Vikas Dilawari’s Restoration Preserves The Past For The Future

hira baug


Vikas Dilawari is a conservation architect whose work has won 15 UNESCO awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. Mrigank Warrier toured parts of Charni Road, Thakurdwar, and CP Tank with Mr. Dilawari and explored two of his conservation projects.

The Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Parsee Charitable Institution, 33, Maharishi Karve Marg, Opp. Charni Road Railway Station, Mumbai 400 004.
Hira Baug, CP Tank, Mumbai 400 004.


Moments after we meet outside Charni Road station, Vikas Dilawari asks me to inspect its signature railings: “They’re a replica of those at the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway building (Western Railway headquarters) outside Churchgate station.” And just like that, a short tour of two of his conservation sites becomes an evening of introductions to Bombay’s omnipresent heritage.

Obscured as it is by the remnants of a demolished pedestrian overbridge, the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Parsi Charitable Institution is a Gothic Revival building I must have walked past countless times, dismissing it as yet another colonial edifice commandeered by an obscure government department that one must avoid on principle as a museum of paperwork. But this 1908 structure – the first project of Mr Dilawari’s 27-year career – is a school for children of all communities.

We admire the imposing façade of this gorgeous building, and I can almost picture it filled with students: scores of exuberant children scampering through the portico into the lobby and pausing for a beat; tipping back their tiny heads, they gaze up the wide, sunlit stairwell with open-mouthed wonder at the pitched roof, four high-ceilinged storeys above their restless feet. Some of the more daring kids might risk a slide down the burnished bannister before scampering off to class through corridors shielded by ornate wooden screens and balustrades. The recently trained bladders of the tinier toddlers may drive them to the toilet, where an intricately chiselled screen of Porbandar stone brings elegance to that most utilitarian of spaces.

The more pensive ones will savour the soft tread of their canvas-shoed feet on the teakwood stairs and pause on the Minton-tiled landings to contemplate the serene marble tombstones of Bada Kabrastan in the adjacent plot. But the performers amongst them will surely make a beeline for the many-columned hall with its stage and stone balconies and hug a stone pillar for how wonderful it feels against their cheeks.

Only the most dauntless will climb onwards to the fourth floor library – painted a most welcoming tint of green – for its vista of the sea right in front and Malabar Hill and Walkeshwar in the distance. I doubt their teachers permit them to step onto the terrace on either side as Mr. Dilawari and I did, where he immediately pointed out that the blue and white roof of Charni Road station clashes with the brick red roof of the Government Press behind it. And I’m certain no student is allowed to clamber up the Mangalore-tiled roof of the school and look upon the quiet sanctuary of the Cowasjee Jehangir Atash Behram next door and the domes of Victoria Terminus on the horizon.

Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Parsi Charitable Institution

But they and you and everyone else can admire the windswept statue of Athena, holding a spear and shield, visible at the very top of the school from the very bottom. “It could once be seen all the way from Malabar Hill,” says Mr. Dilawari. “But it had fallen down or been removed and was replaced by a hoarding of 505 soap for a very long time. It was quite a feat to place that statue at the top, at a height of about 80 feet, facing the sea.”

As we descend the stairs, Mr. Dilawari – a most affable man – issues stern orders to workers giving finishing touches to another round of restoration. His eye for detail does not waver even when we stroll on Thakurdwar Road: he points out the Art Deco turret and stairwell jaali of the Vinay Health Home building as well as two staircases in the same chawl: one original, wooden, and still beautiful, the other recent, metal, and ghastly. Walking with him, one develops a type of vision that strips every sight of its tasteless modern additions to visualise each structure as it was in its heyday.

Turning onto Nath Madhav Road, I immediately spot a corner of my favourite Mumbai building, the interiors of which – in a happy coincidence – Mr. Dilawari restored. If real estate is a status symbol, Hira Baug is the most glorious of them all. Built in 1905 by a wealthy Seth, its frontage – which abuts two streets – overlooks a traffic island and public toilet but once commanded a view of the historic CP Tank.

hira baug

Mr. Dilawari crosses the intersection with carefree aplomb, unmindful of the blaring traffic (“This is Bhuleshwar, nothing will happen”). With sweeping arms, he explains how just a ground-plus-one structure can have such a large footprint, how buildings across the street complement its curves, and how the balustrade of its recessed, triangular terrace is perfectly parallel to the front of an adjacent building.

Mr. Dilawari describes its design as “Gothic outside, Indian inside” (If I come across as an architectural expert in the following sentences, it is only because I am quoting him). The façade of Hira Baug has Western ornamentation such as trefoils (a raised outline of a three-lobed leaf) and finials (slender, carved projections crowning the apices of its roofs). But it also sports carved motifs of Indian animals, and its eaves are lined by finely-crafted, desi wooden lengths called fascia boards. The longer one examines its façade, the more detail it reveals.

hira baug

We pass through its gates to an oasis of calm. Mr. Dilawari explains how Hira Baug was planned keeping human senses in mind: the stone-paved courtyard hardly admits the din of traffic outside; a young woman sits on a verandah, studying. The structure is oriented to welcome the south-west wind, which sweeps through the building through louvered ventilators. The last rays of the setting sun shine upon its walls, tingeing its yellow ochre hue to something indescribable.

