Farid-band

Eat, Pray, and Love the Kababs at Farid

 

farid seekh kabab

EAT, PRAY, AND LOVE THE KABABS AT FARID

Farid Seekh Kabab Centre at Jogeshwari has just one thing on the menu — a seekh kabab/paratha combo. The lack of variety isn’t a deterrent. Farid’s seekh kababs are mouthwatering, it’s parathas soft and flaky, and the restaurant is always packed.

Farid Seekh Kabab, Shop No. 13 Kismat Compound, Jogeshwari (w), Mumbai 400 102.

READ MRIGANK WARRIER'S STORY

Farid Seekh Kabab Centre is the budget gourmand’s mecca, housed in what must once have been a public toilet for giants: serial rectangular cubicles pretending to be dining halls, walls tiled up to ye high, a sloping tin roof, and a floor you shouldn’t inspect too closely.

When a band of kabab-laden stomachs staggers out, we are directed to their recently vacated table with a polite ‘Aap log baith sakte hain’. The aroma of searing meat is appetiser enough, and ambient music is provided by the chomps of our fellow diners. At Farid, conversation is superfluous and interferes with one’s appreciation of the only item on the non-existent menu — seekh kabab.

Its arrival is preceded by a procession of accompaniments: quartered lemons, raw onion rings soaked in a spicy green chutney, and more than enough sprigs of fresh mint to spark fears of genocide in the pudina community. The paranthas follow, and are not, much to my relief, the usual leathery, rubbery sheepskins that require iron claws for consumption. They are fresh off the griddle, soft and flaking under my fingers. Bringing up the rear are two seekh kababs, which are slid off a greasy plate onto our soon-to-be greasy plates. ‘Outside food not allowed’, warns a sign on the wall; in a moment, we will find out why every heretic sneaking in manna not produced in the heaven of Farid should be taken outside, set in stocks and displayed to the jeering public of Behram Baug, who may mete out corporal punishment by allowing him to only sniff, but not devour the kababs, as we proceed to do.

First, wring the juice out of a lemon to anoint a tukda of kabab. Tear off a piece of parantha to garb its mortal shell. Line the piece with a few pudina leaves; let an onion ring or two hang rakishly out. Swaddle the kabab in these humble robes, and let it pass through the pearly gates of your mouth.

And from your lips it’ll draw the Hallelujah.

Feature photograph copyright Andrey Starostin – stock.adobe.com

 

 
Seefah-band

Savour Sublime Asian Flavours at Seefah

 

SAVOUR SUBLIME ASIAN FLAVOURS AT SEEFAH

For erstwhile fans of The Blue who began to notice that something was missing from the food (and from the folk in the kitchen area) and were beginning to mildly panic, 2019 brings excellent news. After the successful launch of Soi69, Chefs Karan and Seefah’s little jewel in Breach Candy, the couple have, without any fanfare, opened a new eponymous space on Hill Road. It’s called Seefah and it is wonderful!

Seefah, 3rd Floor, Khan House, Next Time Square, Hill Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 089288 95952/089288 88710

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

Important things first.

The menu at Seefah features almost* every single one of your absolute favourite things at The Blue. As a recap, the focus is very much on Thai and Japanese cuisine with crowd pleasers and palate teasers.

The papaya salad, fried chicken, sushi, and sashimi (the tobikko – the roe’s tiny, briny, orange orbs with their firm pop) are all still sublime. That seasonal mango salad, with or without the crisp squid, has taken permanent residence on the menu. That green Thai curry is as aromatic and complex, and the steamed fish in its piquant, citrusy, sinus-blasting glory is even more perfect that before.

And now comes the better news.

The restaurant, on the third floor above the McDonald’s (and the inexplicably popular Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden) is large and can accommodate 50 covers as opposed to The Blue’s mere, table-hustling 20.

Seefah_004

There is a little terrace that the place overlooks suffusing the interiors with light at lunch time and with a rare (for Bombay) sense of space at dinner. The interiors are beautiful and unpretentious; blue walls with a few cherry blossom sprigs painted here and there, furniture and décor in cane, wood and velvet, tables for four set up around the large dining room, and an island of high-bar chairs and an elevated table in the centre for larger groups or many individuals.

