Wayword & Wise Is A Readers’ Paradise



Wayword & Wise is an independent bookstore in Fort that, unlike many other bookstores in the city, is about books and books alone. Authors available here range from the popular (Philip Roth, Ruth Ware) to the niche (Han Kang, Bohumil Hrabal) and everything in between.

Wayword & Wise, Strategic house, 44, Mint Road, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 6634 9946


I don’t know what I can attribute my voracious appetite for books to. Parents, who read widely and deeply, perhaps. A childhood fettered by constant visits to hospitals, maybe. Complete antipathy to any physical activity (still true). A pantheon of lunchbox friends in school whose relationships with me never quite tightened to closeness. Whichever it was, the corridors of my mind were always constructed from the swashbuckling worlds of my books.

My books. The shared ownership of a copy was not for me; it had to be mine, to have and to hold, to pluck out of my library and peruse whenever the fancy struck. They were solid things, both enclosing and mirroring me, armouring me against shadowed days, their infinite realms lifting me past the tedium of my days. Naturally, half my life unspooled in bookshops; and so, when one by one, Danai, Lotus, Landmark, and then Strand shut down, I felt an icy wipe of fear.

Thankfully, there is now Wayword & Wise set up by bibliophiles Atul Sud (investment banker who runs a food importing business) and Virat Chandok (once the manager of the long-lamented Lotus)—a little cubbyhole, intimate, yielder of a small harvest but a rich one that I spend hours reaping. Chandok and Sud are connoisseurs of stories, of authors both vanished and new, of knowledge they are eager to share. Once I name my favourites, Chandok gently coaxes me to new texts that seem at once familiar and unknown. Not all books are for all eyes, after all.

Unlike its peers, the store does away entirely with the pap and pabulum of bestseller lists, stocking everything from food and travel writing to music, literary theory to poetry, philosophy to graphic novels, science fiction to history, a delightfully offbeat children’s section to a fiction section that unfurls all the way down the room. Even better, it stocks no gewgaws, no toys, and no tchotchkes to lure the dithering customer. Just books, rows upon glorious rows of books.

wayword and wise

Its shelves carry many titles I’d like to pilfer (I cannot possibly afford them all): everything from Bohumil Hrabal’s palavering, fantasist, sorrowful novels to Caridad Svich’s savagely political plays; Alain de Botton’s popular philosophy to Andrés Neuman’s Latin American narratives; David Lebovitz’s warm adventures of baking in France to Lucia Berlin who fashioned her rich life into forensically candid short fiction; Clarice Lispector’s oeuvre to the incisive yet mannered texts by that other underrated genius Barbara Pym. It is as Jorge Carrión writes in his marvellous Bookshops—”Every bookshop is a condensed version of the world”.

Wayword is an exuberant labyrinth of paper and ink in which I happily lose myself, sifting through manuscripts, turning pages, greedily looting the shelves, then going home thick with thought and concepts. But it is never enough. Always, there is something else to be read, and it is usually to be found at Wayword.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira


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Your Guide To Buying Comic Books In Mumbai




Most people seem to assume that, as a writer with two MAs in English Studies, I ring out my days with the works of Foucault, Genet, Pynchon, and such. For the most part, they would be right. But smuggled into my edifying literary library lies a filthy secret—a slab of beloved comic books, powder-fine from age.

Comics, I suspect, are still seen by people as being not quite the thing, old chap. To these people I say, “Go away”. Go away, and take your barren, strait-laced pleasures with you. There is a time for Jane Eyre and a time for Hawkgirl: comics are far too pleasurable to be sullied by the vapidity of a bunch of sanctimonious puritans. For many of us, Phantom, Mandrake, and Flash Gordon are the plinth on which our library of reading is raised. Which is why, every so often, you may catch me stapled to the comics section in your friendly, neighbourhood bookstore, dribbling over Art Spiegelman, surrounded by shambolic piles of Justice League Dark and Mister Miracle comics—in short, happy. Here is a smattering of stores that I frequent to get my fix of favourites.


Upstairs at Granth, cocooned from the bedlam of car horns on Juhu Tara Road, is a small sanctuary for superheroes. If you pan its shelves for glimmers of comic gold, you’ll find plenty of Watchmen, the luminous Mandela: The Graphic Novel, a watermelon-hefty Drawn & Quarterly anthology, and Black Hole (Charles Burns’s graphic novel about teen angst generously leavened with horror) together with a hank of DC, Vertigo, Dark Horse, and Marvel collections.

Granth, 30/A, HM House, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2660 9327

VL Nayak

What VL Nayak lacks in square footage it makes up for in density of choice. As a child, I teetered and tottered through the tiny shop, pillaging the shelves like a bandit, carting away heaps of MAD magazines, Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, and (as a tremendous treat), DC and Marvel singles. It is a river I continue to drink from—it still stacks a whole coterie of pulp writing.

VL Nayak, Plot No. 8126, Surajpati Bhavan, 1st Road, Opp. Rly Station, Khar (w), Mumbai 400 052. Phone: 022 2648 4082

Title Waves

Over at Title Waves in Bandra, you’ll find a sort of Top 20 hits of the comic world; nothing terribly esoteric, no Cable or Birds of Prey, just the usual Marvel and DC titles, Neil Gaiman, Peanuts, and Tintin. Title Waves also ventures into collectables territory, with a small shrine to memorabilia such as t-shirts, figurines, mugs, and other baubles.

Title Waves, St Pauls Media Complex, 24th Road, Off Turner Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2651 0841


Raghuvanshi Mills’ Trilogy store is scalpelled into two sections—the library and the bookstore. The collection at the store reads like a roster of high art comics, all beautifully rendered but haphazardly stacked. What can you buy here? Shigeru Mizuki’s bizarre, protean manga, Showa: A History Of Japan. Joe Sacco’s Journalism, a ferocious comic that scrapes at the wounds of the world’s worst war zones. And among many others, the extraordinary graphic novel based on Martin Luther King’s life, I See the Promised Land, written by Arthur Flowers and illustrated by a Patua scroll artist, Manu Chitrakar.

Trilogy, 1st floor, Building No. 28, Above Mercedes Service Center, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 080805 90590


Once a fine bookshop chain of some stature, Crossword has now mutated into a sort of portmanteau of DVD toy/book store—a Frankenstore if you will. Still, it does venture briefly into the comic realm; a small collection (mostly DC’s Justice League) reposes on its shelves, an excellent gateway to those who came to the comics via their live-action movie versions.

Crossword Bookstores across the city.

Leaping Windows

It would be folly to leave out Leaping Windows, a space reverential of comics, packed with perfectly organised pages and pages of Neil Gaiman, plenty from the DC and Marvel multiverses, as well as the ubiquitous Tintin, Calvin & Hobbes and Asterix. All this, and a cheery café to boot.

Leaping Windows, 3 Corner View, Dr. Ashok Chopra Marg, Off Yari Road, Andheri (w), Mumbai 400 061. Phone: 097699 98972

*Special mention: Kitab Khana, which has shelves heaving with Amar Chitra Katha, Asterix and Tintin, a collection hidebound by nostalgia.
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12 Hours In And Around Juhu




When someone says Juhu, you immediately think of the eponymous beach that beckons hundreds of tourists to its shores and stalls. While that image is authentic, what is also true is that these crowds thin out the further inland you travel. By the time you reach the leafy lanes of JVPD, you’ll see few people on the sidewalks but many models of the latest BMW or Audi. This largely residential area is home to many famous families, but it also houses some cultural delights, themed eateries and shopping gems that will take up your entire day. But first, you have to hit the beach.

