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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fascinating Food in a Fascinating City 2 -- Street food and A Heritage Walk

         Our First Day in Mumbai

          Mumbai is strikingly similar to Kolkata in many ways, also in its food culture. In Mumbai too, food is available everywhere almost always and the price is reasonable. I noticed local people thronging street side food stalls for snacks which are mostly deep fried food items. The most popular, as per my perception, is definitely Vada Pav. Samosa and other fritters with pav are also very popular. And you will always spot a small crowd near the pani puri vendors.
          As soon as we landed in Mumbai, we started eating. We started very early from Bangalore, long before sunrise, when it was still dark and the city was still fast asleep because we had to catch an early morning flight. We were hungry by the time we got out of the airport after collecting baggage and refreshing ourselves a bit.
          Right in front of the departure gate of the domestic terminus there is a food court. During our previous visit we had food there which in my opinion was overpriced. Luckily I discovered that there was a canteen run by the airport employees union and we inquired if we could also buy food from there. This canteen was less costly than the food court. This time we had breakfast there. That's how my Mumbai food experience started.

Huge Dhosa at the Canteen of Airport Employees Union
          Dhosa is a pancake made of farmented batter of a type of rice and Urad dal (split black gram). It is originally from southern India but it is immensely popular all over India and even abroad. It can be of various types depending on the ingredients and region. We had masala dhosa; in this context "masala" means the stuffing of the dhosa which is mainly boiled and mashed potato seasoned mainly with mustard seeds.

           Interestingly there I discovered something else, too, a translation of a quotation by Rabindranath Tagore which says that work and rest are inseparable like the eye and eyelid:
           It is relevant and significant to have such words on the wall of an employee union's canteen since not always all employers remember it. And an overworked employee cannot be the most productive one, neither the most motivated one. A good work culture ensures that work life does not engulf personal life and that the workers are not exhausted. There are countries in the developed world where a manager cannot make a team member work beyond certain hours.
          After reaching our hotel, we had our much needed rest, a delicious slumber. Refreshed in the evening, we took a stroll in the neighbourhood. Our hotel was in Fort, a heritage area of Mumbai and so, we had a lot to see within the walking distance.
          Very close was a Persian agiary and within a short distance another. Out of respect, we did not click photos and of course, we saw the buildings from outside only.
          We walked along Dadabhai Nauroji Road and at the southern end on Hutatma Chowk (Martyrs' Square) stood the beautiful Flora Fountain.

 Our country is huge and full of great diversity and how little we know about each other! Before this visit I knew nothing about this fatal struggle of Marathi people leading to the creation of today's Maharastra state. In 1960,  here 105 members of United Maharashtra Committee were killed as police opened fire on their peaceful demonstration.

The Martyrs' Memorial Statue at Hutatma Chowk, Mumbai
At Hutatma Chowk on the other side of the road I had my first Vada Pav and made Mom have one, too!
Vada Pav
Vada Pav is a popular totally plant based Maharashtrian fast food. It is actually a big round potato fritter put inside a small loaf of bread slit open and spread in the middle with red hot spicy and a little tangy dry chutney (or thick paste like chutney, as we had it in Khandala). It may sound humble and may cost only 12 INR but it is really tasty and fun. It is a must have. Many times on the internet I have noticed that Vada Pav called "the Indian Burger". Why do we always have to compare our own cutural elements with Europe and rename it accordingly? For a change, how about calling a burger "the American non-veg Vada Pav"?

Then we walked till Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station which is a grand example of colonial architecture. It was originally named as Victoria Terminus.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
Just opposite was the building of BMC (Bombay Municipal Corporation, though I like the Marathi name "Brihanmumbai  Nagarpali ka" ) head quarter.

In this area beautiful old buildings are everywhere and the footpaths are wide and there are lot of trees, too. Compared to the centre of an Indian metropolis, it was relatively less crowded and calm; or do I feel so because I'm from one of the most populated cities of the wold?
There was a bus terminus adjacent to the gorgeous CST station where we took but to reach Gateway of India.
Boats on Arabian Sea, from Gateway of India, Mumbai
We spent the evening there till about 20:15 p.m. It was dark then and we set off for our temporary Mumbai-home and on the way I enjoyed my second Vada Pav and this time I spared Mom!


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