself into Hotel Venkateshwara, which had a small but clean room and bathroom and was close to the railway station and bus stand.

Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram as it is now known is a small and relatively green city but like all developing Indian cities, it is losing its traditional architectural beauty with the Mangalore tiled houses giving way to modern buildings and shopping complexes. As I moved away from the city towards the suburbs, it became greener with lots of coconut trees, small houses with Mangalore tiled roofs and I also passed a small river surrounded by dense vegetation.

The Trivandrum that I explored was only to be after 10 pm and before 9 am the next day. I think the best way to explore and absorb a city is to walk around (stray around) or use the public transport. I walked from my hotel which was near the railway station via M G Road through almost half of Trivandrum in areas like Thampanoor, Chalai Market, East Fort, Bakery Junction, Statue (yes, it’s just called Statue), Kowdiar Palace and so on. I am sure all these names have some history attached that I don’t know of. On my way back, I took a KSRTC bus and the conductor was very helpful to tell me which was the bus stop nearest to my hotel. I of course, did not get to see the places that tourists to Trivandrum would visit like Kovalam beach, Napier Museum in the zoo , Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Sri Chitra Art Gallery (houses a rich collection of paintings of Raja Ravi Varma) and the East Fort. I managed to take a picture of the old gate of the East Fort from the rickshaw)

I did not get to taste a lot of the delicious Keralite Cuisine because of my short stay but managed to grab a dosa with fresh coconut chutney and delicious sambar at Rs 6 and filter coffee at Rs 3.50 at a Hotel Aryas which I later discovered was a chain of restaurants all over Trivandrum (maybe like the Kamats in Bombay). Also had a Kerala parota with vegetable kuruma (yes, spelt that way). Missed out having appams, idiappams and veg stew.

I had always thought that all South Indians were coffee drinkers and when I saw a ‘tapri’ (I am sure it’s not called that in Trivandrum) on the footpath selling a hot beverage, I went and asked the guy for a coffee. I was surprised when he said that he had tea and not coffee. He was also selling some wadas on the side (medu wadas and banana bhajiyas). It was a pleasure to see the ingenious way he made the tea. There were several such tea sellers at every street corner all over Trivandrum.

Some of the striking features in Trivandrum were as follows …. Newspaper stands and book shops being sold all over (Kerala being the most literate state in India) , lottery tickets being sold on the street and in mobile vans (one guy was selling them in a Maruti Omni while continuously announcing something in Malayalam over the loudspeaker tied to the Omni’s roof), Bananas (yellow, green and red) hung outside all shops irrespective of what they were selling, Hindi, Malayalam and English film posters stuck on walls, beautiful multi-colored temples all over reminding me of the temples in Chembur & Matunga, Meals Ready signs in Malayalam and English outside eating joints and of course banana, jackfruit and tapioca chips being fried in huge kadai and sold fresh.

I left Trivandum after drinking MAA at the airport – a darker Appy like apple juice served in a tetrapack and resolved to go back to Kerala as a tourist so that I could stray around much more.