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Tracing The Legacy of Jagannath Sunkersett

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TRACING THE LEGACY OF JAGANNATH SUNKERSETT

Jagannath Sunkersett was a city father who left his mark – and name – on Bombay through his immense contribution to its arts, culture, and education. Mrigank Warrier goes on a tour of South Bombay, tracing glimpses of the past that live on in the present.

READ MRIGANK WARRIER’S STORY

The evil that men do may live after them, but the good isn’t always interred with their bones. A few good men built this city, and their names survive, appended to their legacies: Elphinstone, Jeejeebhoy, Kennedy, Sassoon…and Sunkersett.

Jagannath Sunkersett (1803-1865) was a city father who wore many hats: businessman, landowner, educationist, reformist, founder of institutions, and benefactor of the poor; a polymath who spoke up for his native brethren to their British masters and did much to improve their lot. From Legislative Councillor to Member of the Committee Appointed for the Administration of the Hill-Station of Matheran, he accepted diverse roles and performed each with singular excellence.

By digging into digitised books and journals from the 19th and 20th centuries – and rambling around Mumbai in the 21st – I have attempted to carve out a pilgrim trail linking some of the many, many sites associated with the perseverance and largesse of Jagannath ‘Nana’ Sunkersett. Walk with me.

British South Bombay

We set off from Elphinstone College, which evolved from the Native School of Bombay – established by the eponymous governor who was favourable towards educating Indians – to the Board of Education to the Elphinstone Institution. Nana was Chairman of the Elphinstone Funds and member of the Board.

Elephinstone Coll

Let us not tarry overlong at Mumbai University, itself a descendant of the Elphinstone Institution, where six Sanskrit scholarships endowed by Nana’s son Vinayakrao Jugonnathjee Sunkersett in his memory in 1866 continue to sponsor students. Let us pay but a moment’s obeisance at the iconic Asiatic Society, which holds within its hallowed halls a statute of Nana, the first Indian member of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland in London and one of the Bombay Society’s founders. We must not omit to swing by Borabazaar’s Gunbow Street, which derives its name from a corruption of Ganbasett – Nana’s grandfather, who migrated from Murbad to set up a mercantile business within the fort walls.

horniman circle asiatic library

We take a moment’s respite by the western face of much-photographed Victoria Terminus; the sculpted visage at the extreme right of the row of faces is Nana’s. He and Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy formed the Indian Railway Association to lobby the British to bring railways to India; this grew into the Great Indian Peninsular Railway (now the Central Railway), of which Jeejeebhoy and Nana were the only two Indian directors. Its first ticket office was set up at Nana’s premises in Girgaum, and he was on board the first train from Boree Bunder to Tannah on April 16, 1853.

Marine Lines-Girgaum

We now veer west and pad lightly between the two peaceful plots of Bada Kabrastaan. A bust of Nana catches your eye, nestled in a private crematorium named for the man who strove to prevent the Sonapur (Chandanwadi) burning grounds from being shifted elsewhere. One-and-a-half centuries later, the secretary of the Bombay Hindu Burial and Burning Grounds Committee remains a Sunkersett.

Inside the Crematorium

Traipse into a parallel lane, and you will find yourself at SL and SS Girls’ High School. Ages ago, ‘a crop of Indian graduates from Elphinstone College in Fort, under the umbrella of the Students’ Literary and Scientific Society, decided to set up a network of schools for girls. Young and relatively poor, they turned to leading shetias (merchant elites) of Bombay.’ Nana ‘donated a beautiful little cottage in his own compound to be used as a school-house…rent-free’, and against stiff opposition, enrolled girls from his own household in the school.

We come now to Girgaum Road – renamed Jagannath Sunkersett Road – a long chain of wadis from Dhobi Talao to Opera House. A nine-storey apartment building christened Sunkersett Smruti was once the site of the ‘country mansion at Girgaum’ of the ‘rich Hindoo banker’. In a report of a party thrown here to welcome Lord Keane, Commander-in-Chief of the Bombay Army, an 1840 issue of the Asiatic Journal reports that ‘The mansion of Sunkersett is one of the handsomest on the island, and is particularly distinguished for the beauty of its garden…the courteous attentions, hospitality, gentlemanly, and indeed highly polished manners of the host could not fail to impress all his guests with sentiments of esteem and respect.’

Sunketsett Smruti

Behind the bygone mansion is Nana Sunkersett Wadi, now a morose mix of chawls, godowns, and a BEST substation.

