Friday, December 12, 2008

Datta Temple at Chowpatty – A Dabholkar Family Heritage

For many years whilst passing Gamdevi towards Chowpatty in a double decker bus, I used to see this old heritage house just before the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and wondered who it belonged to. Many years later, I knew that it was not somebody’s home but a Datta(Lord Dattatreya) temple belonging to the Dabholkar family and that it was kept open to the public once a year on Datta Jayanti day.

For years I wanted to visit it and finally, yesterday when I saw the lights and open windows, I asked the watchman standing outside and he said that Datta Jayanti was today and to come early at 7 am to beat the rush.

I am glad that I went there today at 7 am as not only I got to see a 110 year old temple but also had a long chat with Mr. Sachit Dabholkar, the grandson of Shantaram Narayan Dabholkar who built it in 1898 for family use and not for the general public.

The history goes as such… Narayan Dabholkar (the same gentleman after whom a road has been named off Nepean Sea Road where the rich, famous and our ministers live) came to Mumbai from Vengurla with his parents and lived at Sardar Griha, opposite G.T. hospital. (The same place where Lokmanya Tilak used to live). The family was not very well off and after he lost his father to the plague, he had to earn a living. He loved horses and so he started training people on horse riding. He was helped out by a British woman who he was training. Her husband was a Captain in the British army. He got him a job at P & O shipping company where after a lot of hard work and dedication rose up the ranks. Later he started supplying material to the shipping companies and thus became very rich. He used to own a lot of property in Bombay including the place where Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan stands today(their family bunglow was at this very place), bunglows in bhuleshwar and hundreds of square meters of land in Matunga. He also bought a house for 60,000 rupees at Nepean Sea road (on the same road that has been named after him). He had a premonition that he would die at 41 and thus made a will. He died when he was 41 in the same Narayan Dabholkar road house during an inspection of its restoration and repairs when it collapsed on him.
Due to the immense wealth left behind and due to his immense faith, his son Shantaram Dabholkar built the temple in 1898. The exterior of the temple is built with soft Porbunder stone (now covered with white-wash) which was ideal for carving. The interior has Italian marble floor and Burma teak wood doors and windows. The nine feet tall Devhara (main shrine holder) was ordered from Italy and is made of grey Italian marble. This was ordered by Shantaram Dabholkar in 1897 based on the architectural design made by him in Mumbai. It had to be shipped in nine parts and assembled here.

This temple was restored in 1998 in its centenary year and was awarded an urban Heritage award (for religious places).

Mr. Sachit Dabholkar who is seventy six years old has been looking after the maintenance of the temple for many years. He estimates that around 14,000 people come on the Datta Jayanti day and he remembers that one year when there was so much rush, even his wife (who is no more) had to wait in the line to get in. He attributes this to the absence of too many Datta temples in the city and also to the immense ‘shraddha’ that people have for Lord Dattatreya and the temple. He knows that there have been many regulars who have been coming there every year for the past 30-40 years and also from far and wide.

When I was chatting with him, I could sense that people had huge respect for this humble gentleman, who was an advertising professional having worked with JWT. He seemed to know everyone who was lining up. They were bowing down at him and he kept telling them pointing towards the Devhara, “bow at Him and not me”.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

And Mumbai Came Onto The Streets

On Wednesday, December 3 , 2008 at 6pm, lakhs of Mumbaikars congregated at the Gateway of India to protest about the Mumbai Terror Attacks and also to vent their anger against the politicians…. to convey that Enough Is Enough

There were young and old, college students and office goers, homemakers and senior citizens, common Mumbaikars and celebrities, people from far and near, children and toddlers …. All their doing their own thing. It was democracy at its best and may be my father's generation would have been reminded of the freedom struggle when people would congregate to demonstrate against the British. There were vocal protests and candle light vigils, huge placards and small ones, signature campaigns and T-shirt declarations, spontaneous Jana Gana Mana renditions and Vande Mataram chants, politician bashing and Pakistan bashing.

The spontaneous outburst was overwhelming and it was amazing to see everyone come there and show that they cared.

The photos below speak more than what I have written above….

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Will Mumbai Be The Same Again?