In photographs dating from before Mr. Dilawari’s restoration, Hira Baug appears discoloured, decrepit, and altered, with little consideration for its original design. We clamber up one of its many staircases to the gallery of a space now used as a wedding hall; once painted an odious grey all over, its original, colourful stencilled pattern with ‘HB’ at the centre is resplendent once again. The terrace next to it offers a splendid view of a hidden Art Deco clock tower right in the middle of Bhuleshwar. We walk along a balcony-corridor onto which a row of residential rooms opens; its cast-iron railings display the ‘HB’ motif as well. The windows of the rooms open into the quiet courtyard. The lower panes of their shutters are solid, for privacy, while the upper ones are transparent and admit sunlight. Hira Baug is a building designed for its people.

hira baug

As we leave, I see a man go up the stairs with a giant tiffin. Hira Baug was once a dharamshala whose rooms were subsidised by its shops;  the watchman Dubeyji informs me that, a century later, the rooms are still given free of charge to the families of cancer patients from out of town who need to stay in the city for months on end.

Mr. Dilawari says, “Any modern building is like a human being; until you’re 30, 45, 50, you’re fit. At 60, you start going for check-ups. The very fact that Hira Baug has completed 100 years without asking for external repairs is remarkable.” This resonates with the email signature of this man who spends his days protecting and preserving that which he loves most about his city: “It’s good not because it’s old, it is old because it is good.”



The Madh Island Staycation Guide



Madh Island is home to aboriginal islander villages, celebrity hideaways, and everything in between. The salty ocean air, decent beaches, hotel options, and the fabulous 15th Century St. Bonaventure Church make it the perfect place for a staycation.


Until a few years ago, most corporate offsites would succumb to the lure of the Madh Island’s Retreat Hotel and its ersatz resort vibe. The area was one of Mumbai’s dirty weekend haunts as well as the location for film units to shoot “bungalow scenes” at the local holiday homes. As high-rises begin to dot the landscape, Madh Island is slowly turning into a suburb, which means it is also more accessible by road and by sea.

If you want to escape manic Mumbai over the weekend, it remains one of the easiest options.

Getting There

The road trip is now an obstacle course courtesy the Metro construction and near perpetual bottlenecks on the Western Express Highway. It’s cheaper and far quicker to get to the Versova jetty and take the ferry across. A ticket on the junta ferry costs only Rs. 5. The slightly better maintained ferry is a princely Rs.10. Both will deposit you across at the Madh Island Jetty in a couple of minutes, but you will have to brave the putrid stench of the polluted ocean on this stretch.

madh island

Once you disembark, you can catch a rick, but be warned: they don’t ply by the meter. The starting price for any distance is Rs. 80, and you can try to bargain but there is really no option, so you’ll have to quit haggling and give in. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle from one of the local shops at Versova before you take the ferry across.


Marve and Aksa beaches heave with tourists on weekends but have plenty of street food stalls and the typical Mumbai beach paraphernalia. The lesser-known beaches of Erangal and Dana Pani are less crowded and, if you time your visit right, you could have the entire beach to yourself. These beaches are mostly clean and easy to access but don’t have food stalls or facilities on the beach so they are as bare and basic as it comes.


While you could stay at the Retreat or the Resort at Madh Island for a weekend staycation, there are plenty of bungalows that offer the Airbnb experience like Shubham, Aashiyana Villa, Arpita’s bungalow, or Umesh’s Villa. Apartments at Raheja Exotica also show up on Airbnb, and if you choose a higher floor the sea view is guaranteed. Andy’s 1979 Boutique Hotel on the Madh Marve Road is an option if you want to rent an upscale cottage. They also offer dining on site.

Madh Island_002


As its name suggests, the Retreat Hotel and Convention Centre near Erangal Beach is more of a convention hotel, and a recent visit suggests its glory days are perhaps in the past. The hotel’s all-day dining café, Tangerine, and its Chinese restaurant, The Oriental Bowl, have poolside views that rank higher than the quality of the food.

You could also try the themed cafés (High Tide, Bay Watch, and Pool Side) at the Resort Hotel in Aksa Beach, Madh-Marve Road. While the food is standard café fare, the views score one up over the Retreat, as you can see the beach from here.

Standalone restaurants such as Café Laguna near the Raheja Exotica buildings make up for a lack of a view with their ambience and menu.


St. Bonaventure’s Church is a Portuguese era Franciscan church built in 1575 AD. It is right on Erangal beach and hard to miss as it’s painted a bright white with blue trim and has squawking parrots perched on its window sills. This imposing church was in use until the Maratha Invasion of 1739. After the invasion, when the church was in ruins, annual celebrations were held only once a year. It was only in 1976 that the Madh Church parish priest had the church renovated and regular church services resumed. On the second Sunday of every January, the Ergal cha Sann (or Erangal Festival) sees thousands gather for food and celebrations as the native East Indians venerate St. Bonaventure. Born in 1221, in Italy, he was known as the prince of mystics, made a cardinal in his lifetime, and was canonized a saint shortly before this church was built.

madh island

Madh Island offers the perfect low commitment dial-down from the big city. After a weekend of long beach walks and stirring seaside views, returning to Mumbai may prove hard. But you can always return the next weekend.