Byculla

We take a flying leap to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Victoria Gardens, now known as Bhau Daji Lad Museum and Jijamata Udyan. Nana was President of the Museum Committee, and his portrait hangs on its staircase landing. He was also President of the Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India, which laid down exquisitely landscaped gardens at Mount Estate. Try to picture Nana at its opening, escorting Lady Frere through the arbour.

BDLM_003

As we make our way back west, we pass through Play House, which got its epithet from the Grant Road Theatre, constructed in 1846 on land donated by Nana. With this, the onus of funding entertainment moved from elite patronage to tickets sold to the hoi polloi. In 1853, it hosted its first non-English play, Vishnudas Bhave’s Ramayana, in Marathi. Raja Gopichand and Jalandhar in Hindustani and Parsi theatre’s Rustom Zabooli and Sohrab soon followed. The theatre building itself is long gone, but it cradled the aforementioned vernacular theatre movements – ancestors of the Hindi film industry as we know it today.

Tardeo

Soothe your weary feet with the assurance that your journey is almost at an end. As you descend Frere Bridge, you may ignore Sunkersett Municipal School on your left, now unrecognisable as the brick-red Door Step School. Gaze upwards at the cable-stayed hydra of the aakaashi paadchaari pul (skywalk) that crouches over Nana Chowk, home to a bust of Nana unacknowledged by motorists whizzing past. Turn right and stop for a photo-op at Bhavani Shankar Mandir. Constructed in 1806 by Nana’s father, its low, Konkan-roofed structure silently resists the oppression of the tasteless towers that hem it in. Next door is Sunkersett Mansion, an angular building that replaced another of Nana’s residences. Its grounds included a dharamshala and the Sunkersett Babulsett Charitable Dispensary founded by Nana in his father’s memory.

Bhavani Shankar Mandir 1

When we turn into Jagannath Lane opposite, you will not be surprised by the signboard claiming that East and West Villa – old, squat buildings – are property of the Shankarsett family. Nana is long gone, but his descendants and his gifts to the city live on. As you move to take your train home from Grant Road station by walking through Shankarsheth Lane – better known as Bhaji Gully – you may join millions of others before you who have sent a silent prayer of thanks to Jagannath Sunkersett and thought to themselves: ‘What a man! What a legacy! What a life!’

Photographs by Suruchi Maira

 
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The Story Of Magazine Street Kitchen

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THE STORY OF MAGAZINE STREET KITCHEN

Magazine Street Kitchen is a beautiful 2,500sqft space in Darukhana that functions as an events venue, bakery, and kitchen-on-hire. It is the brainchild of Gauri Devidayal and her husband, Jay Yousuf, along with head chef Alex Sanchez (the team behind Colaba’s popular restaurant The Table).

Magazine Street Kitchen, Gala No 13, Devidayal Compound, Near Britannia Company, Magazine Street, Gupta Mills Estate, Darukhana, Byculla (e), Mumbai 400 010. Phone: 022 2372 6708

READ MEHER MIRZA’S INTERVIEW WITH GAURI DEVIDAYAL

Beginnings

Gauri Devidayal: From the time we first saw the space to the time we opened was exactly two years. It was my dad’s old factory, one big warehouse that belonged to my dad. Honestly, the state it was in, when we saw it, I would not have had the vision to convert it into Magazine Street Kitchen, but that’s kind of Jay’s forte. It works well, we haven’t killed each other yet – he has his strength, which is the bigger vision. He is the creative ideas person and I am the execution person. Obviously, Alex had his technical inputs as well.

gauri devidayal magazine street kitchen the table

The Location

GD: I love it because it exposes people [who come for our events] to a part of Bombay they didn’t know earlier. The flip side is that you are a little off the beaten track. When you’re doing a business, you need people to come to you. We realise now that it is easily accessible, but the initial reaction was usually, “Oh, where am I?”

We were very clear that Magazine Street Kitchen is an event-driven space, so the location isn’t that much of a deal breaker. We don’t expect people to walk in, although I hope one day we can do that (once it is established enough). I think it will change, because of real estate pressures – that’s how every neighbourhood has evolved. And it’s nice to be first here.