Chef Seefah says the kitchen is much, much bigger than the one at The Blue, and it features gas cooking rather than induction, which she says will only improve the deep flavours of what they serve. (I personally cannot imagine how it could be better, but I take her word for it.)

Those familiar with The Blue will also be delighted by the familiar faces at Seefah, because almost all her staff came to work with her at the new venture.

Seefah_003

Children are allowed in the evenings as well, because the chef says she would like to watch her customers enjoy their food with their entire families.

In the few days since she opened, Chef Seefah herself has been walking to say hello from table to table and smiling at those who are thrilled to have finally found her again after she ‘disappeared’. “I wanted to do it quietly and properly,” she says, “and make sure everything was perfect before we started telling people.” Her generosity and sweetness seem to suffuse the space with a warmth that is as authentic and addictive as her flavours.

And people are talking.

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Just via word of mouth, all the tables are full on a Friday night, four days since they opened their doors. This is fine for fans of Seefah. We know good things come to those who wait.

*Seefah the restaurant has replaced the pork dishes with other meats in acquiescence to the landlord’s religious dietary rules.

(It’s a New Bandra thing.)

Photographs courtesy Seefah

 
Crawford-Market-Popcorn-band

Pop by Crawford Market for A-maize-ing Popcorn

 

popcorn crawford market

POP BY CRAWFORD MARKET FOR A-MAIZE-ING POPCORN

Sour cream and onion, Manchurian, peri peri, and more – the humble butter popcorn gets an exciting makeover at Mr. Vinay Thari Jayswal’s stall in Crawford Market. 

Vicky’s Popcorn, Near Dharamjyot Electricals, 79, Kerawala Mansion, Mangaldas Road, Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002

READ SIMRAN AHUJA'S STORY

I was in the middle of my usual 5 p.m. hunger pangs when my colleague offered me her popcorn. "Try it,” she said, “it's sour cream and onion flavoured." Two minutes later, my nose was dusted with the seasoning as she tried to pry the packet away from me. 

The source of this magical snack was Mr. Vinay Thari Jayswal’s 40-year-old stall in Crawford Market (located at the beginning of the lane next to Bata). Of course, I visit for myself. The first thing that catches my eye is the signboard on his cart – Vicky's Popcorn and Yeh cheez badi hain mast mast (10 points for the Bollywood cheesiness). Displayed below that is the array of flavours on offer: caramel, cheese, sour cream and onion, chilli cheese, chilli tomato, Manchurian, Szechuan, and chatpata. 

Since cheese and caramel popcorn are longer a novelty, I go with three others: sour cream and onion, Manchurian, and peri peri. He promptly scoops plain popcorn into a transparent plastic bag, sprinkles in a generous serving of the flavoured seasoning, and shakes it all together into utterly, butterly deliciousness. Oh, and each of the variants costs only 30 rupees. When I ask Mr. Jayswal which is his favourite flavour, he smiles. No answer. They’re all unique, he tells me.

Well, that settles it. If he can't pick, why should you?

Feature photograph copyright Brent Hofacker  – stock.adobe.com

 

 
Dolcemi-band

Dolcemi Delivers Authentic Italian Confectionary

 

dolcemi italian sweets

DOLCEMI DELIVERS AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CONFECTIONERY

Dolcemi, a dessert kitchen in Bandra, is the brainchild of an Italian jewellery designer and Indian entrepreneur. Confections such as tiramisu, biscotti, semifroddo, gelato, mousse, and more can be picked up from their base or delivered to your doorstep via delivery apps. Orders have to be placed before 2 p.m. on the previous day.

Phone: +91 90290 17000 (from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday)

READ KRUTI DALAL'S STORY

Everybody knows that dolce means sweet in Italian and that Anita Ekberg was really living the good life when she waded into that Roman fountain in her legendary black dress. But dolce is also an Italian musical term – an indication to play an instrument in a tender, adoring manner; to play a chord sweetly, with a light touch. That is what Dolcemi’s tiramisu does – it caresses your palate gently, the subtle sweetness melting on your tongue. The coffee liqueur diffuses into your throat, leaving behind a warm glow instead of the familiar burning sensation. You have to close your eyes and mouth to hold on to the feeling of being in sunny Sicily before it evaporates.