As Mumbai woke up today, to a Saturday morning, ‘Operation Black Tornado’ was almost over. The NSG chief had announced that the TAJ was under their control. Three terrorists had been gunned down and all the rooms were being sanitized. At the same time at the Hindu Colony in Dadar and in Bangalore, the funeral processions of Hemant Karkare and the NSG commando, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan were under way. The ATS Chief Karkare and Major Unnikrishnan fought valiantly and unfortunately succumbed to the terrorists bullets. Top Cop, Julio Ribeiro had written about Hemant Karkare in the TOI on the November 28, 2008. Read it here.

Many others like APC Ashok Kamthe, SI Vijay Salaskar, Inspector Shashank Shinde, PSI Prakash More, PSI B Durgunde, and many other constables died in the operation on November 27, 2008.

As you are aware, all this was a fall out of a very bloody, gory and never seen before aftermath of terrorists carrying out fidayeen style attacks at various places in Mumbai including the heritage 1903 built Taj Mahal Hotel near the Gateway of India , the Trident and Oberoi hotels at Nariman Point, the UNESCO heritage listed CST ( formerly VT) railway station, Leopold Café on Colaba causeway, Nariman House which was a Jewish Centre and the adjacent petrol pump and Cama Hospital near CST/Metro. Two taxis laden with bombs and ammunition also exploded at Vile Parle and Wadi Bunder near Mazagaon.

T.V. Channels have been covering the ‘Mumbai Terror Attacks” live and on Thursday and Friday, Mumbai came to an almost standstill. More than 150 people have been killed and this figure is bound to go up. Mumbaikars felt helpless, numb and dejected whilst sitting at home and watching the gruesome killings. A lady not very far away from Nariman House had to be hospitalized after a heart attack due to the stress she went through hearing the constant gunfire in her neighborhood.
The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai- in happier times

The channels beamed heartfelt stories of employees of the Taj and the Oberoi, the General Manager of the Taj who lost his wife and children, relatives who lost their loved ones and ordinary Mumbaikars who rose above their line of duty and helped others.

When I went to work on Friday, the 123 bus route which goes all the way to R.C. Church via three of the places that were attacked (Taj, Café Leopold and Nariman House) was curtailed till Hutatma Chowk. There weren’t too many people in the bus. At Churchgate too hardly anyone got in. On a week day there are long lines as this routes takes the morning office goers to Fountain, Kala Ghoda and Colaba.

Some of the shops in out office lane which is at Kala Ghoda were open. We were getting many calls on our helpline for injured animals from around the city.(not connected to the attacks) At around 1 pm, all of the shops in the lane started downing their shutters as news came in that there was fresh firing happening at CST station. Then more SMS’s and calls that firing was happening at CST, HSBC, BSE, Reserve Bank, Nana Chowk, Tardeo and Chira Bazaar. We thought they must have been rumors but stay put in the office. We got confirmed reports that they were rumors and later knew that a cop had accidentally misfired his gun.

We left office early at around 4 pm. The roads behind the University looked deserted as on a Sunday. I walked towards the Regal circle. As I approached it, I could see the new Taj building at a distance. I knew that the operation there was not yet over and wondered what must be going on. Many people were heading towards the road leading to the Gateway. Many people were standing looking towards the TAJ direction. Both the Colaba Causeway and the road leading to the Gateway of India were blocked for traffic. A lone three legged stray was hanging around wondering what was happening.

As I left the Regal Circle behind and walked towards the Marine Drive via Mantralaya, I saw the flag at half mast, the police were at red alert positions at the gate of the Mantralaya. I passed Gandhiji’s statue and a guy dressed in ragged clothes looked at me and remarked. “Dekho, Gandhiji ke desh mein kya ho raha hai”... I nodded in agreement and moved ahead.

As I reached the Air-India building, I heard some commotion. Some body told me that the hostages had been rescued and one of them was being escorted out. The media was in frenzy and was following him with cameras and mikes to get sound bytes. I also heard a relative shielding another who was crying inconsolably and screaming at a reporter to show some sensitivity. The TV reporter too burst into tears and adjusted herself and got ready for her shot. There were many reporters from different channels taking up various positions and reporting about something that had just happened (rescue of hostages). At Marine Drive, just outside Air India building, there were scores of cameras trained towards the direction of the Oberoi. I could see black cat commandos at the distance and other personnel from the fire brigade and the Rapid Action Force. A politician suddenly made his way through the barricade and went towards the Oberoi.