Early morning

Juhu Beach

If you wake up an hour early, you live an hour more. This especially holds true if you’re planning to visit Juhu Beach. Land there after 8 a.m. and it’s impossible to walk 100 metres without running into people or tripping over dogs. Get there just before the sunrise, and you can join other dedicated joggers for a brisk run along the shoreline. The southern end of the beach is relatively quiet. Enter from the lane next to Granth Bookstore and make your way upwards towards all the action.

8:30 a.m.

Option A – Aromas Cafe

Every early morning run (jog/walk/crawl) deserves a hearty breakfast, and at Aromas you’ll find food for all kinds of souls. From muesli and berry yogurt parfait for the calorie conscious to the Big Breakfast (eggs, hash browns, sausages, baked beans, mushrooms) for the indulgent, Aromas has it all. Portions are generous and the rosti with cheese and jalapenos is a meal by itself. Even if you aren’t particularly peckish, go for classic coffee and croissant combination and it will linger in your memory for the entire day. Aromas Cafe, Ground Floor, 52, Gazebo House, Gulmohar Road, Below Country Club Fitness, Cross Road Number 7, Juhu Scheme, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 6022 6262 juhu breakfast

Option B – Fable

Fable is charming and quirky in just the right measure. Whimsical pictures painted in black across open yellowed books mounted on the, vintage telephones, and mismatched cutlery are the standout features of this fairytale setting. The breakfast menu is concise, and their bagel with cream cheese, avocado, and sun-dried tomatoes is the hero of this short story. The barley and quinoa upma comes as a surprise, while the French toast with blueberry compote makes for a happy ending. Fable, Shop 3, Ashiyana Apartment, N.S. Road 13, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 6022 6400

11:00 a.m.

Option A – Helicopter Tours

After breakfast, let the party continue 700ft up in the air. A host of companies offer aerial tours of the city, with helicopters taking off from the Juhu Aerodrome. You can fly above the now-iconic Bandra-Worli Sea Link, wave to tourists and locals on Chowpatty, or spot your reflection in the Golden Pagoda at Gorai. With a variety of options in terms of routes (North, South, East or Complete Mumbai) and durations (from 10 to 60 minutes), you’re bound to find something that suits your fancy, and hopefully your budget.  Juhu Aerodrome, Vile Parle (e), Mumbai 400 056. Phone: 022 2661 6738

Option B – ISKCON Temple

If you want to soar without breaking the bank to pay for the flight, then your best bet is a spiritual high at ISKCON Temple. Like most temples built by The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, the one at Juhu is not just an architectural marvel but a hotbed for religious activity that is especially vibrant during festivals. The intricate marble facade and vivid paintings depicting scenes from the Mahabharatha are enough to keep even atheists interested. Apart from housing a research and education centre, a library, an auditorium, and a guesthouse for visitors, the compound also houses a vegetarian restaurant. ISKCON Temple, Hare Krishna Land, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2620 6860 juhu iskcon temple

1:00 p.m.

Option A – Govinda’s

Any trip to ISKCON is incomplete without a meal at Govinda’s. When the words vegetarian, temple, and food are strung together in a sentence, they conjure up an image of a rather bland and boring meal. Govinda’s surprises patrons with its massive food spread and rich Jain preparations cooked in pure desi ghee. From aam panna and salads to kaju paneer and shrikhand, they’re all on the buffet table. You can also order South Indian dishes from the menu, though you may change your mind after one glance at the buffet spread. Govinda’s ISKCON Temple, Hare Krishna Land, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2620 6860

Option B – Dakshinayan

If all your heart desires is a South Indian meal, you can head to Dakshinayan for the nine types of white, fluffy orbs of guilt-free heaven they offer. If you can’t choose between Ambassador Idli (mini idlis in sambhar, topped with raw onions and coconut), Nei Idli soaked in ghee, and Tayir Idli dunked in curd, you’ll have to go with a large group. But you must go. If not for the idlis then for the crisp rava masala dosa and onion uttapam. Dakshinayan, Gandhigram Road, Near Hare Krishna Temple, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2620 8812

 3:00 p.m.

Option A – Chandan Cinema

If you’re lucky enough, your day out in Juhu may just coincide with the release of a highly anticipated Hindi film starring one of the superstars. You should book Stall tickets at Chandan and reach early to just soak in the atmosphere. You still have people whistling and cheering every time the hero enters, standing on seats during fight sequences, and dancing to songs along with the actors on screen. With its folding wooden seats, popcorn packets, and samosas in white paper bags, Chandan Cinema still holds on to some traces of its glorious days. Chandan Cinema, S Dnyaneshwar Marg, Near ISKCON Temple, Sainath Nagar, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2620 0437

Option B – Granth Book Store

The eternal debate about films vs. books will manifest itself in your itinerary as well. If you had to pick between three hours of watching Shah Rukh Khan serenade PYTs on screen or three hours reading George RR Martin while sipping on coffee, what would you decide on? If you have literary leanings, then Granth is the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon. This two-storey bookstore stocks bestsellers and better-known titles in chic monochrome shelves and plays soft jazz in the background. Pro Tip: Grab one of the tables by the glass windows overlooking the upscale neighbourhood, and don’t leave until you absolutely must. Granth Book Store, 30/A, HM House, Juhu Tara Road, Opp Rotary Club, Santacruz (w), Mumbai 400 049. Phone:  022 2660 9327

Option C – Juhu Shopping Centre

The one-stop shop for all your miscellaneous needs and desires, Juhu Shopping Centre is actually a row of different buildings spread out over 200 metres. Shops inside these old buildings span all genres between general store and bridal studio. If you need a gift for your four-year-old nephew, you’ll find a mini car with flashing lights and a Pokemon bonet. If you need a fancy saree blouse by next week, you’ll find a boutique where you will also pick up clothes for the other wedding functions. If you need a snack, you’ll find the jhaal muri uncle a few steps away from Quality Stores. Vaishali Shopping Center, Shop No. B-1, next to Sahakari Bhandar, Plot No.5, JVPD Scheme, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049.

5:00 p.m.

Option A – Jhaal Muri

At around 5 p.m. every evening, a man will set up his steel tins around him like a drum set and then play the same melodious tune throughout the evening, churning out packet after packet of Calcutta’s favourite snack. Jhaal muri, or spicy puffed rice, is a Bengali specialty rarely found outside of East India, and almost never found in its true form. The man slicing the chillies and raw mango may change every week, but the ratio of kala chana to aloo or the quantity of mustard oil never alters. Be warned though, this sniffle-inducing snack is not for the faint hearted. juhu jhaal muri

Option B – Stalls outside Mithibai College

For a more substantial (and less fiery) snack, follow the college crowd to the food stalls opposite Mithibai College. On the “must try” list: Schezwan vada pav from Shivaji Vada Pav Stall, Andar Bahar cheese grill sandwich from Mithibai ka Famous Sandwich, and pizza dosa from Anand. Purists better sit this one out. North South Road Number 1, Suvarna Nagar, Vile Parle (w), Mumbai 400 056.

Option C – Aleph

Unlike other cafés where the staff drops subtle hints and serves not-so-subtle stares if you’ve been occupying a table for far too long, Aleph actually invites you to lounge on their mattresses for as long as you like. Coffee at this hipster café is a good idea for other reasons as well. One, they have a rooftop. Two, they have fairy lights. Three, they have a dog. They also have Madagascar vanilla coffee and six different types of tea. Aleph, 7-28/29 1st floor Janki Kutir, Juhu Church Road, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 099303 84641

Option D – Tea Villa Café

An open courtyard, green window shutters, and wall garden lend Tea Villa Café some fantastical charm. This could be the house of any one of the characters from the fairy tales our grandmothers told us when we were little; a character that drinks copious amounts of tea. Tea Villa Café offers over 70 different types of tea and has three pages dedicated to just chai. Brews from across the world are represented on the menu with Kashmiri Kahwa, Luang Ching Tea, and Japanese Sencha being some of the favourites. Tea Villa Café, 32, Juhu Church Road, Near Prithvi Theatre, Janki Kutir, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 8080850000

6:30 p.m.

