Victorian Grandeur Meets Railway Memorabilia At The CST Railway Museum

railway museum


Inside the stunning CST building is the Railway Museum, which chronicles the history of the Indian railways. Travel back in time via vintage copies of the Bombay Times, see reproductions of the original design for the building, and explore trains through the miniature models on display. The guided tour runs from Monday to Friday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Last tickets are available at 5 p.m. Entry is Rs. 200 per person.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Fort, Mumbai 400 001.


The red locomotive is the first thing that catches your eye. The nondescript, partially open gate a few feet ahead of Central Railways courtyard merits no special attention from a city on the move. But despite being slave to its schedules for half of one’s life, a quick peek into the glorious railway edifice can halt you in your tracks.

Just past the red locomotive is where the tour to the CSMT Museum begins. The gallery inside chronicles the history of the Indian railways from the inception of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company to the first train in 1853 that steamed off from Bori Bunder (CSMT) to Tanneh (Thane) with 400 passengers. Chugging back to the 1900s, the photographs on the walls feature steam engines, electric units, the Punjab Mail to Pakistan, the Calcutta Mail, and the Deccan Queen with its dining car and a “ladies only” coach. There are miniature models for aficionados, not just of the coaches but also of the entire heritage structure.

You can travel back in time via vintage copies of the Bombay Times featuring timetables on the front pages. A first-class ticket to Byculla would cost you a grand sum of six annas; worth it, if you could travel in those coaches, with leather chairs that are straight out of a haughty men’s club, air blue with cigar smoke. You’re introduced to the old-style ticket punching machine and signalling system, which required assistants to punch cards and deliver them to the drivers before the trains could move.

In the glass cabinet are reproductions of Frederick William Stevens’s original design for the building. The Victorian Gothic Revival structure took a decade to construct, and its Italian marble and granite columns, teak wood doors, and grand staircase were recently restored. Its first visitors, when it opened in 1888, would have seen what you see – squinches that carve out an octagon, stained glass, and the magnificent dome. You’ll struggle to capture it all in a single frame, but you’ll keep trying until the guide walks past and you have no option but to play catch up. 

railway museum

On the first floor, the vintage aura dissipates to accommodate the familiar lethargy of government offices. This is, after all, the headquarters of the Central Railways, and the nameplates, whitewashed walls, and sheafs of papers lead you to the Star Chamber and its serpentine queues for tickets. The Italian marble columns are faded here, but the stars on the ceiling still shine bright if you look up from the ATVM machines and ticket booths. It’s a view as beautiful as the one from one of the four porches from where you take in the Capitol, the BMC building, and the eddies of traffic outside.

Behind the walls made of sandstone brought from Porbunder in Gujarat is the peacock arch that is festooned with grotesques. In this version of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, rendered in stone, you’ll find rats, alligators, snakes, and eagles. There’s a lion playing catch and an owl peering over the courtyard. Pastoral elements show up as well; roses, grape vines, and flowers drape over the arches. 

railway museum

We walk up to the second floor still trying to capture that incredible dome, but this is a great vantage point to see the Lady of Progress atop the dome outside, a torch in one hand and a wheel in another. There’s also the gryphon to ward off evil. You’ll also find the old statue of Queen Victoria, dethroned after the terminus was renamed in honour of the Maratha ruler Shivaji in 1996. When you walk back down to the courtyard, your back to the selfie taking tourists, you will find the bas-relief portraits of founders, directors and important personnel, among them J. Shankarseth and J. Jejeebhoy.

The entire structure is a confluence of British and Indian aesthetic and symbolism. A tiger (for India) and a lion (for British) stand guard at the gate, and the coat of arms features an elephant along with the British flag. The left facade also bears small portraits representing 16 different Indian communities. The closer you look, the more you’re likely to find, each nook a rabbit hole to new references.

As with the bustle of the terminus, the guided tour of its interiors entails being scuttled around up and down, plied with rushed anecdotes, without much pause for soaking in the atmosphere.