We did take a risk for this, but it has paid off. Look what happened with Blue Frog when it opened at Todi Mills! In the beginning, everyone was like, “Oh be safe when you go there”, and now look at it today.

gauri devidayal magazine street kitchen the table

The Draw

GD: People don’t generally get to see such professional kitchens up close like this. They acquire a whole new appreciation of food as well, because they can see firsthand what’s going on. A lot of the events we host start off in the kitchen where we serve canapés and drinks. Then we move the guests upstairs for the actual dinner. Even though it is a little hotter down there than it is upstairs, people don’t mind, because it is theatre, sort of like dinner and a show.

The other thing is that when we hold workshops, we restrict them to twelve people, because the idea is that people get to use our professional equipment. I remember at the very first workshop that we did, a pasta-making workshop, people were so surprised that they could use the burners. That’s something everyone gets really excited by.

The Events

GD: The whole point about this space is that it’s purely a venue, a platform for chefs – and not just our chefs. We’re not going to do tastings of every meal and then ‘allow’ or ‘not allow’ certain chefs. It’s a blank slate.

It’s a great experience for chefs from overseas to do what they love in a new city or new country. Plus a lot of people may not want to take on a whole restaurant, but they still want to cook, and this is a great format for doing that. It also opens them up to a whole new world of diners, and you never know where that leads. Someone might say, “Hey, I want to invest in a restaurant with you”, or “Will you cater a party for me”. So it opens up avenues. Every chef has just loved working in here – it’s a fresh kitchen space where they can do whatever they want.

gauri devidayal magazine street kitchen the table

What we want to do actually maybe in June, is a farm-to-fork workshop. Right now, it is too hot to take people to our farm [in Alibag]. Instead, we thought of bringing it here. The idea would be to show people what we do with our plants but also how to tailor it to their spaces, grow it on their balconies. There’s so much you can grow at home. I have a four-year-old, and her highlight is checking to see, every morning, whether anything has sprouted. If we serve raw tomatoes in a bowl at The Table she won’t eat them, but if she goes to Alibag and sees me plucking one off the plant and putting it in my mouth, she’ll do that! And I’m like, whatever works! Just eat them!

The other interesting thing we do is shoots for TV commercials and films that need a kitchen. Here, they have enough space for their camera equipment, they can move around, they have height. They can do what they want without disrupting a restaurant’s business. It’s fun for us as well. For the Bollywood version of Chef , they replicated a New York kitchen here, and it was really fun. They needed extras, so my staff got to become a part of the movie. It was like, oh my god, this is what it takes to do five scenes in a movie!

One of the things I want to do – there’s a lot of tours in India, tourism boards that have the budgets to bring chefs that we necessarily can’t. So I want to reach out to more people and say, “Hey, there’s this space, would you want to bring anyone down?”

We’re also looking to do very high-end, niche catering, and I guess this would be the base kitchen. Eventually, I want to be at a point where the kitchen is in use every day. It’s really just a matter of time.

gauri devidayal magazine street kitchen the table

Getting to know Gauri

The City Story: What’s your favourite food movie?

GD: Like Water for Chocolate. Oh, and our opening night dinner was inspired by Big Night; we replicated the whole meal in the finale. It was meant to be a “big night” for us. There was a crazy amount of food, but it was the most incredible meal Alex has created. So for sentimental reasons, that movie also.

TCS: What do you like on your pizza?
GD: Truffle, lots and lots of mozzarella, and mushroom. I prefer vegetarian pizzas.

TCS: Favourite food city?
GD: San Francisco. New York is a close second, but San Francisco has my heart.

TCS: What gift would you take to a dinner party?
GD: Goodies from here! It’s easy, it’s a little plug, and it’s yummy.

TCS: If you had to pick between these three for a dinner companion, who would you pick – Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal, or Paula Wolfert?
GD: I would say Nigella. Even though I’m a woman, I can’t stop watching her show. And of course my husband is happy to join me! I want to meet her one day, and I want her to come here. I hope Nigella reads this. [laughs uproariously] In five years, when she visits, we will sit back and laugh about it.

 
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The Essential Guide To Combating A Hangover In Mumbai

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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO COMBATING A HANGOVER IN MUMBAI

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA

A great night out doesn’t mean you have to suffer the next day. Our guide to surviving an epic hangover has you covered. You’re welcome.

After a sybaritic night on the town, when the dank, fetid winds of hangover start blowing your way, there’s only one thing for it: Food, the cure-all, the do-over, the magic wand. If you have the strength to drag yourself from the rubble of your miserable morning-after, may I point you in the direction of these scrumptious sustaining dishes? There’s a time for fine dining but this isn’t it.