A Vegetarian’s Guide To Maharashtrian Restaurants In Dadar

dadar restaurants



Dadar is perhaps best known for the sea of bodies that flow in and out of its train station daily, even inspiring one-line poems such as “Darr ke aage jeet hai, Dadar ke aage seat hai, but for me, Dadar is all about the food. The busy marketplace in Dadar West, known for its aromatic flower stalls and colourful sari shops, is also peppered with small Maharashtrian restaurants, some of which have been serving quick vegetarian snacks to the hordes of hungry travellers for over a century. If you’re not planning to shop, visit on a Monday when the market is closed, so you can enjoy a plate of missal pav or a pair of batata vadas in relative solitude.

Mama Kane

Mama Kane is a no-frills eatery just outside Dadar Station. It’s always busy, which means that the fried food is always hot. Try the aluvadi (patra), the sabudana vada, or the dahi vada with a glass of kokum sharbat. The missal is as authentic as it gets – served with an oily, guilt-inducing potato mixture. They’ve retained their vintage charm while introducing newer dishes like the aloo vada sambar, a pair of potato vadas dunked in a bowl of sambar and served with pav, apparently created for their growing South Indian clientele.

Mama Kane, 222, Smruti Kunj, Senapati Bapat Marg, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 022 2422 1161

Panshikar and Co.

I make a trip to Panshikar every year to buy my father a tub of shrikhand for his birthday. With a hint of saffron and the perfect amount of sourness to the curd, it pairs perfectly with the rajgira puris, which are thicker and crunchier than regular puris. The farsaan in the missal is too delicate and disintegrates into mush, so try the faraali missal (missal made with peanuts and potato salli) instead, the mug bhaji (mung bean fritters) or the vada usal (a pair of batata vadas dunked in missal rassa) if you’re feeling adventurous.

Panshikar & Co., Gananath Building, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lokmanya Tilak Colony, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 022 2422 9526

Tambe Arogya Bhawan

The gulpoli (crunchy roti stuffed with jaggery and sesame seeds) sold here is the Maharashtrian answer to khakra – I once met a man who was here to pack Tambe gulpoli for a trek. The missal has more sprouts than potato (a welcome change) and deliciously spiced rassa with unlimited refills but not enough farsaan on top. The most memorable flavour is that of the garlicky chutney made with red chilli and coconut that’s served alongside the batata wada and the thalipith.

Tambe Arogya Bhavan, NC Kelkar Road, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 022 2432 5611

Shree Krishna Batatawada

The biggest faux pas you can make here is to ask for a pav with the batata vada: Shree Krishna prides itself on its vada and doesn’t believe in dampening the flavours – lots of ginger and curry leaves that pack a punch – with a pav. It’s a takeaway joint, so I like to grab a crunchy dal vada or kothimbir wadi and browse through the bookstores nearby. Pro tip: keep an eye on the vat of oil and order what comes out of it first – none of the stuff tastes particularly good when cold.

Shree Krishna Batatawada, Radha Nivas, Chhabildas Road, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028 Phone: 022 2430 7416

Prakash Shakahari Upahar Kendra

Prakash is one of those old restaurants that has achieved legendary status over the years. What it lacks in service and ambiance, it makes up for with its flavours. The missal here is slightly sweet, topped with grated coconut, and ideal for those who prefer mild flavours. The piyush (sweetened yoghurt drink) is has contributed to Prakash’s fame but is probably enjoyed best only by those with a really sweet tooth. I’d rather stick to the puri bhaji and take home some pohe chiwada and dink ladu (fenugreek aadoo).

Prakash Shakahari Upahar Kendra, 9/10, Horizon Building, Gokhale Road North, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 022 2445 6095


Aaswad is perhaps best known for its missal pav. Unlike most missal, theirs is so mild it feels censored for the unfamiliar tongue, but the generous bed of potato bhaji on which it is served makes it a filling snack. Other interesting dishes here are the omelette (chickpea flour, no eggs) served with toast and the thalipith served with white butter. Wash it all down with the fresh grape juice, which can be made (and tastes much better) without sugar. The hidden gem on the menu is the varan bhat (dal rice with ghee and jaggery), comfort food for most Maharashtrians, best eaten along with the crunchy kurdai (fermented papad). For dessert, try the puran poli ice cream or malai ice cream topped with a cardamom-laced jaggery sauce.

Aaswad, 61, Sadanand, Opposite Amar Hind Mandal, Gokhale Road (North), Opp. Chandrika Automobiles, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 022 2445 1871

Gypsy Corner

Gypsy Corner is a great place to visit for a home-style Maharashtrian meal. Try the pitla bhakri thecha (a besan sabji, roti, and dry, fiery chutney) and aamti bhaat toop (spiced dal rice with ghee) for a full meal. The restaurant also offers daily specials such as surnache kabab (yam), matarchi karanji (fried dumplings stuffed with green peas), and kaju mutter ussal (cashew and green peas).

