Saturday, August 25, 2007

Food with a Mumbai 'chaap'

Many years ago when the dosa wala near August Kranti Maidan was sprinkling soya sauce and noodles onto a sada dosa calling it Chinese dosa, I could believe it as this is what Mumbai does to its food. She invents it here, hands it over to the others and doesn’t even patent it. This is just what happened to Nelson Wang’s Manchurian and we have many examples of Mumbai introducing quintessential food and leaving a Mumbai chaap to it. And that is more than our Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji and Bhel which has got its due and is dished out in many towns as Bombay Bhel or Bombay Pav Bhaji.

The Iranis might have brought the know how of baking from Iran but the Bun Maska ( soft , sweet bread with butter), Brun Maska ( hard bread with butter) and Khari would still remain Mumbai brands. Bomi Hormusji Irani whose grandfather started B. Merwan and Co at Grant Road confirms this and says “ You will find the Brun , Bun and Khari ninety percent in Mumbai only” He says that these must have been introduced somewhere between 1910-1914 when Irani café’s were being set up. .

One more drink very distinctive to Mumbai and to Pune is Raspberry which was introduced by Parsi owned beverage companies like Dukes, Rogers and Framroze & Co in the early 1900’s. This is a dying brand whose availability today is restricted to Parsi weddings and some Irani Cafés.

Juices like Ganga Jamuna , a mix of orange and sweet lime juice and Mara Mari, a mix of sweet lime and pineapple were introduced in Mumbai in the seventies says Ramesh Sondarva, one of the oldest employees of Bachelor’s at Chowpatty which claims to be the oldest juice centre in Mumbai. These were introduced long after the juice outlet opened in 1940. Shekhar Pujari of Sukh Sagar Juice centre adds that it was due to ‘public demand’ that they started serving these two cocktails. The name Ganga Jamuna might draw a parallel from the confluence of two rivers as both the fruits come from the same Citrus family. Mara Mari might have been due to mixing of two fruit juices from different fruit families.

And lastly good ol’ Cutting chai which may be another name for tea but has a unique Mumbai chaap to it. The road-side tea stall in Pune would serve you Amrutulya chaha but the consumption of Mumbai’s cutting chai which actually means cutting one chai into two, not only makes it lighter on the pocket but also lets you finish it off very quickly so that you can get hurriedly refreshed and set off to keep up with Mumbai’s rapid pace.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mumbai's 'gaons'

A little history, lest we forget three Mumbai neighborhoods which were villages that have long been integrated with Mumbai’s urban present and the only thing gaon-ish about them today is their ‘gaon’ tag.

Mazgaon: Mazgaon was an ancient Portuguese township and the name was either derived from Maza gaon which means my village in Marathi or from Maccha Grama which means a fishing village. It was also one of the original seven islands that Mumbai comprised of. Not many would know but Mazgaon was also famous for its mango trees which used to bear fruit twice a year. The Mazgaon mango was a celebrated commodity and finds a mention as the ‘Mangoes of Mazagong’ in the epic poem Lallah Rookh written by Thomas Moore in 1817. Mazgaon was home to many old stone houses and wooden bungalows, built in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries which were inhabited by mostly the Britishers and Parsis. Gunpowder Lane near Matharpacady was so called as a result of the armoury being moved to this area. Prominent landmarks in Mazgaon today are the Sales Tax office, the Mazgaon court and the Matharpacady village, a heritage ‘quartier’ with quaint, old houses struggling to survive amidst the skyscrapers in the neighbourhood.

Girgaon: The name literally translates into hill village. Giri in Marathi means hill. Thus, this was the village that existed at the foot of the Malabar Hill and is said to have been inhabited in the mid-nineteenth century. Girgaon comprised Girgaon woods and also boasted of coconut and mango groves and vast areas of plantations called wadi in Marathi. Today the Girgaon wadis may not be cultivating any of the produce that they used to but names like Mugbhat, Phanaswadi, Kelewadi, Kandewadi and Ambewadi would suggest the kind of plantations that must have existed there. Likewise, Zaoba Wadi, Vaidya Wadi, Khotachi Wadi & Jitekar Wadi may suggest who they belonged to. Gai Wadi was so named because of the large presence of cow sheds. Girgaon still has retained some of the villagish charm with its narrow lanes and old houses but times are changing. Many chawls in Girgaon with long wooden balconies are making way for multi storied buildings. Some old Maharashtrian restaurants like Kulkarni famous for its batata bhajiya, Virkar, Tembe Vishranti Gruha and many khanawals have shut down. Others like Chhatre‘s Kolhapuri Chivada, Vinay Health Home and B. Tambe have changed with the times and got renovated.

Goregaon: One version says that Goregaon was named after the Gore family who were active in politics. Another, which seems more accurate, says that the meaning translates into ‘white village’ in Marathi, as it was a large milk-producing centre since olden times. The Goregaon (E) area has still remained one of the few Mumbai’s green lungs in spite of the fact that the Aarey Milk Colony was set up in 1949 by acquiring 3000 acres of forest land. This was one of the world’s largest dairy farms and would be used to organize the supply of pasteurized bottled milk to the city. Many cattle from congested parts of the city were shifted here. The Film City was also set up here in 1978. Goregaon has now become another Mumbai suburb with a burgeoning population and various colonies or ‘nagars’, many high rise buildings, malls and multiplexes.