The pastina de mandorla elicits a similar reaction, accompanied by a deep, content sigh possible only in the absence of guilt. The small almond biscuits – crispy on the outside with a condensed centre – are dairy-free and gluten-free. For those who crave all year for marzipan sweets, Dolcemi’s soft dough pastry is Christmas come early.

Chocolate lovers have a long list of unusual suspects to choose from, but one item stands out. The chocolate salami may sound suspicious to vegetarians, but what looks like black pudding is a log of semi-frozen dark chocolate dotted with tiny pieces of biscotti. The specks, although substantial, aren’t quite enough to grasp the incredible nature of the Italian classic.

Luckily, Dolcemi offers 100gm biscotti packets and four tempting options, including the newly introduced walnut and gianduja.

Just scanning the luscious menu is enough to cause acute cravings and intense confusion at the same time. What’s certain, however, is that to live the good life in Mumbai, you need a certain amount of foresight and Dolcemi on your speed dial. Order early, then sit back to dream about an Italian summer. All dolce things are worth waiting for.

Feature photograph courtesy Dolcemi

 

 
Sewri-Fort-band

An Accidental Excursion To A Hill Fort

sewri fort
 

AN ACCIDENTAL EXCURSION TO A HILL FORT

Sewri Fort was built by the British in 1680 for defence. Today, it is a Grade I Heritage structure that offers wonderful views of the flamingo migration at the Sewri mudflats.

Sewri Fort, 31, Sewri Ford Road, MPT, Sewri, Mumbai 400 015.

READ MAMTA D'S STORY

Imagine discovering a fort in your city accidentally. Imagine heading out from home to see birds but, instead, ending up wandering inside a historically rich fort.

For a long time, I’d been vaguely hearing about a place called Sewri Jetty, with mudflats that attracted migratory birds including flamingos. One weekend in January, when local newspapers reported that the birds had arrived, I decided to pay this place a visit. The nearest station to this location was Sewri.

Sewri, also called Shivdi by locals, is one of the key stations on the harbor line of the Mumbai suburban railway. Once a tiny settlement, it has gradually grown into a bustling locality home to several housing societies, warehouses, and industrial complexes.

Upon reaching Sewri station, I whipped out my phone and checked Google Maps. An eight-minute walk would lead me to the mud flats. That seemed doable and I was soon on my way. A wrong turn, however, changed my agenda for the day: I accidentally landed up at the Sewri Fort.

The surrounding area is so decrepit you might be forgiven for walking past the fort without noticing it. Overgrown shrubbery, missing signposts, construction of residential buildings, and warehouses nearby it have all led to the fort becoming inconspicuous. It looked like a oddly-shaped, dilapidated structure on a wrong lane I’d entered. I asked a passerby what it was. Oh, that’s just the Sewri Fort, he said with a shrug and walked away. Sewri Fort? A fort right where I was standing and whose existence I wasn’t aware of until now? It was an incredible moment for me.

Unlike some of the other forts in India that feature intricate designs, the architecture of Sewri fort is simple and functional since it was primarily built for defense (as I discovered later when I researched its history).

sewri fort

Bordered by high stone walls and landlocked on three sides, it has, as its entrance, a stone doorway leading into a spacious courtyard. Inner entrances were strategically designed to be perpendicular to the main entrance so that if anyone tried attacking from the front, they would fail.

The fort is constructed entirely of stone. It includes a pentagon-shaped room, 10 turret structures that were used to hold cannons, and several curved staircases on the outer areas. The walls are thick and plain. It is easy to feel dwarfed in the vast halls or rooms inside the fort. I definitely did. It was a surreal experience being inside and exploring its interiors.

Upon returning home, I read up as much as I could about the fort. A preliminary search didn’t yield much information beyond the cursory stuff, but I delved deeper and was able to unearth the rich history of the fort.

We know how Bombay (now Mumbai) was given to King Charles II of England in 1662 as part of the dowry for his marriage. Unable to care for it personally, in 1668, he persuaded the East India Company to rent the islands from him for 10 pounds of gold a year. The Company agreed and soon settled in, even as it battled constant conflict with the Mughals who were ruling other parts of India.

