Tuesday, 5 March 2013

bombay, how do i love thee...


Gateway of India, lit up in all its splendour.

Bombay may fail to appeal to one for a multitude of reasons. The traffic is loud, never-ending, and stops for no one. The beggars and eunuchs that haunt certain streets leave no vehicle unmarked with their grubby hand prints, whether it's a Bajaj scooter, an auto rickshaw or a Mercedes. It's almost always terribly humid—you could wring out your clothes at the end of the day and fill two buckets to the brim with your sweat. There are slums in perhaps every area, accompanied by filth and squalor. Too many of the residents are shallow and conscious about impressing an equally shallow society. I'm not sure I could ever live there.

Worst of all, in my opinion, the locals are completely contemptuous of the gods of English grammar and scorn the staunch and unyielding faith of the grammarians, repeatedly disrespecting and ridiculing it, trying to inveigle them into joining the Dark Side, as evidenced by this ad from Sony India (October 2012):

The copywriter wasn't too...bright.

Nevertheless, I love Bombay. It's the only city that I've been to (so far) where the branches of trees on either side of the road often meet in the middle, their leaves whispering and cajoling, paying no attention to the noisy traffic that drives by below them. There isn't much sunlight allowed into the side streets; the dense foliage of the many trees stand guard to prevent too much from creeping in.

Bandra.

somewhere in the suburban side of the city

And then of course, the family I adore lives there.

I made a quick trip to Bombay last week, the primary reason for which was to complete my dental work (three crowns on root canals, one cap on implant). To the dimwitted (who unfailingly inquire, "don't you have dentists in Kuwait?"), the cost of getting all that done with a good dentist in Bombay, plus the airfare, was about a third of what it would cost me here. Thankfully, it wasn't humid at all.

When I wasn't getting crowned, I spent my time with friends or family, usually at home or in a restaurant. My cousins have told me only too often of the 'awesome' food in this restaurant in Bandra or that one in Juhu. I love trying new things (not necessarily food), so I decided it was time to try a variety of food in as many unexplored places possible, with relatives or friends in the short time I had (nine days). The result was that I often had to have lunch twice with different people to ensure I spent adequate time with all I cared about.

It was worth it. Mouth-watering appetizers, dumplings and sushi (the range of veg sushi included mango sushi and olive sushi. That was a bit...strange) with my aunt at Global Fusion. Mocktails and a very forgettable dessert with close friends from MBA at TGI Friday's. Pizza with cousins at Alfredo's. Churros sprinkled with icing sugar and dipped in white and milk chocolate (YUM YUM YUM!) with a friend I met online at Chocolateria San Churro. Nachos and pizza with cousins at Bombay Blue two hours later. Ginormous crabs with half the family at Gondola where I appeared to have no knowledge of table manners. Chicken rolls, tarts and eclairs with another friend I met online at Candies. Portuguese Chicken with my aunt and cousin at Gaylord.

Damn that's quite a list. A couple of days I felt I would explode. It's weird; I lost weight despite the gluttony!

When it comes to interiors, a restaurant and a cafe completely floored me—Global Fusion and quite surprisingly, Starbucks.

Global Fusion has a lovely ambiance. The plentiful lunch buffet is served all around the restaurant, so you work up a bit of an appetite walking to inspect the buffet tables. It was busy; every table was occupied. A single table stood on a wooden platform above a pool of water. There were a couple of large toads (not real ones silly), with water jutting out their mouths, between tables in another, long pool of water. I didn't look around too much as the restaurant was closing and I wanted to eat more sushi, but it was very appealing.

A glimpse of Global Fusion.
Image source: http://mumbai.burrp.com

Shockingly enough, Starbucks in Fort takes the grand prize.

My cousin was immensely excited about Starbucks finally coming to India (in October 2012) and had made me promise we'd go there together, even though she'd been before. Having lived in Kuwait most of my life, where a Starbucks branch lies on every street corner, I wasn't particularly enthusiastic. I also despise beverages. My choice of drink is water (iced tea or nariyal pani* in India). If I'm in a cafe to catch up with a friend, I order hot chocolate. My aunt however, said it was a beautiful place so off we went.

Oh Lord. It was beautiful.

This branch of Starbucks was the epitome of the 'East meets West' concept, merging the American brand with European architecture and Indian culture, as my aunt put it. The Fort branch is in the Elphinstone Building, which is built in the Neo-Gothic style of architecture courtesy of the British. The quaint interiors of the coffee shop are reminiscent of places in North India, with wooden rafters, trunks for some of the tables, old-fashioned suitcases stacked in corners, carved wooden arches, high back armchairs, some antique furniture...very unlike the Westernized outlets in Kuwait and elsewhere around the world. The rustic look worked very well. I was smitten.

Don't miss the carved wooden
partition beneath the arch
                                                       
Another carved wooden arch

A closer look at the fine carving...can't seem
to get enough 

Note the milk containers and the print on the quaint
little suitcases!

Wooden rafters. I love them wooden rafters. 

A cozy corner :) I couldn't get closer for a better pic 

The drinks and cakes weren't a hit with me, but that's probably because I wasn't in the mood for hot chocolate, hate coffee and dislike cake.


It's always hard to leave Bombay. This time it was almost unbearable (in other words, I went emo). It's been a little more than a day since I got back but it seems like a distant memory now, as it usually does when I leave a country, even if it's Kuwait. I suspect I will post more to immortalize how I felt there so I don't forget. I forget too much too soon. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm developing Alzheimer's...


*nariyal pani: coconut water

(Bombay, March '13)

6 comments:

  1. NEVER APOLOGIVE FOR BOMBAY (NYC on the other hand truly sucks and has none of Bombay's charms...)
    Next time you go, I want to accompany....and I want a Starbucks Bombay collector mugs
    signed
    the better books lady
    ps i hope your crowns are as beautiful as you are

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  2. You described starbucks so vividly and the pics u posted r beautiful. I am glad you shared this experience with me. I have this feeling like deja vue coz ur mom felt the same abt mumbai. All in all its candid and enjoyanle. Thanx for sharing :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Khala <3 Until the next trip! :) :*

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    2. :)<3 muuuwahh

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  3. A what's up circulated a short while ago of Starbuck India's menu and I must say it sounds delicious. They are quite smart when it comes to catering to people's tastes in any country they operate.

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