Change tracks, linger on after the tour, and retrace the trail once again to really appreciate what you’ve seen. Then you can walk into the Star Chamber and become part of the unseeing crowd again.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira

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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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Feast On Gujarati Food At Shree Thaker Bhojanalay

shree thaker bhojanalay


Shree Thaker Bhojanalay is a restaurant in South Mumbai that is famous for its Gujarati thali. It was established in 1945 and serves hundreds of thalis daily. The restaurant is closed on Monday evenings.
Shree Thaker Bhojanalay, Building No. 31, Dadiseth Agiyari Lane, Gaiwadi, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002. Phone: 022 2201 1232


The afternoon sun propels us along ancient lanes, bound by genes, hunger, and anticipation. Brother-1 has primed his stomach by skipping breakfast. Brother-2 asks, “Are we there yet?” I plod deeper into Kalbadevi, stupefied by the summer heat. It is The Sister who spots the Gujarati signboard: Shree Thaker Bhojanalay.
Up a staircase, past a blackboard announcing the day’s menu, and onto a bench facing the inner courtyard of an old, old building, we await our turn. This better be good, growls my stomach.
When our name is called, we charge into the blissfully air-conditioned dining hall, drool dangling from the corners of our lips. Probably.
Let us not waste words on ambience. There are tables. And chairs.
But the plates, the plates! Do you remember the scene from Jodhaa Akbar in which Jodhaa supervises the cooking of a vegetarian repast for Akbar and his court, served in what looks like a giant tray for each person? I count 11 – eleven! – vaatis on each thali. If I pop into the kitchen, will I be surprised to find Aishwarya Rai stirring a gargantuan cauldron of kadhi? No.
We are soon awash in the largesse of our servers’ ladles. First, they anoint our Giant Eating Surfaces with myriad chutneys; pakodis, snow-white dhokla, and the bafflingly named Veg Salonis then tumble in. Dollops of aam ras, doodhpaak, and chanaa dal halwa land with the flip of a wrist. Homemade portions of moong, aloo, bhindi, and some version of gatte ki sabzi rest in their receptacles, but not for long. Just as we are about to tear into our puris, bajra bhakris, and makai ki rotis, a server deluges our plates with a second avalanche of starters. Only at Shree Thaker, No doesn’t mean No.

At Shree Thaker, there is something – and lots of it – for everyone.

We feast in silence, pacing ourselves according to burps; talking takes time away from savouring this wholesome meal. Brother-1 unbuckles his belt. Brother-2 has eaten his way into a stupor and wants some coffee to perk himself up into eating more. I accept no more than a tablespoon (or three) of masoor pulao; rice – that old encroacher of the gastrium – will not impinge upon my efforts to consume my body weight in hot, sweet, nourishing Gujarati dal. Chicken soup is for coughs and colds; Gujarati dal is forever.
Entertainment is provided by a devilish server who, once he realises that The Sister detests ghee, materialises out of thin air from time to time and flings a spoonful of the offending liquid onto her steaming khichdi. “I’m being ragged”, she wails. It’s true; ragged with love.
The unlimited thali is a panacea to all the problems of modern dining: too many options, conflicting tastes, overpriced but middling fare, and portions insufficient for more than one-and-a-quarter persons. Brother-1’s appetite is a black hole, The Sister is allergic to garam masala, and the number of vegetables Brother-2 refuses to ingest is not insignificant. But at Shree Thaker, there is something – and lots of it – for everyone.
I would like to marry into the family that runs this fine eating-house. If they are reading this: pranaam to my future in-laws. I can cook and sew.
Photographs by Suruchi Maira 
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Buy Fresh, Organic Food At The Bandra Farmers’ Market

farmers market


The weekly Farmers’ Market at D’Monte Park is an excellent place to find fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. You can also buy organic cakes, regular coffee, juice, lassi, and other fresh foods from local producers and suppliers. The market takes place every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Farmers’ Market, D’Monte Park, Next to Bandra Gymkhana, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050.


On the spring equinox in March 2010, we went to the first ever Farmers’ Market in Mumbai. In the tiny, cruddy park attached to the Bandra Hindu Association (Khar), we warned my small girls away from the rusty swings and walked in to see what we could buy.

It was a bare-bones set up – stalls, farmers, fruit, vegetables. I can’t remember if they were selling those jute bags yet, but there were some serious posers – sun hats, sun glasses, white linen – smoking cigarettes in the corner just in case you missed the point.

There was also an organic candyfloss man! My then 4-year-old, seriously allergic to artificial colour, ate her first cotton candy ever that morning and proceeded in absolute ecstasy to wipe her hands all over my pregnant belly.

It’s been 8 years since, and the Farmers’ Market has grown and evolved and travelled, from the Bandra Hindu Association to Maharashtra Nature Park to Bhalla House to where it sits today, in lovely D’Monte Park in Bandra.