Gypsy Corner, 120, Keluskar Road, Dadar (w), Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 097570 73213

Feature photograph copyright RealityImages –

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Relish The Real Taste Of Vidarbha At Minks In Marol

saoji food minks andheri


Minks is a restaurant in Andheri East that serves Saoji cuisine, which is known to be fiery and meat-heavy. Saoji cuisine comes from the Halba Koshti community that is native to the Vidarbha region, and authentic Saoji food is difficult to find in Mumbai.
Minks, The Nagpur Saoji Treat, 4, Monarch Chambers, Marol Maroshi Road, Andheri (e), Mumbai 400 059. Phone: 098216 86623/ 022 2920 4303


People from Nagpur rave about their local Saoji cuisine – fiery and heavy on meat. Unfortunately, in Mumbai, the only Maharashtrian food that Nagpuris have to rely on is the popular rendition on “spicy” Kolhapuri curries and, if you’re lucky, maybe some Agri mutton.
After years of searching for Saoji food in Mumbai, I finally found one restaurant that serves it – Minks in Andheri East. I wanted to try the food as soon as I heard about it, but it was nearing midnight, and the restaurant was about to close. I called anyway. Five minutes in I convinced the restaurant owner to send a parcel home, and half an hour later he dropped off the food himself!
Saoji cuisine comes from the Halba Koshti community that is native to the Vidarbha region. The food gets its distinct taste thanks to the spice mix used to make the curries. Each family has their own spice mix recipe, making the food taste different at each house. This fiercely guarded recipe uses more than 24 spices along with the basic garam masala and red chilli powder. One thing that’s common: to keep the acid content under control, they boil their spices instead of dry roasting before grinding them.
Minks, thankfully, does justice to the food. Located opposite the military café at Marol, this tiny eatery can accommodate just about 15 people at a time. The décor is simple, and you might find it cramped to eat in. To really enjoy the food, parcel it and eat it at home with air-conditioning handy, because this is not for the weak-hearted.

While Saoji cuisine is heavy on meat, the vegetarian options aren’t lacking in flavour.

The brief menu features traditional fare only. Meat eaters can start off with a dry starter [my favourite is mutton and khur (paya)], which pairs well with fried garlic that is said to enhance the heat. Minks serves its curries in single-portion plates. Order a crispy chapatti with your Mutton Saoji plate – crush the chapatti, pour the curry over it, and top it off with onion and fried garlic. Be warned: the food looks extremely oily, but that is exactly how it is supposed to be.
While Saoji cuisine is heavy on meat, the vegetarian options aren’t lacking in flavour. A must-try dish is Patodi curry, which subsitutes besan cakes for the meat while using similar masalas. The vegetarian menu, in fact, consists of things we Nagpuris eat at home, such as a simple Daal Kanda, Tamatar Chutney et al. Every Vidarbhi wedding will have the Eggplant Curry that is on the menu at Minks as well.
The food is slow-cooked, allowing the meat enough time to absorb the flavours and enhance the taste. Minks makes its food in limited quantities to ensure the taste is uniform with everything they serve, so make sure you order well before they run out of food.
Feature photograph copyright Arundhati – 


42 Questions With Varun Grover



In our new series, we ask people the hard questions about things that matter – like patriotism, personal space, and cats.

First up is Varun Grover, a civil engineer who became a screenwriter, stand-up comedian, and National Film Award-winning lyricist. Part of the team that wrote Sacred Games on Netflix, his sharp observations about India, Mumbai city, and life in general are equally wise and entertaining.


1. How many cats is too many cats?

3 are great. 4 are good. 5 are many. 6 is probably too many.

2. What’s the most expensive ingredient you’ve ever paid for?

Foie Gras bought in France.

3. What is the newest thing you’ve learned to cook?

We got an oven recently, so stuffed jacket potatoes are a new obsession.

4. What’s the smallest item you’ve ever had home delivered?

A fidget spinner. Ashamed.

5. Which is your favourite type of mango?

Banarasi Langda. And Goan Mancurrad.

6. Best place for a quick coffee?

Nowhere in Bombay, many places in Bangalore.

7. Free will or destiny?

Free will is attractive but too much work. So destiny.

8. What’s your favourite romantic movie?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

9. From the 15 films for which you’ve been lyricist, which is your favourite song?

“Kaala Re” from Gangs of Wasseypur

10. Do you remember any of the early jokes you wrote for The Great Indian Comedy Show or the other television you wrote for?

PM Manmohan Singh, during his first term as PM, went to New York and met the Indian Taxi Drivers’ Union there to listen to their problems. He said – “I understand your problems completely. Kyonki main bhi kisi aur ki taxi chala raha hoon.”

11. What’s the most overrated movie?

Almost every Hansal Mehta film.

12. What’s the best thing to watch on Netflix right now?

Fiction Series: Mindhunter. Non-fiction: Cooked. Animated: Rick and Morty. Indian Film: Sairat

13. If you lived in a film – it’d be Masaan or Gangs of Wasseypur or Bombay Velvet?

Masaan. Because of the jalebi, lassi, and other gifts of Banaras.