Option A – Juhu Joggers Park

Juhu is dotted with small garden, jogging tracks, and play areas, but a particularly charming space is the Juhu Joggers Park. In the morning, you can see residents practicing yoga in the gazebo and hear the hearty guffaws of the local laughter club. In the afternoon, people lie down on the closely cut grass at the fringes and take a long snooze. In the evening, the park is a favourite for children and lovers who find solace in the jungle gym and on the benches respectively. Walkers, joggers, and runners can be found throughout the day, using the dedicated mud and paved tracks in the centre of the park. Joggers Park, Vaikunthlal Mehta Road, Ashok Nagar, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049.

Option B – Prithvi Theatre

A suburban mecca for lovers of arts in all its forms, Prithvi Theatre remains the preferred venue for a cultural night out in town. If you don’t get a ticket to one of the experimental or smaller productions on the main stage, you may be able to attend a film screening or a talk in the adjoining building. The tiny bookshop stocks some lesser-known titles on theatre, the front courtyard is always lit with strings of yellow bulbs, and the Irish Coffee at the café still maintains its untarnished reputation. Keep an eye out for familiar faces, both onscreen and off-screen. Prithvi Theatre, 20 Janki Kutir, Juhu Church Road, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2614 9546 juhu prithvi theatre

Option C – Amrapali Jewels

From Diane Kruger in Troy to Deepika Padukone in Ram-Leela, many a famous figure have been adorned by Amrapali’s jewels. If you want to add your name to that list, head to the Jaipur-based jeweller’s Juhu store and spend some time admiring their intricate pieces. Funky, neon necklaces designed by Manish Arora, bracelets inspired by Turkish Kilms, and chunky, gleaming jewels from Hyderabad glitter on the glass shelves. Prices are clearly on the higher side, but here’s some perspective: Amrapali may be your only chance to own a Manish Arora design. Sold. Amrapali Jewels, Phoolwari Cottage, Juhu Church Road, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2612 5001

Option D – Bhaidas Hall

Bhaidas Hall is a landmark in Juhu. This multipurpose auditorium hosts plays, music performances, school functions, college convocations, and even transforms into a wedding reception venue. All long-running Gujarati plays make repeated appearances at Bhaidas. You know it’s show day when you see cars outside the gate holding up traffic, and theatre patrons getting off from their vehicles straightening their jackets and smoothing their cotton sarees. Don’t forget to sample their famous samosas during the intermission. Bhaidas Hall, Gulmohar Road, Near Mithibai College, Vile Parle (w), Mumbai 400 056. Phone: 022 4219 9924

8:00 p.m.

Option A – Gadda Da Vida

A drink at Novotel’s sea-facing bar is the best beginning to the end of an eventful day. Watch the sun dip into the Arabian Sea while sipping on a chilled beer or one of Gadda Da Vida’s signature cocktails. As the sun rays fade, the candles on each table come alive to cast shadows and create an atmosphere conducive to romance and intimate conversations. If you’re looking to earn some brownie points with your partner, Gadda Da Vida’s your place. Gadda Da Vida, Lobby level, Novotel, Balraj Sahani Marg, Juhu Beach, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 6693 4444

Option B – Silver Beach Café

If (like the writer) you consider yourself too old for such shenanigans and real-time social media updates, make your way to a quaint restaurant in one of the JVPD back-lanes. With its French windows, leather seats, and dim lighting, Silver Beach Café is every first-date dream, but it’s also the perfect spot for a cosy catch-up with close friends over some wine and pasta. You can’t go wrong with the spinach and cream cheese ravioli or the roasted vegetable risotto. Silver Beach Café, Jaldarshan Building, Near Hare Rama Hare Krishna Temple, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 3996 7496

Juhu Guide_007

Option C – On Toes

On Toes is like a blast from the past. With its ’90s interiors and the club above playing retro music, it transports back to the early days of eating out. Staple starters such as hara bhara kababs and spring roll remain popular, but it’s the locha naan that has patrons licking their fingers. A thick naan stuffed with cheese, garlic, butter, and coriander, this dish can be spotted on almost every table in the restaurant. Apart from the standard Punjabi fare, On Toes also serves the most delicious dal khichdi with palak raita. All meals end with sauf and sugar. On Toes, No. 7 Mithila Shopping Centre, V Mehta Road, JVPD Scheme, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 6627 6464

Option D – Facing East

The only restaurant in the vicinity serving authentic South East Asian cuisine, Facing East is known for its extensive menu and generous portions. The dim sums here are soft, not doughy, and the lemon coriander soup is packed with subtle flavours that linger on even after dessert. The indoor and outdoor seating arrangement is authentic and intimate, with tables sometimes falling short of space to accommodate entire orders. Best to ask for a bigger table while reserving in advance. Facing East, JVPD Scheme, Opposite Lotus Eye Hospital, 13th Road, Juhu, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2625 1199

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12 Hours In And Around Fort




It’s the original business district. Art capital. Heritage central. The bustling area, which derives its name from British fortifications around the harbour, best showcases the transformation of Bombay into a cosmopolitan city. The colonial facades and the lanes within Fort abound with stories of the grand past, migration, and a city made one’s own and its ever-changing nature.

9:30 a.m.

Option A – Yazdani Bakery

One of the oldest bakeries in Mumbai beckons you to step in for brun maska and chai. Take in the vintage frames, blackboard menus, old fixtures, and the humongous clock from one of the four wooden benches. See the old-style bread cutter in action, even as the round bruns, loaves, and pavs disappear at lightning speed. For a heavier breakfast, you can choose from mushroom puff, apple pie, carrot cake, and muffins. Regulars also swear by the ginger biscuits.

Yazdani Bakery, 1/11A, Cawasji Patel Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2287 0739

yazdani fort

Option B – The Nutcracker

Among the newer breed of breakfast options is The Nutcracker, whose corrugated steel sheets, wooden windows, and bright bougainvillea make for a pretty picture that you’ll want to capture for your Instagram account. The urge to document everything continues inside. One look at the Belgian waffles with salted caramel and blueberry compote and your fingers will itch for another photo. The Emmanthel and Truffle Oil Scrambled Eggs will probably go cold by the time you get around to eating them. But the good thing is that the food here tastes just as good as it looks.

The Nutcracker, Modern House, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2284 2430

11:00 a.m.

Option A – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

If it’s relics from ancient India that pique your interest, there’s no better place than CSMVS. With 50,000 artefacts, the museum has an outstanding and diverse collection of sculptures, bronzes, excavated artefacts, miniature paintings, porcelain, and much more. Get your audio guide and traverse the floors, exploring the regular and new exhibits. It’s an exercise that will take the best part of the day without you even knowing it. Our advice is to take the photo pass, for some artefacts will really speak to you.

The museum has lately started guided tours and workshops especially for kids. But even as an adult, there’s joy in printing your own bookmark or a coin. Explore small activities like these along with the museum shop and come back richer.

CSMVS, 159-161, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 032

fort prince of wales museum

Option B – Art @ Street

If it’s art you are looking for, you don’t have to look beyond Kala Ghoda. With the famed Jehangir Art Gallery, NGMA, and a clutch of smaller galleries, it’s rightly called the city’s art district. But art doesn’t always have to be an expensive affair. Right outside Jehangir Art Gallery (and around the corner from CSMVS) are a line-up of artists selling paintings, hand-painted bookmarks, and cards. Right from abstracts to watercolours, tribal art, and landscapes, the diverse array of work comes at just the right price to take home. These talented artists will also sketch you a portrait or draw a caricature in a matter of minutes – just that little pin-up version to cater to your inherent strain of vanity.