Sharda Bhavan

When you wake up with the taste of last night’s tequila still coating your tongue, there’s really only one thing that can wash it away for me, and that’s sugary, frothy, milky South Indian filter coffee. The rough, sugar hit, the walloping burn; you can be sure that a slug of the potent stuff will slick away any remnants of your hangover. Drink and then down a plate of deep-fried vada, floating in a moat of fiery rasam.

Sharda Bhavan, Lakhamsi Napoo Road, Matunga, Mumbai 400 019

Hotel Noor Mohammadi

Started in 1923 by Abdul Karim, Noor began as an early morning eatery (6 a.m.) catering to the pious Namaz offerer. Noor has a sketch by MF Husain. Noor has a dish named after Sunjay Dutt. But what Noor does best is its nalli nihari – deep, swarthy, velvet-soft thigh meat, ballasted by spice and smothered in a zesty, savoury gravy. Eaten with crisp roti and a fizzy soda, it is a killer cure for a hangover.

Hotel Noor Mohammadi, 181-183, Abdul Hakim Noor Mohammadi Chowk, Bhendi Bazar, Mumbai 400 003

Valibhai Payawala

After a torrid night, it is time for the simple pleasures of life – meat and grease. At Valibhai, the meat is cooked through the day on coal fires, dum style, until it is soft, luscious, unresisting enough to fall off the bone at the slightest nudge and dissolve into the gravy. Order the paya (trotters), the pichota (oxtail), the nalli (thigh / shanks) or the topa (neck); it doesn’t matter which. Scoop it up with the fluffy, charred tandoori rotis. Smile insouciantly. Your hangover has been vanquished.

Valibhai Payawala, 45, Gujjar Street, Bohri Mohalla, Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai 400 003

Sarvi

As a child growing up in a Parsi household, I was regularly fed kidney, brains and trotters. Which is why the bheja masala fry at Sarvi’s is a Proustian memory for me. There is something gloriously warm and emollient about the dish, something that harks back to the happiest, simplest version of myself, a time when I didn’t have to grapple with the world weariness that nips at my heels after a drunken night out.

Sarvi, Dimtikar Road, Nagpada, Byculla (w), Mumbai 400 008

 

Want home delivery options if you just can’t get out of the house and need sustenance brought to you?

RECOMMENDATIONS BY KRUTI DALAL, GENESIA ALVES, JUHI PANDE AND SHIVANI SHAH

If it’s one of those mornings where you need to wrap a pillow around your face and wear your sunglasses over it, then may we suggest you stay home and dial some delicious? Here’s a list of places that will send you exactly the sort of food that you’re craving:

Coma Coma

Burritos, empanadas and tortas with a generous helping of perfect picco de gallo is food heaven for most of us. The 15,000 km gap between Mumbai to Mexico is bridged with ease by Coma Coma.

Order online from Scootsy

Sukh Sagar

There’s nothing better than butter to battle the bitter aftereffect of beer. And no one north of the sea link uses butter better than Sukh Sagar. Crisp pao lathered with liquid gold and a creamy bhaji that could give Sardar hot competition. Fiery onion and tomato masala stuffed inside a moist bun. Golden brown dosas that snap beneath your fingertips like khakras. And then there’s the suspiciously purple, but delightfully tart cocktail juice to wash it all down. Hangover? What hangover?

Sukh Sagar, 11, Subhkammna, Mahavir Nagar, Kandivali (w), Mumbai 400 067

Oye Panjabi Kitchen

Oye Panjabi built its formidable reputation on the highway to Nasik, but you’re too drunk to drive. Stay put and order in. The delivery is efficient. The basics are excellent; maa ki daal, murgh makhani, palak paneer, dum aloo Punjabi. The kebabs seem almost too sophisticated for your average brother-trucker – cleverly seasoned, not too spicy and perfectly cooked. You could pretty much pick anything off the menu and it will be light, wholesome and actually nourishing. Just like mum used to make – without the lecture at the absolute state of you!

Order online from Scootsy or Swiggy

Swati Snacks

If you wake up feeling nauseated at even the thought of food, you need something liquid. If you’re not from the “battle a hangover with more alcohol” school of thought and it feels like good ol’ water may not do the trick, don’t despair – that’s where Swati Snacks and its life-saving coconut punch come in. Hydration: check. Energy: check (we’re pretty certain there’s much sugar in there). Taste: double delicious check (They also have sugarcane juice, limbu pani and sweet lassi if you need options).