14. Three words to describe Mumbai.

Chaotic, Uneven, Sexy

15. What’s one word movie people in Mumbai use too much?


16. One misconception a lot of people have in Mumbai about themselves?

That they are not standing too close.

17. What’s a misconception people outside Mumbai have about the city?

That everybody in Mumbai has seen Amitabh Bachchan live.

18. Most enjoyable time to take a train in Mumbai and favourite station?

Evening train to town. Favourite station: Dadar West – especially the lane of the flower market.

19. Who would play you in a film?

Impossible question.

20. What superpower would you give yourself?

Time travel.

21. What sort of cliché jokes always make you laugh?

Jokes on cats being selfish

22. Marvel or DC?

Raj Comics

23. Mountains or ocean?


24. Have you ever used your civil engineering background in a real-life situation?

I am good with estimating distances, elevations, angles etc. Kinda useless.

25. Have you ever pulled the “I’m famous” card?


26. Have you been to Dharavi? Did anything surprise you?

Yes. The huge pav-making factories were fascinating.

27. Which is more home – HP or UP?

UP always.

28. What do you do when you miss home?


29. What’s one thing you learned/habit you picked up at IIT-BHU that you still do?

Walking idly is a great way to counter anxiety as well as get creative ideas.

30. Are comedians the last of the truth speakers?

There are many genuine activists in the world, but right now comedy is managing to engage opposing viewpoints with minimum friction.

31. Do different jokes do better in different cities?

Good jokes work everywhere. But still there are area specific jokes. Like a Keto diet joke works great in Bandra but might not work in Bengaluru even.

32. Tell us a joke Mumbai didn’t find funny but other cities did? Or vice versa.

Jokes on Mumbai Metro work better in Delhi always. Jokes on health-food obsession work better in Mumbai.

33. Some ladies were asking if you have a girlfriend so we’re asking…

Am married. And if one of my cats agree, will marry her too.

34. Which is your favourite region to travel in India?

Kerala. And Uttaranchal.

35. And abroad?

Loved Spain. Though want to travel a lot more.

36. What presents do you take from Mumbai when you leave?

When going abroad – we always carry packs of Kaaju Puri (sold at every Gujarati dry fruit shop) and Hindi Poetry Cards (by Chakmak) for every generous soul and Airbnb host we meet. Everybody loves sweets and illustrated poetry.

In India, all kinds of farsaan and Theobroma Brownies.

37. Favourite mode of long distance transport – train, plane, automobile?

Trains or flights. Am phobic of road travel, especially in India.

38. Do you wear a hat ever? If you do, what kind?


39. If you could address all Indian men just once – what would you tell them?

Embrace your feminine side.

40. And Indian women?

Be selfish.

41. You’re born on January 26 – what does patriotism mean to you?

Loving and protecting things that define India for me – diversity, people, and our cultural-environmental heritage.

42. Complete the sentence – Good guys …

…are aware of the power dynamics.



Enjoy Fresh Juice And Veg Samosas At Health Juice Centre


health juice centre


Health Juice Centre is a stall in Matunga that serves juices, milkshakes, and snacks. The juices are natural and made with organic produce; the snacks are carb and cheese laden. Their prices are a little higher than your average roadside juice stall, but the flavour more than makes up for it.

Health Juice Centre, Shop No. 3 & 4, Kings Circle, Near Maheshwari Udyan, Matunga (e), Mumbai 400 019. Phone: 098206 17777


When Health Juice Centre opened in Kings’ Circle in 1996, it was, to my memory, one of the first formal juice shops in the area. It quickly became my regular destination, not only for their unique juice and milkshake combinations but also because their massive grilled sandwiches were probably the most filling you could find in the Dadar area.

Most people know Kings’ Circle as the place to go to for udipi food in the city, but I find myself gravitating to Health for a sandwich fix. Located in a lane next to a small salon and defunct video game parlour, the stall itself is rather unassuming, with plastic stools for seating and a perennially busy crew. But they never lack customers. Health Juice Centre prides themselves on using 100 per cent natural and organic produce for their juices, and while their prices are a little higher than your average roadside juice stall, the flavour more than makes up for it.

In the five years I lived in Matunga, their excellent samosa veg. cheese grill sandwich kept me returning frequently. It’s not what you would associate with an eatery called “Health”, but a young college student couldn’t possibly go wrong with crispy Punjabi samosas slathered in melted cheese, firmly grilled between chutney-laden slices of bread. There’s no guilt there, just a very full stomach.

Kings’ Circle has changed over the past decade, but Health Juice Centre is one of the fixtures that has remained steady for over 20 years. I’ll keep coming back as long as it’s there.

Feature photograph copyright Laszlo –



Save Life Foundation Is Making Sure Road Crash Victims Can Rely On The Kindness Of Strangers


Save Life Foundation is making sure road crash victims can rely on the kindness of strangers

Shivam was only 16 years old. He was on his way home from school when he was hit by a vehicle. Seriously injured he dragged himself to the side of the road and for half an hour begged people to help him. Many stopped. No one came forward to help. No one called an ambulance. He died of treatable injuries. He would have been 27 years old today.

Shivam’s cousin Piyush Tewari was devastated by the loss. He examined the data and found some shocking facts.

