I often get surprised looks when I tell people that Mumbai is my favourite city in the world. But there is something about the place that makes it so open, yet so enigmatic. It is a mish-mash of old and new.
It has earned the tag of a cosmopolitan — and rightfully so, but Mumbai is much more than the Arabian Sea, modern cafes and nightlife. Boasting a lineage and legacy that not many talk about, this city offers a lot more to explore and experience.
With this thought in mind, I visited the city’s nooks and corners, the lost streets that seldom make it to an outsider’s go-to list, but are quite familiar to the locals.
A DYING ART?
You could see how improvisation to suit modern needs has taken over the earthen pots that Mohd Hussain Shaikh’s family has been making for over a century. He is the fourth generation in this business.“I am not doing this to earn money; there are hardly any margins left. I am probably the last generation sustaining it. I want to do it because my forefathers started this. My kids are not eager to follow in my footsteps. They seldom come here,” he says with a hint of sadness in his eyes. The shop is one of the many 110-year-old outlets in Null Bazar. Renamed as Mirza Ghalib Market on the 100th death anniversary of the famed poet, it takes you back to a forgotten era, while brazenly reminding you of the modern intrusion.
Want to eat the best Shammi Kebabs in the city? Head to Noor Mohammad Hotel in Bhendi Bazar to savour one of the most amazing Shammi Kebabs. Having eaten their kebabs back in 2012 and without fail at every visit thereafter, I can vouch for them for maintaining the exact taste and quality they have been serving since ages. The secret to their awesomeness? A special recipe which they pride themselves on, and with every bite you will be reassured that the pride is worth it.
THE BAD BOY, NOT SO BAD ANYMORE
Ever since I read Dongri to Dubai by Hussain Zaidi, I was always fascinated and curious to explore what it was all about. Laced with a checkered history, Dongri didn’t live up to its reputation of being unsafe; if nothing I found it safe, but in its own perturbing way. Amidst the chorus of never stopping traffic, I entered Dongri. The traffic cop, trying to manage the rickshaws, pushcarts, auto-rickshaws as well as pedestrians coming in from all directions, couldn’t control despite his earnest efforts. Dongri looked uncontrollable. Hawkers have nonchalantly intruded the sidewalks and pavements, with barely any place to stand. Commerce is at its peak around Dongri. Shops selling handmade kites, bangles and fruits. You can come here to capture this chaos and madness, but be wary as the noise and high pitched horns can give a headache to the unaccustomed.
CAN NEVER GO WRONG WITH VINTAGE
If you are charmed by the old world and all things vintage, go to Mutton Street, famous for an endless aisle of antique and curio shops. One can find gramophones, old postcards, and even old Java Motorcycles in this heaven for antique lovers. It is no wonder that hobbyists and collectors visit this place from around the globe.
All these lanes are a visual delight for any street photographer. Whilst you will see millions of dollars worth commerce happening in these congested streets, you will be astonished to see the beautiful blend of cultures here.
(The writer is an avid traveller, photographer and storyteller with around 60,000 followers on his Instagram handle @movingcompass)