The East India Company had been looking to improve trade opportunities in different states and was already warring with the Mughals. Bombay, with its vast harbor and rich trade prospects, was a coveted treasure, and the Mughals hoped to conquer it. They were supported in this effort by the Siddis of Janjira who were highly skilled in naval warfare. By 1670s, the British were resisting ruthless attacks by the Siddis.

One of the steps the British took to defend themselves against these attacks was to build a hill fort at Sewri, on the island of Parel. It was intended to also act as a watchtower and help the soldiers look out for potential invaders. By 1680, it was ready. Fifty sepoys were posted at the fort, and a subedar was appointed to manage it. The fort was armed with eight to 10 cannons.

Despite this, the fort was captured in 1689, when Yadi Sakat, the Siddi general from Janjira, and his troops attacked Bombay. Following capture of the Sewri Fort, the Siddis went on to secure Mazgaon Fort and other parts of Bombay including Mahim.

Stunned by these events, the then British governor, Sir John Child entered into a deal with Aurangzeb to halt Yadi Sakat in his tracks. An amount of Rs 1.5 lakhs exchanged hands. Betrayed by the deal, the Siddi general withdrew his troops and Sewri Fort was once again back under the British.

sewri fort

In 1772, when the Portugese attacked Bombay, the fort again played an important role, to stave off the invaders.

I learnt that, in subsequent years, the fort was used to house prisoners. Soon, it was converted as a Bombay Port Trust godown/warehouse and continued to be used as one until recently.

I’d been dismayed to see its walls disfigured with ugly scrawls. A once historically significant monument, it seemed like it was headed towards a further state of ruin. I had eventually made my way to the mudflats a little distance away, which, together with a stretch of mangroves, form the Sewri wetland that acts like a feeding ground in winter for birds. The Sewri Fort provides a vantage view to observe the migratory birds that arrive here, though you may need a strong pair of binoculars if you want to get a clear look.

My accidental excursion to the ancient fort proved so fulfilling that, in the next few months, I made several more visits. Each time I visited, I discovered something new.

There are no touristy crowds there jostling one another, which is a blessing. You can explore the fort in silence and marvel at the simple yet practical and sturdy architecture.

Feature photograph by Nicholas (Nichalp) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons
Photo 2 by Nicholas (Nichalp) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons
Flamingoes photo by Samruddhishetty [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

 
Celeste-band

Soothing The Soul At Celeste

 

celeste

SOOTHING THE SOUL AT CELESTE

A quaint store close to Dhobi Talao junction, Celeste features colourful energy candles, multi-coloured crystal trees, and rock crystals, among other things. Clients can buy products as well as avail of services such as tarot reading, psychometry, and crystal ball gazing. It also hosts regular workshops and life coaching sessions.

Celeste, The Center, 5A Avijah Bldg, Ground Floor, 647 JSS Road, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 98201 39397

READ SUDESHNA CHATTERJEE'S STORY

It measures just about 350 square feet on the narrow JSS Road almost, hugging the iconic century-old Irani café Kyani & Co. There are quaint objects that grab your attention as you step into Celeste, The Center: colourful energy candles, multi-coloured crystal trees, rock crystals, healing wands et al that adorn a little shelf. Opposite you is a room big enough to accommodate 20 adults. An aura reading session is on. The expert is not using any machine and is analysing through the naked eye. Some people are stopping by to sign up for a rose meditation (zen technique) session to commence the following week. Some are asking about the humming meditation session (Tibetan technique).

Celeste provides products and services that promise to be a panacea to the evils that plague a modern life. Manju Mohinani Patil started her store almost two decades ago. “Over the years,” she says, “the same reasons are prompting people to come – family, relationship, wealth, career, and health issues. Of course, where required, we make our clients take a doctor’s advice. Since the last eight years, we are observing more young people queuing up.”

Several clients want to know how to be at peace and usher positive energy. While different techniques work for different people, Manju says, generally speaking even a plate of rose quartz and citrine crystals can do wonders. She gets few quirky cases too like a teenager came to her to redress her pizza addiction!