Jehangir Art Gallery, 161B, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai 400 001

Option C – ARTISANS’

Sam Kulavoor’s mural in Kala Ghoda pulls you all the way to the gallery housed behind the black, white, and yellow walls. With its wood interiors and warm lighting, ARTISANS’ is the antithesis to white-walled, impersonal art galleries that dot South Mumbai. The focus here is on indigenous art, craft, and design, but the handicrafts at ARTISANS’ go beyond what is usually exhibited in government emporiums. Here you have equal chances of finding intricate pichwais from Rajasthan, Dhakai jamdanis, and collections made in conjunction with handloom weavers. The regular workshops, lectures, and film screenings are a bonus.

ARTISANS’, 52 – 56, VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai, 400 001. Phone:  098201 45397

1:00 p.m.

Option A – Pancham Puriwala

If there’s one word to describe Pancham Puriwala, it’s “legendary”. The story of how the founder Pancham Sharma walked to Bombay from Uttar Pradesh in the 1840s to set up shop is legendary indeed, but what’s truly epic are the puris at this iconic institution. Patrons travel miles for these perfectly round, fluffy, hot puris that emit steam when the top layer is poked. Plain, masala, palak – there’s a puri for all tastes. Pair these with chhole, aloo, kadhi or aam ras, grab a glass of their frothy chaas, and you’ve got yourself a nap-inducing meal.

Pancham Puriwala, 8/10, Perin Nariman Street, Borabazar Precinct, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 090041 88052


Option B – Cafe Military

Cafe Military may be the only Irani restaurant in the city that doesn’t have tea on its menu, but the chilled beer certainly makes up for this glaring omission. The single-paged menu is concise, with separate specials for each day of the week. You can start your week with chicken cutlet and gravy and end it with mutton dhanshak. Kheema of all kinds is available daily, along with other traditional Irani egg, chicken, and mutton preparations. Caramel Custard is listed in the “extra” section of the menu, so don’t get unsettled if you don’t spot it at first glance.

Cafe Military, Ali Chamber, Nagindas Master Road, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2265 4181

Option C – Taste of Kerala

The banana leaves fly off the counters at this no-frills eatery on Pitha Street. Waiters move about with heaps of rice and swirling bowls of chutneys, cabbage thoran, pickles, rasam, and sambhar for the sadya. That’s not to discount their non-vegetarian fare. Taste of Kerala’s chicken nadan curry and porottas have earned it the patronage of even the most ardent Keralites. As has the pollichathu, a special banana leaf preparation in which fish is wrapped with onions and tomatoes. It goes without saying that meals here wouldn’t be complete without extra papadams and bowls of payasam.

Taste of Kerala, 6/A, Prospect Chambers Annexe, Pitha Street, Near Citibank, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 098921 21538

 3:00 p.m.

Option A – CST Heritage Museum

CST station, used by all and sundry, is not only one of the busiest stations in the country but also a defining landmark in the city. If, like us, you have always wanted a peek inside, this heritage tour is your cue. Head to the right wing of the station, close to the bus stop, and you will see the sign. The guided tour will take you through the history of Railways, from the shift to electric trains and more. But it’s the moment you lay your eyes on the central dome that you will get transported to a different era. Soak in the wide staircase, with the lion holding the crest, stained glass, starry ceiling, gargoyles, and peacocks, and you can almost imagine walking down the red-carpeted stairs in a Victorian gown for the Ball.

The tour is open from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Area, Fort, Mumbai 400 001.

Option B – Bombay Heritage Walks

Now that you’ve broken the fast and tackled social media, it’s time to get those feet moving. Walking tours of South Mumbai can be found a dime-a-dozen, but you’re a sucker for anything Bombay (just like us), you’ll be instantly drawn towards Bombay Heritage Walks. They’ve been conducting heritage walks long before heritage walks became a thing. Now in their 18th year, BHW offer three route options. You can choose between the Kala Ghoda walk, the Horniman Circle trail, or the longer combination of the two. If you want to know the juicy titbits about Asiatic Library, Old Customs House and Flora Fountain without having to bury your nose deep into guidebooks, this is a good option.

For more information on the walks, you can visit their website.

horniman circle

Option C – St. Thomas Cathedral

Though we don’t advocate sleeping in churches, St. Thomas Cathedral is a rather serene space to rest your tired feet after exploring the area. The lush garden, towering steeple, and marble fountain make for an oasis in the middle of the bustling financial district. But before you switch on a rickety fan and sink into the pew, take a walk around the nearly 300-year-old church to find ornate marble memorials and plaques for surgeons, soldiers and sailors.
St. Thomas Cathedral, Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2202 4482

4:30 p.m.

Option A – Aram

If you are hankering for an early evening snack, there’s vada pav. Even better, there’s Aram vada pav. The latter can only be eaten at leisure, because its size and spice quotient makes it impossible to chomp it down in mere minutes while on the move. The original Aram, which started over 75 years ago as a milk bar, is still housed in the Capitol Cinema building opposite CST, but the newer outlet at Fort is popular as well. The gigantic portions, generous amount of garlic chutney, and the absence of turmeric in their potato mixture set Aram’s vada pav apart from the rest. If for some reason, you’re still hungry after your vada pav, try their sabudana vada, and kothimbir vadi.

Aram Restaurant, 126, Capitol Cinema, Dr. DN Road, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001. Phone:  022 2207 3947 and 42, Mint Road, Opposite GPO, Fort, Mumbai 400 001


Option B – Moti Halwai

Set up by a Punjabi family that migrated from Karachi during Partition, Moti Halwai goes back to the 1950s. Stop by for some home-style food, especially the Sindhi chaap, samosa chole, and dal pakwaan. Join the queue of people standing outside having thick creamy lassi topped with chunks of malai or find yourself some parathas and thalis at this unassuming little place close to Yazdani Bakery.

Moti Halwai, Salva Chambers, 40, Cawasji Patel Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 098200 58249

6:00 p.m.

Option A – Mulji Jetha Fountain

Your Fort walk won’t be complete till you walk through Ballard Estate, with its wide tree-lined streets and European-style architecture. Stop by the Mint Road junction and look up at the boy who refuses to look up from his book: the Mulji Jetha Fountain, a memorial by a grieving father for his 15-year-old son. Newly restored, it also boasts of 42 sculptures of animal heads, with alligators, elephants, iguanas, and lions included. It’s fitting the fountain is located in Fort, home to some of the city’s best bookstores.

Mulji Jetha Fountain, 311, Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001

Option B – Wayword & Wise

Speaking of books, you can’t go wrong with possibly the best bookstore in Fort. With books spanning music, performing arts, and food besides some lovely fiction by little-known authors, Wayword & Wise is the perfect place to pick up some literary gems. Like Kurt Cobain’s Journals that includes poetry, doodles, and letters by the musician. Or Vladimir Nabokov’s lectures on literature. There’s plenty for graphic novel lovers too. And as always, there’s owner Virat Chandok to help out with the recommendations.

Wayword & Wise, Strategic house, 44, Mint Rd, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001. Phone: 022 6634 9946

wayword and wise fort

8:00 p.m.

Option A – Burma Burma

The distance between Mangalore and Myanmar is only a few streets. Walk down a narrow alley, push open the heavy wooden door to Burma Burma, and you will apparate to Naypyitaw in seconds. The samosa soup will tickle your fancy and your taste buds. The khao suey will leave you licking your lips for traces of any remnants after the bowl has been wiped clean. Dessert might turn into a battlefield with friends, families, and colleagues wrangling over the last bite of smoked avocado ice-cream. But everyone will leave a winner.