I heard some one call out my name and saw a journalist friend who was covering the attacks. He told me that the operation at the Oberoi was over but as in the case of the TAJ and Nariman House, there could be something more happening inside. He told me how he was there at V.T. on the first day when it had all started...

As I walked towards Chowpatty passing the various O.B. vans, foreign television crews, I wondered weather Mumbai will be the same again. Mumbai spirit et all withstanding!

Also read some other blogs which have been listed on Desipundit about the Mumbai Terror attacks, a list of dead and injured on Mumbai Help, reactions on Blog Bharti, Annie Zaidi and Falstaff.

Friday, October 17, 2008

WSD Photography exhibition

The Welfare Of Stray Dogs and Cymroza Art Gallery would like to invite you to an exhibition of photographs titled " Stray Snapshots" by Rohan Mukerjee at the Cymroza Art Gallery between October 27, 2008 and November 1, 2008 between 10 am and 8 pm.

Rohan Mukerjee, a WSD volunteer and photographer has beautifully captured these thirty one stray dogs and cats in their natural surroundings in Mumbai, Kolkata , Shanti Niketan and other parts of India.

WSD spends about Rs 3 lakh per month on all its activities for strays which include mass sterilization and immunization, on-site first aid and immunization, adoption, education and awareness. All proceeds from the sale of these photographs will be used for funding these activities.

The WSD 2009 'Strays of Mumbai' calender will also be available at the venue.

Please find above an invite to the exhibition and we look forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Music Room

The Music Room is written by Namita Devidayal, a Princeton graduate and a journalist with the Times of India. The book takes you through 'her plunging into the world of Indian Classical music at the age of ten' and the stage is set for the story of her teacher, Mumbai based Dhondutai Kulkarni (b. 1927) and Dhondutai's gurus, Alladiya Khan (1855-1946) of the Jaipur Gharana and the great Kesarbai Kerkar (1892-1977).

The book predominantly focuses and takes us through Dhondutai's life from her Congress House residence near Kennedy Bridge to Shivaji Park and finally to Borivali where she currently resides.

The Music Room is an unputdownable book which I really liked and read cover to cover.

A book reading, interspersed with recordings, of THE MUSIC ROOM will be held at the Crossword Book Store at Kemps Corner on Saturday, June 28, 2008 around 6.30 pm. Srila Chatterjee will be "in conversation" with the author Namita Devidayal.

You will also be treated to the enthralling voice of Dhondutai Kulkarni through a recording of her performances. So be there.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mumbai rains prediction and MRF

Around 8:30 pm yesterday, it poured in many parts of Mumbai. These were pre-monsoon showers as confirmed by the weather bureau in the DNA and Indian Express.

MRF, the tyres company has been releasing an advt. every year predicting MRF rain day and telling Mumbaikars to switch to MRF tyres. And mostly every year they have been wrong with the prediction. They then follow up with the release of another advt. telling us that the MRF rain day has been extended so that we could switch to MRF tyres. Here are the dates of MRF rain days for the past five years….

June 6 - 2008
June 6 – 2007
June 4 – 2006
June 7 – 2005
June 2 – 2004

Either every year they get their information from the weather bureau else have the same two advertisement inserts. This year they have predicted June 6 as rain day in Mumbai and I am sure they will issue the second advt. on June 7 if the monsoon does not arrive in Mumbai.

And not only MRF but other people are trying to predict rain and even making money on it. Here is a story about people betting on not only when it would rain in Mumbai but also the quantum of rain that Mumbai will receive.