Swati Snacks, Karai Estate, Opposite Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo, Mumbai 400 007

 
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The Healing Powers Of Camy Wafers

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THE HEALING POWERS OF CAMY WAFERS

WORDS BY MEHER MIRZA AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA

Meher Mirza tells a tale of healing a broken heart with Camy Wafers’ potato chips.

This is a story ostensibly about Camy Wafers, but it is actually a story about my poor, beleaguered heart. This story begins, say, seven years ago, when I ended my relationship with my first boyfriend for the last time. We had been together for many years, although the glue that had held us close at first had unpeeled many, many times. The fights were plentiful and long, and we careened sickeningly from one end of a torrid argument to another; it felt as though we were gliding irrevocably towards a crash, and neither of us had our hands on the steering wheel. Well of course the crash came, as we both knew it would, and it would be fair to say I crumpled completely – I cried all the time and couldn’t focus on work, on anything that was outside my cloud of grief. Worst of all, I couldn’t eat. I had become that giant cliché, a heartbroken girl.

Alarmed at my rapid weight loss and permanently red-rimmed eyes, my friends and family brought home packets of this and plates of that. My mother cooked up biryanis and dhansak and my dad came home drowning in boxes of lemon curd tarts and hazelnut chocolates, all desperate attempts to restore my flagging appetite. My colleagues took me to Kailash Parbat for pani puri and office chat, and my friends floated in and out of my house with wine and cheese and pav bhaji and hugs. Day after day swam by.

And forever and after, whenever I plunged myself into my dark cocoon, I remembered my little wafer packet, a ridiculous, absurd, embarrassing little beacon of hope.

One day, my mum phoned me at work to ask me to bring home puris from Camy. I passed the Colaba Market store every day as I motored my way to and from home, and she was going to make me a plate of sev puri that very evening. At Camy, still drenched in my miasma of misery, I bought the packet of puris. “Kucch aur chahiye?” enquired the cheery fellow behind the counter. The answer was of course, yes, I wanted many things – an unbroken heart, my boyfriend back in my life, a little peace and a lot of perspective. But I couldn’t tell this gent that. So, instead, I bought the entire store, more or less. This included: 1. Plain, salted wafers 2. Pudina wafers 3. Tomato-flavoured banana wafers 4. Cheese wafers 5. Lime-flavoured ruffled potato wafers 6. Criss-crossed sali potato wafers.

I staggered out with my burden and was immediately stymied by the lack of taxis willing to drive me home. So I walked from Colaba on towards Marine Drive, towards Babulnath, towards Peddar Road and finally home. Somewhere along the way, I tore open a packet of Camy’s plain, salted wafers (caveat: I have always loved them best of all wafers) and took a tentative nibble. I tasted every grain of salt on that beautiful skinny, crisp wafer. In fact, it was so good that I finished the entire packet by the time I had reached my building. And there, covered in tiny shattered, shards of wafer, I had a glimmer of a revelation. It had been three weeks since my break-up. I was tattered and unravelled, but I had managed to claw my way out of the gnarly thicket of my unhappiness. I have no doubt I would have reached this point anyhow, perhaps the next day, perhaps while eating a samosa in a bus or while watching Frasier. However, it was the wafers that did it this time. And forever and after, whenever I plunged myself into my dark cocoon, I remembered my little wafer packet, a ridiculous, absurd, embarrassing little beacon of hope. But a burly one nevertheless.

Camy Wafers, 5-6, Oxford House, Near Colaba Market, Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005.

In addition to its Colaba shop, Camy Wafers has shops at Gowalia Tank, Khar, Andheri, Mahim and Byculla. You can find the other locations on our map.

 
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Bhau Daji Lad Museum Is A Feast For The Keen-Eyed

SPACE
EXPERIENCE
PEOPLE
FOOD + DRINK
VIDEO

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BHAU DAJI LAD MUSEUM IS A FEAST FOR THE KEEN-EYED

WORDS BY VATSALA CHHIBBER AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA

The city’s oldest museum, Bhau Daji Lad has undergone restoration to focus on the bygone and contemporary.