Burma Burma, Kothari House, Allana Centre Lane, Opposite Mumbai University, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 4003 6600

burma burma fort

Option B – Apoorva

Apoorva is a haven for Mangalorean coastal fare. The dim lights may not seem alluring at first, but a bite of their prawn gassi is enough to convert you. The classic coconut-milk gravy paired with neer dosa is a favourite of office-goers and food critics alike. Apoorva is part of the Fort seafood triad that includes Trishna and Mahesh, so it’s not surprising that seafood specialties run the whole page. Go for the surmai fry and prawns koliwada or choose a preparation of your liking. Appams work on the side of everything.

Apoorva, Vasta House, Noble Chambers, SA Brelvi Road, Near Horniman Circle, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2287 0335


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12 Hours In And Around Lower Parel




Tall, crumbling chimneys peek out between sleek office towers. Vibrant chawls, once home to the city’s mill workers, are dwarfed by glass high-rises with swimming pools. Sloping, wooden beams lend support and character to new restaurants built inside skeletal textile mills. You’re never too far away from a physical reminder of Lower Parel’s former glory. This is where the old and new co-exist, and spending a day here is akin to a roller coaster ride that dips you into the past and then accelerates you into the future. Strap in for the ride.

9:00 a.m.

Option A – La Folie Patisserie

If you shut your eyes, soak in the sunshine and inhale the aroma of freshly ground coffee, you could be in Paris. Open your eyes and you’re seated at the little nook by the window at La Folie Patisserie, watching the early office bunch trickle in, dreaming about Eggs Benedict. A few things to remember: you can’t share the croissant because it’s too flaky to cut; don’t be surprised to see copious amounts of avocado in your Avo Bowl; everything off the girdle is worth the wait, especially the Belgian waffles with Nutella and maple coulis. La Folie Lab, Unit no. 10, Trade World ‘B’, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 096999 93350. Opens at 8 a.m. daily

Option B – D:OH

Green chairs, comfort food and a quick game of Scrabble – D:OH is the perfect embodiment of starting your day right. The airy, sunlit cafe offers fuss-free breakfast favourites like French Toast, Banana Pancakes, and Akuri. Hash browns are crispy and buttery, and the coffee feels like home. Time saved by the concise breakfast menu can be spent wisely in front of the beer display. D:OH, Ground Floor, Unit 2B, Trade View, Kamala City, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 6237 2829. Opens at 9 a.m. daily Lower Parel Guide_004

Option C – Poornima

Get in the thick of the action by leaving Kamala Mills and making your way down Tulsi Pipe Road to Poornima. An outpost of the iconic eatery in Fort, this non-descript South-Indian joint is where the locals fuel up for the manic day ahead. You’ll find corporate workers, bank managers, and mill workers tucking into Mangalore buns, rasam vada, and onion uttapams while students share a single plate of sheera. You can’t go wrong with Poornima’s quick service and dependable food. No bad morning ever started with pudi dosa and lassi. Poornima, Shop No 9, 237- A, Rustam Handere Building, Opp. Peninsula Lower Parel Compound, Ganapatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Phone: 022 2495 7600. Opens at 8 a.m. (closed on Sundays)

11:00 a.m.

Option A – Piramal Museum Of Art

Once you’ve demolished your pudi dosa, just cross the busy road and waltz into Peninsula Corporate Park with a full tummy. Walk into the central atrium of the Piramal Tower to find refuge from all the corporate humdrum. The Piramal Museum of Art is one of only two private art museums in the city and is luckily unknown to most tourists. The private art collection of Ajay and Swati Piramal boasts works by Akbar Padamsee, Jehangir Sabavala, MF Husain, FN Souza, and many others. The venue has an active calendar filled with regular thematic art exhibitions, talks, workshops, and seminars, as well as a tiny shop selling gift items. Piramal Museum of Art, B Wing, Ground Floor, Piramal Tower, Peninsula Corporate Park, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 3046 6981 Lower Parel Guide_002

Option B – Trilogy Bookstore and Library

Follow the signboards in the Raghuvanshi Mills Compound until you reach the tiny slice of sunlit heaven known as Trilogy. Apart from the usual literary fare, this library/bookshop stocks graphic novels, rarer titles, coffee table books, and illustrated material. If you get lost inside the book labyrinth, follow the neon Post-Its with hand-written recommendations from the owners, members, and regular customers. They have an extensive children’s section as well as a separate library membership for the tiny tots. Trilogy, 1st floor, Building No. 28, Above Mercedes Service Center, Raghuvanshi, Mills Compound, Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 080805 90590

1:00 p.m.

Option A – Pravas

If you’re ready for an indulgent meal, Pravas will take you on a culinary journey to Gujarat. The only restaurant in the city centred around a railway theme, Pravas offers the experience of dining inside a recreated train compartment, albeit a rather ornate one. Choose between the unlimited thali, traditional Gujarati snacks, and token street food and top up the meal with a bowl of Locha Mohanthal. If not for the view outside, you could well be aboard the Palace on Wheels. Pravas, Gate No. 4, Beside Smaaash, Kamala Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 3997 1887

Option B – Jai Hind Lunch Home

Jai Hind Lunch Home has been saving corporate lunchgoers for many years now. Like its other branches, the Lower Parel outlet of this dependable chain serves spectacular seafood dishes. Regulars swear by the stuffed bombil and prawns Koliwada, vegetarians order repeats of sol kadi. Peak hours could mean a substantial wait, sharing your table with other eager eaters, and shouting above the din to communicate with your companions. But proceed with patience and you won’t be disappointed. Jai Hind Lunch Home, 7/8, Madhav Bhuvan, ‘B’ Block, Opposite Kamala Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai, 400 013. Phone: 022 2493 0010 Lower Parel Guide_006

Option C – 1 Tablespoon Pizza Kitchen

When you’re at Todi Mill during lunch hour, it’s tempting to ignore all the fledgeling eateries and head straight to the bigger names. Dare to digress and you will be rewarded with the most delicious pizza in the vicinity. 1 Tablespoon Pizza Kitchen has little more than one table and just about enough chairs to accommodate a medium-sized group, but the menu runs for pages. With names like Ciao Chili, Blowing Fire, and Maillard Reaction, every pizza sounds promising. When the thin crust pizza arrives at your table crisped to perfection and loaded with toppings, you know they also deliver on their promises. 1 Tablespoon Pizza Kitchen, Unit 1, The New Mahalaxmi Silk Mills Premises, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Between Zaffran & Cafe Zoe, Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 075064 33908 

3:00 p.m.

Option A – Clue Hunt

After lunch, you can shake off the lethargy and engage in a stimulating activity like Clue Hunt. A “room escape” game littered with clues to help solve a mystery in under 60 minutes, Clue Hunt tests your logical skills and ability to work with a team. You can choose between three mysteries: The Stolen Painting, The Diamond Maze, and The Lock-up Mystery. One hour in a closed room, racing against the clock to break free and all traces of lethargy will disappear. Clue Hunt, Ground Floor, CD House, Mathuradas Mill Compound, Behind Cafe Zoe, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2499 9165

Option B – BARO

If you’d rather give in to your full-belly laziness, take a leisurely stroll over to BARO. Browse through their eclectic collection of furniture, admire the Suzani armchair, intricate Rajasthani phads, vintage lampshades, and lacquered steel trunks. Sink into a couch and curl up next to Laila or Maya. Owner Srila Chatterjee’s dogs know the cosiest spots in the house. BARO, 12, Sun Mill Compound, Tulsi Pipe Road, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 4034 4888 baro srila chatterjee siddharth sirohi

4:30 p.m.