1.3 million people (and counting) have been killed in road crashes. More than 5 million people have been seriously hurt or permanently disabled.

But what was really shocking is that more than half of these people could have survived if someone had helped and medical assistance had reached them in time. Tens of thousands of lives could have been saved. Families would not have been left to deal with grief and loss.

Strangers are capable of random acts of extreme kindness and bravery in the face of natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

Why did no one help Shivam? Why did no one help those millions of accident victims?

A national study found that bystanders fear that helping victims will ‘involve’ them in a case, resulting in them having to go to court or be detained at hospital or even having to deal with the police.

Piyush decided to change all that. He started the SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) and began to work towards changing attitudes, laws and, eventually, survival rates!

Since he began, he has moved everyone from the highest in the land, the Supreme Court down to individual drivers.

Piyush Tewari is fighting for the rights of road users to safety and medical assistance and for the rights of Good Samaritans to be protected from hassles.

His work is saving thousands of lives and he will save thousands more.

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero celebrates the Insaafer spirit of Piyush Tewari!



In 2007, Piyush Tewari’s cousin Shivam was crossing the road on his way home from school when he was hit by a vehicle. Gravely injured, the boy managed to drag himself to the side of the road and, for the next half hour, implored passersby to help. Many stopped but not one came forward to help or even call for assistance. Shivam died of treatable injuries. He was 16 years old.

The devastating loss spurred Tewari to examine the data on road accidents and fatalities. He learned that 1.2 million people have been killed on the roads in India, and more than 5 million were left seriously or permanently disabled. The number of fatalities could have been halved if assistance and medical care had reached them on time. Tens of thousands of lives saved and their families not left to deal with grief and loss.

They say the first human instinct is compassion. Strangers are capable of random acts of extreme kindness and bravery in the face of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. So why did no one help Shivam? Why did no one help those millions of accident victims?

Save Life Foundation_002

In a national study, it was found that bystanders fear that helping victims will ‘involve’ them in a case, resulting in them having to go to court or be detained at hospital or even having to deal with the police. Tewari was determined to make an impact on the lives of those affected by road crashes, so he started the SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF) and began to work towards changing attitudes, laws and, eventually, survival rates!

In 2009, SLF drew up a network of police officers, medical facilities, and volunteers that relied on mobile tech. They trained this network to mobilise police and volunteers, and the system was adopted by the Indian government. As a result, 1,50,000 people injured in road accidents have been rushed to hospital in time since. Of these people, 98% have survived!

Then it was time to tackle the problem at policy level. In 2012, SLF filed a PIL in the Supreme Court asking for comprehensive protection for those who help accident victims – Good Samaritans. On March 30, 2016, the Supreme Court created the Good Samaritan Guidelines, which protects people from legal and procedural problems if they have helped someone. Once adopted by all of India, this alone is expected to save 75,000 lives every year.

Next, SLF used the Right to Information Act, 2005, to research fatalities caused by trucks that carry construction rods protruding from behind. (You will have seen, half-horrified, half-amused, the red scarves tied to them that are meant to ‘warn’ people of the potential danger.) The hazards were not to be underestimated. In 2012 alone, 9,000 people across India died in collisions with these vehicles. SLF moved the Supreme Court seeking a ban on transport of these rods which was granted. Once properly implemented, they estimate 90,000 lives will be saved over the next decade.

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Their most recent initiative is one closest to the hearts of Mumbai (and Pune). Anyone who has ever travelled the Mumbai-Pune Expressway will have seen at least one serious accident. The fact is, between 2002 and 2016 there have been 14,500 accidents on this 94km stretch. More than 1,400 lives have been lost.

In 2015, SLF initiated Vision Zero: Mumbai Pune Expressway Zero Fatality Corridor with the ambition of making one stretch of road in India 100% fatality free by 2021. With the help of corporate and government partners, SLF zeroed in on 4 areas of focus – Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Emergency Care. Today, medical response time has been reduced to 15 minutes and while instances of accidents have actually gone up since 2016, there has been a 30% decline in fatalities!

There’s an opportunity for absolutely anyone to be a hero when it comes to road safety, says Piyush. Being a hero means working to prevent accident and injury. “Drinking and driving is the worst form of road user behaviour,” he says. “A hero can ensure that her friends, colleagues, and family members never drink and drive!”

Heroes watch out for those who are more at risk. “A hero gives way to vulnerable road users,” says Piyush, “pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles carrying children. These are road users that need our special care and co-operation to make it safely to their destinations.”

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Despite his own loss, Piyush believes we all have the potential to be heroes. And it isn’t hard. “The least we can do to help is make a phone call to authorities,” he says. “The Good Samaritan Law now protects those who help the injured, and there’s no reason now why we shouldn’t step forward and help a fellow citizen in distress. A true hero is one who helps an injured person on the road.”