Bandra Farmer's Market_002

Kavita Mukhi, author of this weekly wonder and the woman who started Conscious Foods, who brought the slow food movement to us. She still walks around like a wood sprite – ageless and beautiful (and very intimidating despite how tiny she is). She has worked tirelessly and selflessly – there at every single market, explaining organic certifications, raising an eyebrow at people who bargain, making sure the farmers are treated well, the other vendors are relevant, and sometimes offering you a ridiculous hat made of newspaper. (I wore it out of sheer fear respect.)

There is more space now, and tables to sit at and eat at or gawk while musicians perform. A buying system was set up that involves baskets, coupons, and queues. The posers are far outnumbered by very serious organic produce consumers who will jostle and elbow you in some survival-of-the-fittest routine. There is a selection of fresh food; local bakeries present organic cakes, regular coffee, juice, lassi, brands of kombucha, delicious Indian treats like khichdi or pakoras or idlis but made with healthy alternatives like barley, millet, or red rice. Packaged organic domestic supplies, mosquito repellents, dried food are available. For a while, you could buy the eggs of the absolute on-trend Kadaknath chickens.

Every week, the market shape-shifts a little in terms of what extras are on sale, but it remains the best place to buy organic, in-season fruit, vegetables, herbs, and the best broccoli you will ever eat.

My small girls are now teens who are too cool for the market, but the now 7-year-old runs around dodging the marigolds strewn on the lawn, looking for the turkeys and geese that strut around D’Monte Park. I nod at an odd woman who, seeing me buy two large pineapples, asks if I can clean and cut them. She is as impressed as if I was smoking a cigarette, wearing a sunhat.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira
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The Green Guide To Parks In Chembur

SPACE EXPERIENCE PEOPLE FOOD + DRINK VIDEO chembur parks gardens green spaces



For the longest time, Chembur was synonymous with the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizer factory as well as the Bharat Petroleum refinery – industries that made this suburb a veritable asthma trigger. Over the years, the suburb has seen the suspended particulate matter (that creates some spectacular sunsets in this area) get countered by expanding green spaces.

Apart from the tree-lined boulevards that offer a contrast to the concrete, Chembur is also home to over 30 green spaces and parks. Some are public, others are private, and some are unfortunately named Bum Bum, Papu, and Chimni. Each of them is a landmark in its own right and a verdant haven for residents. While there are too many parks to give each its own write-up, here are some of the best places to get your green fix in Chembur.

RCF Colony

For 50 years, the Trombay-based Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers township and factory (spread over 765 acres) have been a quintessential part of Chembur. Next to the Shivaji statue, however, is the entrance to the residential area that offers a sight for sore eyes with its tree-lined avenues, parks, and a full-sized sports stadium. While the RCF colony is for residents only, you can venture inside for an evening walk and cover the 2km from the entry to exit gates in under 40 minutes. Once inside, you feel instantly transported to a smaller town, or as if you are walking in Mumbai’s more famous green spaces like IIT Bombay or Aarey Colony.

RCF Colony, Chembur (e), Mumbai 400 071

rcf colony chembur

Diamond Garden/NG Acharya Udyan

Drawing in morning walkers, senior citizens, outdoor gym aficionados, and dog walkers, Diamond Garden is Chembur’s most famous garden. It boasts of a GNAT MK1 E325 fighter jet flown by two pilots from Mumbai, which was part of the Winged Arrow squadron in the IAF since 1962 and fought Pakistani F100 Super Sabres in the Indo-Pak 1971 war. The plane was returned to the Mayor of Mumbai in 1989 and is now housed in this garden, marking it out as a real landmark.

Apart from jogging and walking tracks, the garden also has an open-air gym for people who want to train outdoors and a massive indoor gazebo for those seeking refuge from the heat or concrete outside. With plenty of benches, Diamond Garden often makes an alternative meeting point to coffee shops. Curiously enough, a sign on the gate says that school and college children are not allowed in the garden – presumably during the day or unaccompanied by parents, because during the evenings it transforms into a children’s playground with portable merry-go-rounds adding to the see-saws, swing-sets, and slides inside. Street food carts selling all kinds of chaat congregate outside to cater to evening walkers who may be feeling peckish. The garden is right at the intersection of Sion Trombay Road and Central Avenue, which can make it busy and noisy, especially during peak traffic hours.