Option A – Blue Tokai

The heady aroma at Blue Tokai is enough to awaken you from your mid-day stupour. Sift through the menu offering cappuccinos, affogatos, and almond croissants before deciding on at least two items. Watch the roastery in action through round glass windows on Wednesdays and Sundays. On other days, you can just concentrate on your cortado and mumble “I love coffee” into your cup. Blue Tokai, Unit 20-22, Laxmi Woollen Mill, Opposite Khazana Furniture, Off Dr. E Moses Road, Mahalakshmi, Mumbai 400 011. Phone: 098200 95887 Lower Parel Guide_003

Option B – The Rolling Pin

If you’re not as finicky about your coffee but go all Masterchef while dissecting your dessert, then The Rolling Pin is the right place for you. On a diet or not, it’s impossible to remain immune to the fragrance of freshly baked goodies. Choose from over 40 types of cakes, tarts, brownies, fudge, and cookies and watch the pastry chefs roll croissants on white worktops while you wait for your coffee. With its mind-boggling variety and vibrant displays, The Rolling Pin could well be the modern version of Hansel and Gretel’s house. No need to leave a breadcrumb trail, the aromas will lead you right back. Pro Tip: Order everything mango on the menu during the summer months. The Rolling Pin, 12, Janta Industrial Estate, Opposite Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 4610 4610

Option C – Zen Cafe

Zen Cafe is Lower Parel’s best-kept secret. Located on the mezzanine floor of a furniture store inside a compound filled with similar shops, this vegetarian café is often ignored for more obvious options. The perfect spot for a quick catch-up with a friend or a leisurely date with your current literary flame, Zen Cafe exudes laid-back vibes and churns out top-notch cappuccinos. The couches are inviting and the staff is patient with freelancers, lovers, and bookworms. Zen Cafe, at the Mezzanine of ICasa, Raghuvanshi Mills, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2498 4825

6:00 p.m.

Option A – Matterden CFC

Matterden CFC is a restored building with an open courtyard, red-tiled roof, and two white elephants. The erstwhile Deepak Cinema was spruced up a few years ago and now screens classics of world cinema, offbeat films, and documentaries, all for under Rs. 125. Grab a packet of popcorn and sink into one of the recently upholstered red seats to enjoy some Kieslowski, Kiarostami, or Kurosawa. Matterden CFC, 38, NM Joshi Marg, BDD Chawl, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2492 3399 matterden-cinema-deepak

Option B – Sitara Studio

Sitara Studio is a tiny, tiny venue for arts and culture in a narrow alley on the fringes of Lower Parel. Weaving through the evening crowds, dodging handcart pullers, and asking chaiwallas for directions is a crucial component of the Sitara experience. A relatively new entrant on the scene, Sitara didn’t quite announce its entry with a big bang. The venue usually hosts offbeat theatre and music performances and offers its mezzanine space for rehearsals. Check the schedule before going. There’s not much else to do on non-performance days apart from admiring the street art and enjoying a steaming cup of tea from the chaiwalla at the corner. Sitara Studio, Garage Galli, Kakasaheb Gadgil Marg, Opposite Indiabulls Finance Centre, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 028. Phone: 022 2422 1666

8:00 p.m.

Option A – Ambience

It can be daunting to choose from over 40 watering holes in a 2-mile radius, so go by what suits your mood. And your wallet. If you’re feeling rather stingy and don’t quite want to scan through pages and pages of cocktails, head to Ambience. A favourite with the journalists, technicians, and crew of news channels housed in the vicinity, this local dive under the flyover can no longer be called dingy after a recent renovation, but it still retains some of its coarse glamour. Come here on a Friday night to sip on Old Monk and coke, chomp on paneer chilly, and pick up juicy tidbits about the television news industry. Ambience Bar & Kitchen, 162/D, Jagdamba Bhavan, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2498 5654

Option B – The White Owl

One of the earliest entrants on the micro-brewing scene, The White Owl is often ignored these days in favour of the new kids on the block. Their craft beer is made in small batches and is devoid of any preservatives. Depending on your ale palate, you can choose from Diablo (Irish red ale), Ace (apple cider), Spark (Belgian wit), and a few others and see the brewing equipment set up behind glass walls at the back of the bistro. They also serve delicious finger food, salads and sandwiches. The White Owl, One Indiabulls Center, Tower 2 Lobby, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 2421 0231

Option C – The Tasting Room

If wine pairing is as crucial to you as the meal itself, then you’ll find your tribe at The Tasting Room in Raghuvanshi Mills. Housed inside Good Earth, this restaurant has a wine-only drinking list and décor straight out of an anniversary issue of Architectural Digest. The setting is apt for long-flowing conversations over red wine sangria and tiny tasting plates of stuffed brioche and smoked salmon. If you aren’t swaying merrily by the end of dinner, stop at the small bookstore near the entrance for a quick browse. The Tasting Room, 1st Floor, Good Earth, Raghuvanshi Mill Compound, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 022 6528 5284 Lower Parel Guide_005

Option D – Pa Pa Ya

Walking into Pa Pa Ya feels like you’ve entered an atom in the middle of a chemical reaction. Pretty apt, considering this upscale eatery showcases the finest masterpieces of molecular gastronomy in the city. From the hexagonal light fixtures casting shadows on deep red walls to the chocolate ball that melts away to reveal sweet surprises, everything at Pa Pa Ya has a touch of drama. The Sushi Matrix, a platter of 19 types of sushi, is dramatic just by virtue of size. The potent lemongrass infused vodka could have theatrical repercussions. It’s ironic however that the most exciting course is the one between formal courses – the amuse bouche of rambutan sorbet served in faux oyster shells in a bowl of liquid nitrogen. Pa Pa Ya, Level 3, Palladium Mall, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 088280 31900 Feature photograph by Superfast1111 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Discover Stories Amidst The Dust At Smoker’s Corner Bookstore

smoker's corner bookstore fort


Smoker’s Corner is an assuming bookstore in Fort that has been around since 1954. The best part about visiting this bookstore is that you never know what treasure you will find for a mere 50 rupees. 

Smoker’s Corner Bookstore, 4A, Botawala Chambers, Sir PM Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 22164060


A leering Shah Rukh Khan greets me as I enter the foyer of Botawala Chambers in Fort. The buzz from outside – vehicles honking, people gossiping at the cigarette store on the corner and pedestrians walking – instantly recedes. At the same time, the temperature appears to drop a degree. This, of course, has nothing to do with the actor or the women he shares a magazine cover with.

I’m at Smoker’s Corner Bookstore, a place that gets its name from the sailors who used to come by to stock up on tobacco and cigarettes at the tobacconist just outside the building. Now, there are just ordinary people smoking around the corner. If I breathe in deeply enough, I can smell the cigarette smoke beyond the mustiness.

I’m at a bookstore, but it is unlike any other store or library. There’s no board pointing out the name of the place or offering titles at a discount; there’s no one to welcome us into the space; there’s no registry of what’s available. There’s a collection of dusty wooden shelves and stands decorating the lobby of the building and two small rooms at the side. It appears as if someone just took a collection of books and hastily laid them out on shelves and stands. It’s hot and stuffy.

It wasn’t always this way.

The bookstore has become a part of the wall, unseen by those who see it daily but rich in character for others like me.

The book Zero Point Bombay: In and Around Horniman Circle shares a note about the origin of the bookstore. In 1954, the proprietor Suleman Botawala took over the tobacco shop and filled it with books, turning it into a library. Botawala was pursuing his passion for books and reading, and over the years, built up a steady clientele of readers. He passed away in 2009 and since then, the place has lost its sheen and presumably, its customers.

The available books number to less than 1,000 and are a motley collection. They’re scattered across two wooden stands in the middle, glass shelves hugging the walls, and two little rooms (alcoves) on the side. Some of them are tied with thread, to hold their pages together and to keep them from falling off the stands.