If ordinary citizens want to get involved in the work Save Life Foundation does, it’s easy. Help identify the Good Samaritans of Mumbai – people who have helped injured road crash victims by rushing them to hospital or giving them first aid. Report potholes, debris, or stationary vehicles on the Mumbai Pune Expressway. This helps SLF swing into action to fix the problems. You can also volunteer with the foundation’s traffic sentinels and be a citizen volunteer working with the police on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. And if you have training in communication or design, maybe SLF could use your help to enhance messaging on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. To do any of the above, please contact SLF on:




Makers Of London: Sabine Gerth Of S Gerth Leather Accessories

SPACE EXPERIENCE PEOPLE FOOD + DRINK VIDEO sabine gerth s gerth leather accessories broadway market hackney


In this week’s edition of our Makers series we caught up with Sabine Gerth of S Gerth Leather Accessories to find out more about her graphic, detailed, and unique products. With a focus on wallets, bags, lanyards and keychains, her accessories are one-of-a-kind and Sabine has a keen interest in customising products as well.

S Gerth, Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ.


The City Story: Tell us a little more about S-Gerth – what made you start your label?

Sabine Gerth: This is a bit difficult to answer as it feels like it has been such a long process. After my father passed away in 2011 I needed some time off. In that time, I started making little bits and bobs with leather, and in 2012 my partner and I organised an art project called Limited Space, where he showed some illustrations in a cupboard under a set of stairs, so I took that opportunity to show my tiny collection.

My friends gave me a lot of positive feedback, so I started making more products and at the same time started to apply to sell at markets. An organiser of one of these markets referred me to Broadway Market where I am selling my wares since.

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TCS: Did you study design or are you self-taught?

SG: I would say half-and-half. The design part is studied, the leather work is self-taught. I studied graphic design first and then did additional studies in fashion design/womenswear, both in Germany. After that I came to the UK and freelanced for the accessories designer Kate Sheridan – who really taught and inspired me a lot.

TCS: Your designs have very clean lines and come in the most delightful colour combinations. Have you always had this approach to your work or did your aesthetic evolve over time?

SG: I have always had a graphic approach to design as it is embedded in my background. And I absolutely love colours. That said, it has definitely developed over the years. This is, though, a reason why I am still making unique pieces and not collections. It is my favourite part to choose the colours and bring them together each time.

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TCS: Where do you source your leather from?

SG: I mainly go to leather merchants in London. I started off with just using off cuts but nowadays I also buy whole skins. Often they are still one-offs as bigger companies need larger supplies but I can just use smaller pieces up. The main focus is that the quality is very good

TCS: You have a weekly stall at Broadway Market. Do you retail at other markets as well? What’s the best route to getting an S-Gerth product?

SG: I used to do quite a few other design markets but since I had my son in 2015 I have slowed down a little. Recently I have started to again but not on a weekly basis. So, Broadway Market or online are the best way to get your hands on my products, otherwise check out my Instagram, I will always post there if I am popping up somewhere else or if a new stockist is on the horizon.

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TCS: Can you tell us the best and worst part of being a maker in the city of London?

SG: London is an amazing city and has so much to offer. It is diverse and inspirational and keeps the creativity alive. Also, there are lots of like-minded people. I love the exchange and support of all my independent designer friends. Another bonus is that the public transport network is well developed so there’s no need to own a car.

One of the things that started bothering me about London is the pollution, and I hope this issue will be tackled in the near future. It is also a very expensive to live in. But the silver lining is that it keeps you on your toes even though it can be quite stressful sometimes.

Photographs by Juhi Pande



Savour Fresh Seafood At Jai Hind Lunch Home

jai hind lunch home lower parel


Jai Hind Lunch Home is a restaurant in Lower Parel that specialises in Indian coastal cuisine. Popular with the nearby office crowd, it is always busy at lunch. Vegetarian options are also available on the menu.

Jai Hind Lunch Home, 7/8, Madhav Bhuvan, ‘B’ Block, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2493 0010


In 2005, Kamala Mills wasn’t the behemoth it is today, and across the street at Mathuradas Mills, the only food option inside the large premises was a sev puri stall. But there was – and still is – in Lower Parel Jai Hind Lunch Home.

Jai Hind serves some of the best seafood dishes in the city, as good as – if not better than – the oft-lauded Trishna and Mahesh. Don’t believe me? Believe the crowds congregating on the pavement at lunch every day. If you want a meal without the wait, you’d best arrive by 12:45 p.m. – 12:30 to be safe. A minute later and you’ll be standing around outside while the patrons inside are busy relishing their fresh catch of the day.

The dozen or so tables are packed to the brim as the kitchen whips up dish after delicious seafood dish to satiate the hungry diners. The satisfying crunch of the koliwada prawns is best appreciated with a dash of lemon juice and nothing else. The tisrya ajadina is the only clam dish on the menu – a dry, coconut-laden masala enveloping the clams to perfection. You’re forgiven for ignoring the neer dosa you may have ordered. Neither of these appetisers requires an accompaniment.

You move on to the curries from cuisines of India’s western coast – pulimunchi and gassi from Mangalore, vindaloo and rechado from Goa, malvani from Maharashtra. You ignore the tandoori options entirely. You wash it all down with a chilled sol kadi. Lunch is over before you know it, and you’re too full to get up. But you have to because there are people waiting outside, peering in each time the door opens to see when their turn will arrive. The landscape of Lower Parel may have changed drastically since 2005, but the size of the crowds outside Jai Hind has not.