But perhaps what is special about this shop for the soul is that it stays with you even when you step out into your busy life. I got a feel for tarot card reading by placing my hands on the cards, and Manju gave me positive observations. It was hardly for a few minutes, but it felt like a gift for a lifetime. Some words stay on healing you from inside out.

Feature photograph copyright Wiró Klyngz - stock.adobe.com

 
Holy-Name-Cathedral-band

Enjoy A Moment Of Peace And Quiet At The Cathedral Of The Holy Name

holy name cathedral
 

ENJOY A MOMENT OF PEACE AND QUIET AT THE CATHEDRAL OF THE HOLY NAME

Cathedral of the Holy Name is a 113-year-old cathedral in Colaba. Its location on the quiet Wodehouse Road and stunning architecture make it a comforting place to visit to calm your frazzled nerves when the pace of the city gets to be too much to handle.

Cathedral of the Holy Name, 19, Nathalal Parikh Marg, Mumbai 400 001.

READ SIMRAN AHUJA'S STORY

The Cathedral of the Holy Name makes you feel like you’ve been transported to a different era. It is located on Wodehouse Road (now Nathalal Parikh Marg) that runs parallel to Colaba Causeway but feels like a world apart. Colaba's usual colour, cacophony, and perpetual storm of activity are missing. On Wodehouse Road, the buildings are a solemn grey. There is a comforting calm about it. I walk down to the middle of the road, opposite the YMCA, to the Cathedral, which has become my personal source of peace, quiet, and reflection.

I only recently learned that cathedral and church aren't interchangeable terms. This church was opened to public worship in 1905 and was later upgraded to cathedral in 1964. When I ask Father Michael D'Cunha what this means, he says, "It's like any other church, except this is the church of the bishop who governs the area. So, Cathedral of the Holy Name is the main church of the Mumbai diocese (geographical area)."

The cathedral was granted the status of a Heritage Building in 1998, and one look at the building is enough to tell you why. Its imposing edifice – looming grey stone walls, huge arches, and sturdy pillars – gives off an eerie, gothic vibe. It makes your inner Jane Eyre imagine echoes of Bertha Mason’s mocking laughter.

But if the exteriors resemble the setting of a 19th Century Victorian novel, the interiors transport you straight to Italy’s Renaissance period. Past the heavy wooden doors, all sense of spookiness fades. You look up to see sights resembling the pictures in your school textbook. The cathedral's ceiling has fresco paintings (where the paint is applied directly onto wet plaster so that the colours penetrate through the plaster for a fresher look) by Brother A. Moscheni S.J. of Bergamo that feature stories from the Bible. Careful though; I caught a crick in my neck from staring too long in awe.

Row after row of pews lead up to a marble altar. You raise your eyes to the stained-glass windows that run down the sides of the church. On some days, the filtered sunlight is a sight to behold. You imagine the sparkling motes in the sunbeams dancing off weddings, christenings, and funerals with equal benevolence and grace.

Colaba's usual colour, cacophony, and perpetual storm of activity are missing.

I've been visiting churches all my life, but the Cathedral of the Holy Name is my favourite. I usually decide where to sit based on how I’m feeling. If I have a lot on my mind, I’ll go right to the front, facing the altar. If there isn’t much bothering me, I sit somewhere at the back so I can take in the magnificence of the church in its entirety. Sometimes I’ll sit for a few minutes, sometimes longer. Sundays are a good day to go. I think about the week that went by and leave behind every worry, what if, and woe. On Sunday evenings, there are also fewer people here, and it might sound strange, but it’s almost like there’s less vying for Jesus's attention.

Does God exist? I don't know. But do I feel lighter and more hopeful about the week to come after my visit? Yes, I do.

Feature photograph by Ronakshah1990 [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

 
mughal masjid

Mughal Masjid Is An Urban Oasis

 

mughal masjid

MUGHAL MASJID IS AN URBAN OASIS

The Mughal Masjid – also called Masjid-e-Iranian – was built 150 years ago by a merchant named Haji Mohammad Hussain Shirazi in Bhendi Bazaar, a place of reverence for the Shia community. It is distinctive for its blue tiles, said to have been imported from Iran, and the Iranian-inspired architecture. Although women are not allowed in the prayer hall, there is a separate area earmarked for them inside.