Though the weather bureau has predicted monsoon to hit Mumbai on June 10, it has this forecast for today. So what's your prediction ?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sol Kadhi review

Had reviewed Sol Kadhi served in some of Mumbai's restaurants sometime back for a website

Sol Kadhi

THIS kadhi is truly for one’s soul. With the advent of coastal food especially of the Malvani variety, sol kadhi has started getting the recognition it truly deserves. Known earlier only to households that lived along the coastal areas of Maharashtra and Goa, sol kadhi has now become very popular with everyone.
Sol Kadhi is made from kokum which is readily available at any grocery stores. The ideal sol kadhi needs to have a coconut milky consistency, a baby pink colour (neither overtly red nor white) and the correct taste (refreshingly sour)

Goa Portuguesa : This restaurant located at Mahim serves Goan and South Indian (Culture Curry) specialities has the best Sol Kadhi in town coming close to the one prepared in GSB (Gaud Saraswat Brahmin) homes. The kadhi priced at Rs 29 has a good consistency, baby pink color, the right amount of chilly and garlic and does not smell rancid.

Color ****
Consistency *****
Taste ****
Rating: 8/10

Casa Soul Fry : This newly opened restaurant near Fountain serves Goan specialties. The sol kadhi here priced at Rs 40 has a good consistency. The color too is perfect but is too garlicky. The kadhi also smelled rancid as it may have not be fresh and kept in the fridge for a long time, thus imparting an offish taste to the coconut milk.

Color ***
Consistency ****
Taste **
Rating : 5/10

Anant Ashram : This no-frills eating place serving Konkani coastal cuisine is located in the very quiet heritage quartier of Khotachi Wadi in Girgaum. The sol kadhi here is very watery and nothing much to talk about. The color is white with the absence of the astringent kokum taste. The served free with the food or priced at Rs 3 if ordered separately.

Color *
Consistency *
Taste **

Rating : 3/10


Soak three-four kokum in three tablespoons of warm water. Extract coconut milk (one cup) and grind in two-three flakes of garlic. Once the kokum extract is red, add the coconut milk, chopped green chillies and salt to taste. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Be careful not to leave the kokum soaked in, as it will make the kadhi sourer than normal. Ignore all recipes that add ginger, cumin or mustard. A quick fix sol kadhi is also called ‘futi kadhi’ or ‘tival’ (in Konkani) and is made in coastal Maharashtra or Maharashtrian fish-eating households. The recipe of this is similar to the one above, but instead of coconut milk, one uses water.

See my earlier post here for more on the Sol Kadhi

Friday, May 09, 2008

Children Welcome

A sign in a Mumbai restaurant ...

Children Welcome
Only if they sit at their assigned table.
No compromise
No bothering other guests
No Noise

Guess which one ?

and no it is not Anant Ashram in Khotachi Wadi

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Rani aka Julie aka Rowdy Ranga.- R.I.P.

Rani died yesterday. She had ascites which is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, a condition that I have not seen any dog come out of. She was admitted to the WSD kennels when someone called about a very fat dog with a very fat belly lying motionless near the Gateway of India. We instantly knew that it must be Rani.

We brought her, treated her and kept her for a month. It was amazing that she got better and went back to her home at the Gateway of India where she must have lived for over 13 years. I saw her a week back sitting near the police chowkie on the footpath next to the Taj Mahal Hotel. She recognized me, wagged her tail and made a few noises. I patted her and was happy that she was back to her normal self.

Fifteen days after she went back and a week after I saw her, the same condition recurred and she was again admitted to the WSD kennels two days ago but unfortunately did not make it.

Rani was a favorite with every one at the Gateway of India. All the policemen, the photographers, the Taj Mahal hotel staff, the street dwellers and urchins knew her as Julie.

I used to see her every year when we used to immunize all the dogs in Colaba and around the Gateway against rabies. She was quite boisterous and used to accompany us whilst we were vaccinating all her Gateway friends. It used to be as if she was either poking her nose at every vaccination or checking on what we are doing to her friends. Else I used to see her at the Gateway on my way to Elephanta or Alibag and she would always greet me with a nice wag.

If you had visited any WSD stall, you would have seen her photo on the poster(shown above) which featured Cyrus Broacha. She is sitting on top of his head and looking straight into the camera. She has pushed the stray dog cause by featuring in WSD’s adopt a street dog campaign along with Cyrus. She was called Rowdy Ranga in it.

She was not the same slim dog that you saw in the Cyrus poster and had put on quite a bit of weight. She used to look very roly poly. I had told Cyrus that both the models (him and Rani) had put on tremendous weight over the years.