Feature photograph copyright Muhammed –


A Personal History Of Shanmukhananda Auditorium

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Shanmukhananda Auditorium is one of Mumbai’s most premiere venues for live Indian classical music performances. Among the legendary artistes who have performed here are tabla doyen Ustad Zakir Hussain, mridangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer, and vocalist Kishori Amonkar. Shanmukhananda Auditorium, Plot No 292, Com. Harbanslal Marg, Sion (e), Mumbai 400 022. Phone: 022 2407 8888


At a quarter to five on a wintry Friday night, I walked out of Sion Hospital – my college, where I’d spent the night – with a barely repressed grin on my face. That day, I’d know what it’s like to be the first to enter iconic Shanmukhananda Hall. Every February, tabla doyen Zakir Hussain organises an almost day-long tribute concert at Shanmukhananda in remembrance of his father Ustad Alla Rakha, featuring a galaxy of top-notch Indian and international musicians. Free passes are issued an hour before each session, the first of which begins at 6:30 a.m. Covering the half-mile distance in a few minutes, I was sure I’d get prime seating, front and centre. Only to find that the queue for passes had spilled out of the Shanmukhananda campus and onto the footpath. These mad folks must have taken the 02:35 from Karjat or the 03:25 from Virar, wrenched out of bed in the dark by their love for classical music. How I loved Mumbai that day! My impressions of that sleep-tinged dawn concert are hoary: someone called Sivamani opening with a short percussion set. A Mr. Louis Banks settling on his piano stool to sustained applause. A young fellow named Niladri Kumar whose zitar didn’t let me nap. And a pantheon of other classical gods jamming with such little-known singers as Shankar Mahadevan and Hariharan. I am a fourth-generation patron of Shanmukhananda. My great-grandparents – migrants from Kerala – became members of the Shanmukhananda Sangeetha Sabha (music association), whose kutcheris (concerts) were organised in the grounds of Don Bosco High School, Matunga. Convened in 1952, its inaugural performance featured pioneering vocalist Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, who defined the Carnatic concert format as we know it today. The Sabha went on to present every leading artiste of the era; since its membership exceeded the capacity of the venue, each artiste had to perform twice. Spurred by Nehru’s comment about the lack of a sizeable auditorium in Bombay, the Sabha collected around 27 lakh rupees to build one. Completed in 1963, it can now accommodate 2,763 persons seated across the ground floor and two levels of balconies. Carnatic vocalist and guru Radha Namboodiri, also my great-aunt, became a member when she started learning Carnatic Music at age 12. She gives me an example of the auditorium’s impeccable acoustic design: Mridangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer forbade the use of mics in concert. Both he and vocal deity DK Pattammal (whom he was accompanying) performed without amplification, yet his beats and her voice carried loud and clear to the last row of the second balcony! Radha Mutthashi (grandmother) retains the memory of an MS Subbulakshmi kutcheri in which the sound system’s failure did not come in the way of her divine music reaching every ear in the house-full auditorium.

If music is a religion, Shanmukhananda is its Mecca: always there, always beckoning, always rewarding.

Radha Mutthashi has herself performed at Shanmukhananda in the ’70s and ’80s and returned as principal of its music school from 2006 to 2017. She jokes that part of its draw is its canteen, run by the same caterer since inception. Elegantly dressed mamas and mamis would mark their presence in the concert, then slip away during the thaniyaavarthanam (percussive improvisation) to snack on the cannonball-sized batata vadas and filter coffee. My father remembers what he was told about Shanmukhananda even before he visited: “The view of the artistes from the second-floor balcony is like the view of cars on Marine Drive from Malabar Hill.” He remembers attending Radha Mutthashi’s concert. And being in the greenroom prior to the performance of vocalist Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (also Radha Mutthashi’s guru), watching my great-grandfather effusively greet the legend, with whom he was friendly, and share a paan with him. Ghatam wizard Vikku Vinayakram, known for tossing his earthen pot into the air at the end of the rhythmic cycle as a bit of showmanship, accompanied him that day. As did mridangam virtuoso Umayalpuram Sivaraman, who momentarily launched his much heavier instrument skyward as well! My own recollections are more recent: of Sonu Nigam’s then six-year-old son Nevaan, hoisted in the crook of his father’s arm, matching him note for note as they sang the soulful Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin. Of an octogenarian Asha Bhosle, prancing about with a stick, sometimes struggling to hit the high notes, until she hushed her band with a wave of her hand and enthralled us with a voice-only rendition of Mera Kuch Saamaan. And of being blessed by the ethereal melody of Kishori Amonkar at midnight, when her rendition of raags Sampoorna Malkauns and Basanti Kedar transported her adoring listeners for two hours, to a better world, in the deep, dark night. If music is a religion, Shanmukhananda is its Mecca: always there, always beckoning, always rewarding. I leave you with one final reminiscence: When my parents and I wanted to attend a members-only concert, I called the office, confessed that we weren’t members, and asked if we might come anyway. The kind gentleman on the line (who shall remain nameless) answered, “Oh yes, of course! If anyone asks, take my name and say I invited you. You are most welcome”. Feature photograph by Suruchi Maira