Mughal Masjid, Imamwada Road, Umerkhadi, Mumbai 400 009

READ SADIYA UPADE'S STORY

A walk on Imamwada Road doesn’t prepare you for this slice of Persia. Ambling past nondescript humble eateries and shops selling kites and medicines, the mammoth blue structure springs up suddenly, at once captivating. The mosaic tiles and motifs have you stop and sigh ‘Blue Mosque’ after Istanbul’s famous attraction, but the roots of Mughal Masjid lie a little further away in Iran.

The Iranian connect is clearly visible in the architecture of the mosque, also called Masjid-e-Iranian. Instead of replicating the Indo-Islamic architecture elsewhere in the city, the mosque bears no gumbaz (dome) and has only two minarets. Verses from the Quraan are inscribed on these as well as on the archway. The chandeliers and carpets inside the prayer hall are said to have been imported from Iran, as are the distinct blue tiles that give the mosque its uniqueness.

As mesmerising as the exterior is, it’s hard to forget that first step inside – the palm trees, the pond, the courtyard, and the elegant prayer hall. A silence reigns inside that takes notice of neither the concrete buildings towering above nor the cries of hawkers on the footpath outside. Men catch a wink on the benches around the rectangular pond or hauz, where ablutions would once take place. Older men read newspapers or confer with friends. On the balcony outside the prayer hall and inside, others read the Quraan. The place, at once a sanctum and a refuge. 

That first visit, I’m scuttled out quickly by the guard. Women are not allowed in the prayer hall and have a separate area earmarked for them inside. The courtyard is still accessible, and my subsequent visits are more even-paced. The guards still rankle, but they don’t come in the way. Try noon or the period between Zohr and Asr for a peek inside this oasis.

 
Vikas-Dilawari-Tour-band

Vikas Dilawari’s Restoration Preserves The Past For The Future

hira baug
 

VIKAS DILAWARI'S RESTORATION PRESERVES THE PAST FOR THE FUTURE

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.

READ MRIGANK WARRIER'S STORY

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.”

 
Manoj-Pasta-band

Indulge In Cheese-Loaded Carbs At Manoj Pasta

 

manoj pasta

INDULGE IN CHEESE-LOADED CARBS AT MANOJ PASTA

WTC Manoj Pasta at Cuffe Parade is a 17-year-old food stall and the first in Mumbai to introduce street-side pasta to the city. The next time you’re in the area, head here for the cheesiest pasta you’ve ever had.

WTC Manoj Pasta, Next to World Trade Centre, Cuffe Parade, Mumbai 400 005. Phone: 88988 54851

READ SIMRAN AHUJA'S STORY

Think Italian, think fine dining. Enter WTC Manoj Pasta, a street-side stall that firmly shakes up that notion. Here, you don't bask in the soft glow of a candlelight. Instead, you stand under a streetlight and balance your overflowing plate. The traffic around Cuffe Parade serves as your background music while you savour every bite. 

WTC Manoj Pasta at Cuffe Parade was the first street food stall to venture into Italian food and has been around for 17 years now. And the best part? You don't have to search for it. Go anywhere near World Trade Centre after 5 p.m. and you're bound to be approached by someone brandishing a laminated menu asking you if you'd like to try some pasta.

The stall opens shop at 5 p.m. and winds down at about 11:30 p.m., making it the perfect place to unwind and catch up with friends after work or class. It’s best to go on an empty stomach so you can do justice to the food. The menu might confuse you at first, because there's so much happening: pizza, Maggi, pasta, corn, nachos and, shortly, as I’m told by the late Manoj’s wife, Rakhi Gupta, risotto as well. Start with the corn, skip the khichiya, and go straight to the pasta. It comes with many offerings too: white sauce, red sauce, mixed sauce, with or without paneer, Mongolian…the list goes on. But whichever style you choose, two things stay common—oodles and oodles of grated cheese and the urge to come back as soon as possible.

Fun fact: You can request as much cheese as you want at no extra charge.

Feature photograph copyright Matthew Antonino - stock.adobe.com