As I reflected on Rani’s life, I realized that we have never had to treat her in her entire life for any ailment. This meant that she had lived a very healthy life and never had injuries, wounds and basic first aid ailments that most stray dogs suffer sometime in their life on the street.

I will really miss Rani when we go vaccinating dogs at the Gateway or on my next visit to Elephanta and Alibag. She was one of the sweetest and happiest strays I have ever known.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Modern Hindu Hotel

Little did the late K.S.N. Hebbar know that more than eighty years after he started the Modern Hindu Hotel, office goers , businessmen, tourists and hundreds of other Mumbaikars would line up at his boarding house in South Mumbai to eat simple South Indian’ meals on the banana leaf .

Hebbar came to Mumbai after leaving the Vishakapatnam hotel he used to work in when the owner refused to give him his monthly four annas salary. Using his brother’s savings, he set up Modern Hindu Hotel in 1926. It used to cater to the lodging and boarding needs of the textile traders who frequented Mumbai from Chennai, Tirupur, Cochin, Erode and towns in Andhra Pradesh during the cotton textile boom.

Modern is nestled on the fourth floor of the 1900’s built Apeejay Chambers on Wallace Street close to the Sterling and New Excelsior theatres in Fort. It would be better to take the high wooden steps than the lift as you can build an appetite and do justice to the meal that you are about to experience. You will pass by their lodging facility on the third floor and see a television belting out a south Indian channel being keenly watched by the lodgers... After you have taken a coupon from the counter you will pass the spotlessly clean kitchen to your left and come to two rooms with old style wooden chairs and tables which can seat twenty two people at a time. Take a seat by the verandah and through the grill you will be able to see the old and heritage building tops of the Fort area.
Modern serves simple South Indian meals on the banana leaf at a very affordable Rs 45. A typical meal consists of unlimited dal, vegetable, sambar, rasam, chapattis, dahi or buttermilk, papad, pickle and a mountain of rice which the regular South Indian clientele lap up with relish. .

Although Hebbar hailed from Kattingeri, a village near Udipi in Karnataka, he incorporated cuisines of the various South Indian states in the food. They vary the vegetable preparation, the rasam and sambar style on a daily basis. The sambar is made in the Tamilian style with shallots or with raw masala or fried masala and sometimes with or without coconut. The rasam could be with any one of these flavorings… horsegram, tomato, pepper, green chilly,ginger or simply the normal rasam. Amongst the vegetables you will be able to eat Avial, Morkootan, Koot and many other varieties or any popular vegetable prepared with coconut in the Manglorean style. Be sure to take an extra rice papad which is crisp and light and sourced specially from Chennai.

Modern feeds more than 225 people daily on week days and don’t be surprised if you have to wait in a line to have your meal during peak lunch hours. Regulars like Sudhakar Shetty; an insurance investigator who resides in Mira Road, a distant Mumbai suburb has been coming here for the past twenty five years. He likes the food as it is simple, light, tasty, hygienic and very homely. Prashant Chopra, a corporate executive who has come here once before liked the food so much that he brought his colleagues along this time. “Awesome” he says and adds “ This place is clean and has simple food seeped in old tradition, something that we are losing in today’s modern and fast world”.

Though there is no sign that says “The owner eats here”, A. K. Hebbar has been having his afternoon lunch at Modern ever since he took over the running of the place in 1966 from his father.” You will see me eating my meals here at 2:30 pm every day”. This is because he wants to know what his last customer has eaten to ensure that the same quality is being maintained. He says that Modern will be around maybe for maximum of five or ten years more. The business is loss making due to the high taxes and rising prices of ingredients and as his father had started the place with the objective of ‘community service’ , he does not want to drastically increase the price of the meal. Secondly his well settled sons are not interested in carrying the business forward.

So hurry and go to Modern Hindu Hotel for a simple South Indian Meal seeped in tradition before it is too late.

Modern Hindu Hotel
12,Wallace Street, 4th Floor, Apeejay Chambers,
Wallace Street, Fort, Mumbai 400 001
Tel: 22072992/22072778

Timings: Lunch: 12:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Dinner : 7:15 to 9:00 pm
(Had written this for Touchdown Mumbai)