Bombay: The Real Story
Bombay knows its own beauty better than anyone else, and will be more than happy to hold your hand and show you around—for a price. You’ll be packed into a sweaty bus for a ‘Mumbai Darshan’, forced into awkward selfies at the Gateway and Marine Drive and packed off with a quick peek into the Dharavi slums, all very depressing as shown in the pamphlet. In this great city of opportunity, there’s always room for another tout, but just like Shantaram will tell you, there’s also room for the discerning tourist. Here’s a list that’ll help you slip into the skin of the locals, and live as close to the authentic life as you can!
Where to stay
Stay over at Soraya’s. She knows the city inside out and has endless interest in new people and cultures. With significant travels under her belt, she’ll be an expert guide when it comes to exploring, and also ensure you have a comfortable and cosy home base to operate out of. Bombay city doesn’t have quite as many home-stays or couch surfing options as other world cities, but our budget hotels are a real experience in themselves!
What to eat
Maharashtrian Fish. Parsi Mutton Dhansak (spicy gravy on brown rice). Mughlai Kheema pao (mince and bread). As a blend of cultures, there’s a blend of food all equally delicious in its own right, but none beats out Mumbai’s very own vada pav. A delicious, hot potato patty fried in a chickpea batter, smothered in chutney and packed neatly into a sliced pav bun. In terms of a single restaurant that really embodies the city spirit, we’d have to recommend The Bombay Canteen, an outstanding establishment both for its innovation and its near perfect attention to thematic detail in décor, menu and delicious city-inspired cocktails. Try any of their food really, it’s all local but with a masterful twist by the brilliant chef Thomas Zachariah.
Where to go
The seaface. Whether it’s Bandra’s bandstand or Marine Drive’s Chowpatty, this is the city’s social leveller. Watch the sunset in the company of families, lovers, schemers and college gangs, buy some channa from a passing urchin or fresh fruit ice-cream from our beloved Naturals. If you’re in Bandra late, wait for Bournvita Uncle to ride up on his cycle and dole out a steaming cups of hot chocolate. Feel the breeze in your hair and just listen, watch, and be a part of the passionate storm of people that fuel this city.
What to do
Take a hike. The city’s surrounded by beautiful hills just a few hours out and while as a visitor you’re probably looking for something more in the city itself, but it’s our escape. The Maharasthrian’s revere their ancient warrior king, Chattrapati Sivaji Maharaj. You’ll notice roughly half the important buildings in the city have been renamed in his honour. This king ruled from the crags and hidden caves of the Western Ghats when driven out and returned stronger, so I guess you could say it’s in the blood of the people. Let us know if you think you’re up for a day’s rewarding climb and we’ll find the perfect option for you. For those still looking for something within the city, try the Bhau Daji Lad Museum. A fine collection of artifacts, lovingly accumulated and categorized situated inside the city zoo at Byculla, it encourages interaction and would love to answer all your questions about the city we love.
What to say
Try your hand at our universal fix-it ‘jau de, kaka’ that translates to ‘let it go, uncle’. Throw it blindly at any figure of authority, particularly cops in a sufficiently grovelly tone and you might just be able to get out of a tight spot. Most people in Bombay of all classes speak basic English, so there’s no need to rock out your Namaste every five minutes. It’s really not that commonly used. Hellos, pleases and thank yous have pretty much replaced their local counterparts, so that won’t cause you much trouble either. If you contact us personally at India Someday, we could give you a more private tutorial on bambaiiya gaalis that’ll serve you well in traffic.
• Always opt for public transport. Maybe you’ll get ripped off by cabs and autos but it’s worth it for stories you’ll hear and if they try to lie to you about the distance, at least you get to take the scenic route. Be careful of local trains at rush hour, but don’t let that put you off from taking it at all. The metro’s cool and very efficient but no fun, so you can skip that.
• EAT OFF THE STREET
• Try not to end up with too many beggar children under your personal care
• Don’t forget mosquito repellent and sun-screen!