A beat-up stone mammal commands the attention of our huddle. “That was one of the two elephants guarding Elephanta Island,” announces Alisha Sadikot, city historian, ace orator and curator of the Secret Museum Tour. The sixth century monolith lent the UNESCO World Heritage Site its name but is now fenced in a narrow patch of green outside the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, still bearing scars from an 1864 accident. The tusker was claimed as British loot, but, after the fatal crane crash, it was pieced together here.

Bhau Daji Lad museum, named after a Mandrem-born physician and its most effective patron, is hardly a city secret. That’s not to say it readily finds favour with tourists and locals; most travel itineraries option Prince of Wales for size and significance, and Bhau Daji Lad’s distance from the cluster of South Mumbai galleries makes it a bit of an inconvenience on art trails. The real secret of this tour is in the stories – of a younger, spiffier Bombay, echoed throughout the museum grounds. Over the next 90 minutes, Sadikot, with iPad assistance, directs an immersive telling of the city’s childhood. This includes the shifting fates of the museum’s present neighbourhood Byculla, a former swamp that transformed into the residence of the elite until the 19th century plague scared away its populace, leaving it bare for mills and migrants. Before we pile into the museum building for the main leg of the tour, Sadikot signals to the original Kala Ghoda, an equestrian statue of King Edward VII that was moved from its high pedestal in Colaba to the adjoining Byculla Zoo (a fitting demotion, reasoned nationalists).

Even the colour on its walls, a peculiar slime-green, was carefully considered – a British architect claimed this exact shade would stimulate the appreciation of art.

Originally christened Victoria & Albert in 1872, the city’s oldest museum was a shameless exhibitionist. Its gilded pillars, handsome marble statues (cameras can’t get enough of King Albert) and six-feet-deep Minton tiles drew thick crowds to the Palladian structure. Even the colour on its walls, a peculiar slime-green, was carefully considered – a British architect claimed this exact shade would stimulate the appreciation of art. Decades later, the museum ran into decay. Worn and forgotten with its insides hanging loose, it took an impressive restoration project between 2003 and 2008 to bring the historic structure back in shape. Now, with its touched-up interiors, a glossy new wing in the works, an acute focus on contemporary art, an inspiring film programme and a digital presence on the Google Art Project, the museum has no trouble staying relevant.

If I’ve somehow managed to convince you to head through its doors, here’s a little disclaimer: it’s easy to be underwhelmed by the permanent displays at Bhau Daji Lad. If, like me, you can’t develop an instant and authentic fondness for 18th century relics, don’t skip the audio guide, or just tag along for the museum’s weekend tours. But even without the literature, Bhau Daji Lad is a feast for the keen-eyed. The delicious architecture is loaded with Easter eggs, like the V&A symbol set in the wrought iron railings or the Star of David patterned across the curved ceiling, a hat tip to museum’s Jewish sponsor, David Sassoon. The laconic description tags don’t reward lazy viewing, so let your nose rest on the glass cabinets a while. Soon, you’ll recognise irregularities in the sculptures it holds – goddess Parvati in Renaissance drapery, for instance, is one good-looking marriage of western aesthetics and Indian craft.

Originally christened Victoria & Albert in 1872, the city’s oldest museum was a shameless exhibitionist.

For more effortless entertainment, weave through the rows of clay miniatures on the museum’s first floor. Its depictions of local communities are so helplessly facile that you’ll forgive them with a chuckle, even the odd “madrasi couple” that solely represents the city’s South Indian demographic. Keep an eye out for the heavily moustached “Thug”, an appellation worn by a tribe of Kali-worshipping bandits before its hip-hop reign.

The tour doesn’t end with the museum’s permanent displays though – at Bhau Daji Lad, you never know what’s for dessert. In its Special Projects Area, I found an ongoing exhibition on Chamba Rumals, a beautiful and fading embroidery technique from Himachal Pradesh that mirrors exact designs on both sides of a fabric.

On my way out, past a row of Raj-era officials and a withered Queen Victoria, I’m surprised at how foreign Mumbai feels in that moment. We’ve been having some trouble lately, the city and I, our relationship dulling with every wash cycle of habit and routine. Perhaps wearing the curiosity of a tourist at home, awkward as it may be, is as crucial as chasing surprises deep in rural China.

Outside the museum café, arguing over lunch options with a friend, I’m almost ashamed to admit I settled on my first South Indian meal in Matunga.

We might have a few years left.

Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Veer Mata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan (Rani Baug), 91/A, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road, Byculla (e), Mumbai 400 027. Phone: 022 2373 1234

 
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