My favourite part about visiting this bookstore is that I never know what I will find, what treasure I can take back home for a mere 50 rupees. Finding that one book, however, necessitates my walking through all the sections, combing through all the titles. The fashion and news magazines are the only ones with up-to-date issues; everything else is older than me, and secondhand. There’s a selection of picture books on the British royal family (back when Princess Diana was part of it), fairytales for children, a Dr. Who collection, Bible studies, magazines with advice on enameling, raising a child, and being a good granny, and unusual self help books such as How to Eat Worms.

My favourite part about visiting this bookstore is that I never know what I will find.

As with any other old bookstore, I spy an assortment of romantic titles, with authors’ names in embossed gold and postcard pictures of fields and castles promising compelling love stories. There’s a nice nostalgia section for ’90s kids like me with books on Destiny’s Child, the Olsen twins, former Bond girl Halle Berry, plus some Reader’s Digest back issues. I pick up a book called Foetal Attraction (reviews call it “screamingly funny”), the diary of Anakin Skywalker, and a mystery novel by the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard.

As I go through the books, people walk past me without a second glance. The bookstore has become a part of the wall, unseen by those who see it daily but rich in character for others like me. I try to imagine it as a buzzing place at one time, with readers crowding around shelves, eager to pick up the latest sports magazine or bestseller. It’s difficult, because Smoker’s Corner wears an air of neglect that’s hard to shake off.

Suleman’s son Zubair now looks after the store, as a way of remembering his father. He isn’t around when I visit but the man at the counter, who makes note of our purchases in a ledger, assures me that he does spend time here.

As we leave, my friend and I pause for a moment outside, trying to cool down. My friend lights up a cigarette. He is no sailor, but this seems like a fitting tribute for a bookstore indirectly dedicated to smokers.

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Title Waves Is More Than Simply A Bookstore

title waves bookstore bandra mumbai


Title Waves is a bookstore in Bandra that also has a café and merchandise shop within its premises.  It amasses the best of every genre, from fiction and young adult to cooking and children’s books.

Title Waves, Opp. Duruelo Convent School, 24th Road, Off Turner Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2651 0841


First and foremost, let’s take a moment to appreciate the greatness of the pun that is this bookstore’s name. Seriously, it’s just brilliant.

Title Waves, located just off Turner Road in Bandra, is one of the larger, more spacious bookstores in the city. The first time I went there (because, you know, new bookstore), I was rather awed by its large glass front and soothing interiors. I stood just inside the clear glass doors (the air-conditioning a vivid relief from the summer sun), looking around this wide space of light wood and shining tiles, and felt a sense of calm. This would not be a place I would soon forget.

The walls to either side are long stretches of bookshelves, and all the space in between them is taken up by smaller stand-alone bookshelves that are not too tall (there’s no awkward and embarrassing leaping into the air to grab that one book on the top shelf for us short people!). Bright and colourful new books turned outwards fill up all the neatly ordered shelves, and a few are dedicated to children’s toys. I always make a beeline for the poetry shelf where I have found some of my most prized volumes, including a beautiful collection of Rumi’s poetry and William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience with facsimiles of their original artwork! The fact that the poetry section is right next to the entrance to Di Bella Coffee, which is connected to the bookstore, only emphasises its appeal because the only thing better than reading poetry? Reading poetry with waffles.

Title Waves is not a bookstore you quickly stop by in the middle of a rushed day.

The store stretches on, amassing the best of every genre, from fiction and young adult to cooking and children’s books. I’ve gathered at least a dozen books from this store, and it’s one I recommend to any friend visiting Mumbai who likes to read, no matter their genre of preference. It even has a small side section that’s home to The Entertainment Store, which is just the greatest pop culture merchandise store and the only one in Mumbai.

Needless to say, Title Waves is a place I often return to, whether to pick up specific books or browse on a rainy day or, upon occasion, sit on the floor of the children’s section for hours with a friend, combing through Doctor Who ABC books and Enid Blytons and Harry Potter picture books, just because we can. The store is full of some of my fondest memories from my college years, including but not limited to the amusing sight of Shahid Kapoor dressed in far too tight jeans and an ugly “swag” hat awkwardly picking up some friends from the store and trying not to be noticed.

Title Waves is not a bookstore you quickly stop by in the middle of a rushed day; it is one you spend hours in, combing every shelf and filling the spaces between them with hushed laughter. It is a place where you buy a few books, get some coffee, and then come back and browse some more. It is a tranquil asylum from torrential rains and searing summer heat alike. A place where “Should I buy this?” becomes “I already bought it”, and your bank account empties, but you still have no regrets. The next time you have a few hours to kill or need a place to hide out surrounded by books, go to Title Waves; I promise you won’t be in a hurry to leave.

Feature photo by Suruchi Maira

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Becoming A Child At Kahani Tree

kahani tree children's bookstore prabhadevi mumbai


Kahani Tree is a children’s bookstore in Prabhadevi. It stocks a large variety of Indian authors, holds author interactions and events, and helps set up mini-libraries and reading corners by collaborating with non-profits.

Kahani Tree, Industry Manor, 2nd Floor, Above JK Banquet Hall, A. Marathe Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai 400 025. Phone: 022 2430 6780



Blork! Bluurf! I seem to have caught Gajapati Kulapati’s cold. Just wait till I catch hold of that elephant again! I feel a little biffsquiggled with this cold to be honest. But what I was saying was…when I walked in to Kahani Tree, an independent bookstore in Prabhadevi, I had but a few cats in my hat. Now, I have a few elephants, a rather curious cow, girls that are not named Coraline and boys called Ismat.

Sangeeta Bhansali, the founder of the bookstore, would approve. “Our bookshelves have always been full of wonderful stories from around the world,” she says, “but we barely had any books that told stories about our people and country.” The realisation sunk in for her in 2006 when she came across the range of children’s books published by Tulika in Chennai. By then, her own sons – then 14 and 12 years – had grown up without seeing any Indian children’s books that were not about gods, goddesses, and the Panchatantra!

Yet Tulika’s range wasn’t available anywhere in the city. “As a mother and a book lover,” says Sangeeta, “I felt it was important for every child to have access to Indian stories and folk tales, as well as engaging story books in Hindi and the regional languages, so that they were not growing up as strangers to their own culture.”

Author Shabnam Minwalla doing book signings after her interaction with students of the Bombay International School (photo courtesy Kahani Tree)
Author Shabnam Minwalla doing book signings after her interaction with students of the Bombay International School (photo courtesy Kahani Tree)

It was that singular thought that gave birth to Kahani Tree a year later, out of a single wall in the office of Vakil & Sons (where Sangeeta is the head of the publishing division). Now, it has found its legs and grown a few square metres into the bookstore I find myself in. There are shelves upon shelves of curated Indian books sourced from across the country: five-minute bilingual reads such as Five Little Monkeys, the Dev and Ollie series by Shweta Aggarwal, or books like Ismat’s Eid that explain Indian festivals, a Manipuri gem with brilliant illustrations called Who will be Ningthou?, and many more.

But what about the gods and goddesses? I ask. Do they still have a following? It seems they do, but they are a far cry from the staid, text-heavy dictums they were, Sangeeta tells me. Out comes The Mahabharatha: A Child’s View by Samhita Arni (written when she was just 12 years old) from the other wall, and I’m immediately taken in.

I silently keep it next to my growing pile in the inner section of the bookstore. This is the extended area where you will find a curated range of international picture and middle-grade books. It is here that the metaphysical Kahani Tree has gotten a physical manifestation. Alongside sits a happy looking kid on a tortoise, but he doesn’t look half as happy as me as I sneak glances at my pile. Conspicuous by their absence, though, are Jeff Kinney, Lemony Snicket, Elizabeth Dami, and others. “The idea is to get the kids to read beyond bestsellers,” explains Sangeeta, handing me The Book With No Pictures.

“What’s important is to promote reading for pleasure,” she says, “to create thinking, open-minded and empathetic children.” That’s where literary events, school book-fairs and festivals help. I’m handed an orange coloured book, called Advaita The Writer, about a little girl who finds solace in books in a far off boarding school, and how her life changes when one day the librarian asks her if she would like to meet Ruskin Bond. “It’s a beautiful book by Ken Spillman,” she says with a smile. “When children get a chance to meet the author of a book they’ve read, or if a storyteller makes a book come alive, a special connection is made.”

kahani tree
Kahani Tree Story Bag with customizes book selection to suit the school’s language and reading level requirements (photo courtesy Kahani Tree)

That’s the very connection this little bookstore has grown on – by facilitating author interactions and events at Kitab Khana, the Kala Ghoda festival, and plenty of Mumbai schools. To ensure that all kids, cutting across backgrounds, get to sit under this growing tree, the bookstore helps set up mini-libraries and reading corners by collaborating with non-profits. “We encourage their librarians and teachers to come to Kahani Tree, browse, and select books that are simply not available in retail,” she says.

A lot has changed in the past decade, though. The digital market has become a contender, but there is growing awareness and acceptance. Many more publishers and authors are now willing to explore India’s multiculturalism. Besides Tulika and Pratham, Kahani Tree’s own list has expanded to Tara books, Karadi Tales, Young Zubaan, Eklavya, among others. English remains the main draw, but there is a publisher that’s looking at turning Scandanavian tales into Hindi. Then some like Duckbill are bringing in the concept of divorce and adoption into books in an evolving cultural landscape.

“Now there is a growing appreciation for every child to have access to a selection that has both windows [that allow them to see the world] and mirrors [that reflect their own realities],” she says with a smile. As I walk away thinking of walls, windows, and mirrors, it strikes me that’s it is a happy home to say the least – one that’s effortlessly brought out the child in me and given me new friends.

Feature photo by Suruchi Maira

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A Bibliophile’s Guide To The City’s Best Bookstores

best bookstores guide mumbai



The last time I visited a bookstore (which was just last week), I sat down to read Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats: incidentally, a chapter wherein he talks about his favourite bookstores. It ends like this: “Writing this, all those bookshops come back, the shelves, and the people…I wonder who I would have been, without those shelves, without those people and those places, without books. I would have been lonely, I think, and empty, needing something for which I did not have the words.”

I couldn’t describe bookstores or their lure better than that. But I can describe a few of the repositories that have shaped my life.

Kitab Khana

With high ceilings, wooden columns, and a creaky albeit gorgeous staircase, Kitab Khana is a city favourite. It exudes an old-world charm that draws you in each time you walk past it. Running your eyes over the neatly arranged bookcases, filled to the brim, you will always find a soul or two lost in reading and little tots with parents in tow. It’s the mezzanine floor, though, that’s the perfect place to be. It’s home to the classics and regional literature – available in Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and Urdu – where you will be left to your own devices for as long as you want. If you’re the kind who desires a cup of coffee to go with your books, there is the Food for Thought Café on the ground level.

Kitab Khana, Somaiya Bhavan, 45/47 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 6170 2276 

Running your eyes over the neatly arranged bookcases, filled to the brim, you will always find a soul or two lost in reading and little tots with parents in tow.

Wayword & Wise

A relatively new entrant to the city’s bookstore scene, Wayword & Wise completes the Fort trinity. Co-founded by Virat Chandhok of the erstwhile Lotus bookshop in Bandra, this bookstore is for the discerning reader, with curated picks and an author list most would be unfamiliar with. But then as Chandok says, “an exceptional bookstore stocks books that customers don’t yet know they want to read.” Walk in and you would agree. On my latest visit, I picked up The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, who the Pushkin Press says is Finland’s best kept literary secret. I’m yet to find out, but it comes highly recommended by Chandok. Go over and let this gentleman surprise and delight you with author names you can’t pronounce correctly. You will come back richer, in a way, but with a much lighter wallet.

Wayword & Wise, Strategic House, 44, Mint Road, Ballard Estate, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 6634 9946

Go over and let this gentleman surprise and delight you with author names you can’t pronounce correctly.


Trilogy, a library/bookstore in Raghuvanshi Mills is a lovely place to hang out or run into fellow bibliophiles. You will find two for sure: Ahalya and Meethil Momaya, whose labour of love this is. For World Book Day 2017, the space was brimming with lovely, colourful post-it notes across the aisles with short book reviews they asked their patrons to write. It’s these little things that stick. It’s again a highly curated enterprise, with the library staking more claim to the space than the bookstore. Many of the books, in fact, are for reference only, to be read at the library itself. But with such a rich array of names for company, there’s nothing to complain about.

Trilogy, 1st floor, Building No. 28, Raghuvanshi Mills Compound, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel (w), Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 080805 90590

Kahani Tree

A unique little bookstore in Prabhadevi, this one is exclusively for the kids. The moment you walk in, you’re surrounded by Indian authors and stories that go beyond traditional mythology. It’s still not that common to find contemporary children’s tales in Indian voices, but at Kahani Tree you will find them in various languages – English, Hindi, bilingual and more. You also have, of course, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, and other beloved international names in the inner section. There are Kahani Tree recommendations to help you along, but you can always reach out to founder Sangeeta Bhansali. Also, don’t miss out on the place mats and wonderful maps they stock.

Kahani Tree, Industry Manor, 2nd Floor, A. Marathe Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai 400 025. Phone: 022 2430 6780

Granth Book Store

A stone’s throw from Juhu beach is Granth with its excellent hardbound collection: the kind you would want to take back home, put at the centre of your bookcase, and hand down to your next of kin. If they’re too expensive, you can always browse through these beauties, gazing out the window, with a cup of coffee in hand. Or walk upstairs and enjoy the artwork of the little ones. The upper floor is entirely dedicated to children, as are the chalks and boards. Actually, I’m not sure if you can lay your hands on the chalk. Find out and let me know?

Granth Book Store, 30/A, HM House, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: 022 2660 9327

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The Free Library At Nahur Has Something For Everyone


read 'n' share free library nerul


Right next to Nahur station is Read ‘n’ Share Free Library that has books for fiction and non-fiction readers as well as children. They currently stock books in English, with Hindi and Marathi books expected soon. Books can be borrowed for one week at a time. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.

Read ‘n’ Share Free Library, next to Nahur station (w), Hira Nagar, Bhandup (w), Mumbai 400 078


No two words make me happier than “free” and “books”. I guess that’s why, when I spotted this “Free Library”, I knew my day was made. Right next to Nahur station (on the west side) is a cosy little space with books for children and non-fiction and fiction adult readers. With a maximum of one week’s borrowing period, it offers lovely encouragement for the casual reader to just pick up a book (or an excuse to read some more).

Their collection is a mixture of something for everyone: you’ve got your Gandhian autobiography, your pretty standard anytime crime book, unforgettable classics, and some customary self-help books, but you also have a coffee table read about an Indian female artist. I scored a delightfully magical physics read. And while they currently stock only English books, Hindi and Marathi reads are expected soon.

You will be further pleased to know it’s an early successful venture/project/start-up/gig. It was only day two and I was the 42nd person to borrow a book from a place seemingly in the middle of nowhere. So many people walk in curiously, and perhaps it’s the “free” factor that makes them borrow a book before they walk out.

If you have books you would like other people to read, you can donate them to this library, which wants to help you do that (and also, I want to read all your books).

Feature photograph by Sabah Virani

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