Diamond Garden (NG Acharya Udyan), VN Purav Marg, Chembur (e), Mumbai 400 071. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

diamond garden chembur

DK Sandu Udyan

DK Sandu Udyan is a smaller garden that’s right next to Joy Hospital and flanked by the popular Nandu Wada Pav & Saroj Sweets. Featuring a walking track and a kids’ play area with a massive gazebo offering shade for visitors, this one is primarily for the families or office goers who want a quiet place to grab a quick bite. Most visitors are likely to recognise this park as another landmark roundabout in Chembur en route to the Sion Trombay Road.

DK Sandu Udyan, Next to Joy Hospital, Chembur (e), Mumbai 400 071. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Chimni Garden/Swatantrya Sainik Udyan

Chimni Garden is slightly removed from the bustle and sounds of the Sion Trombay Road. It is noticeably quieter and cooler in this part of the suburb, and you can find couples usually grabbing some quiet downtime here along with students gathered to finish their homework together or groups of old men playing cards. It also has the usual park appendages: from a walking track and outdoor gym to benches (with sunshades) and seating. However, it is usually the start of a longer walking route up-and-down the tree-lined Aloysius Soares Marg, where the garden is located. Walkers tend to circle the garden and walk around the edge of the adjacent Golf Course.

Chimni Garden (Swatantrya Sainik Udyan), Borla, Union Park, Chembur (e), Mumbai 400 071. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Chembur Green Spaces_003

Gandhi Maidan

If you’re a serious fitness buff or signed up to one of the city’s running clubs, chances are you’ve woken up at 5 a.m. to get to Gandhi Maidan for a training session. This ground plays host to running groups as well as sports training for kids run by the Chembur chapter of the YMCA. Summer holidays are usually the peak season for these camps (the centre offers sports like basketball, volleyball, football, roller skating and kabaddi), which start in April and continue after-school beyond.  The best time to work out here is early in the morning when the crowd is sparser and the temperature is cooler. While mornings are for joggers, the daytime or evenings usually finds it packed with kids playing various sports. At times, the ground also doubles up as an exhibition venue.

Gandhi Maidan, Plot No.155, D. Saraswati Marg, Mahadeo Wadi, Chembur (e), Mumbai 400 071

Chembur Green Spaces_006

Bombay Presidency Golf Club

Editor’s note: This is a private space with restricted access, but because of its size and importance in Chembur’s landscape, we couldn’t simply ignore it.

For all practical purposes, the Bombay Presidency Golf Club (BPGC) forms the lungs of Chembur. Started in 1927 as The New Club, it was built on nearly 100 acres of land reclaimed from Sewree and leased from the Port Trust. Over time some of this area was repurposed for Sindhi refugees who arrived post partition. Today with 18 holes spread across 6148 yards, it is a fairly demanding golf course – the catch is it is for members only, reportedly with a 10-year enrolment at Rs. 35 lakhs and a long waiting list to get in.  If you happen to know a member or are a card-carrying member of the Indian Golf Union, you could play a round on this course.

Bombay Presidency Golf Club, Chembur Govandi Road, Chembur (e), Mumbai 400 071


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Tracing The Legacy of Jagannath Sunkersett

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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Cutting Edge Chai At Taj Mahal Tea House

 taj mahal tea house bandra


Taj Mahal Tea House is, as the name suggests, a tea house. Located in an old bungalow in Bandra, the space is beautifully designed by The Busride Studio in warm, inviting tones that make you want to linger over your cup of tea. You can also purchase their tea from the small shop inside the tea house.
Taj Mahal Tea House, 36/A, Sanatan Pereira Bungalow, St. John Baptist Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 022 2642 0330 


The first thing you notice about Taj Mahal Tea House is how pretty it is. Ochre walls with framed art, blue flowers, and turquoise, patterned accent tiles. Cane furniture, vintage wooden tables with marble tops, indigo and white cushions. The homey feel is intensified by the fact that it occupies the ground floor of an old bungalow in Bandra.
The tea house is owned by Hindustan Unilever – its full name is Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House – which is in no way a deterrent. Mumbai may be shying away from corporate to embrace young, independent brands, but Taj Mahal Tea House is proof that there is room for both.
Most of the flavours here are ones you aren’t likely to blend at home. Mint is passé (although available for those who like to play it safe); curry leaves, coconut, even paan flavoured teas make you wonder just how versatile the little tea-leaf is. And if you’re a coffee drinker who’s been dragged here by a tea-loving friend, you needn’t fret – there may be just two coffee options for you, but they’re just as good as anything your friend will order.
Whatever you decide to drink, pair it with their buttery brun maska served with seasonal jam. I broke a no bread-no sugar rule for it during a Very Important Work Meeting, and I have no shame in saying I tuned out from business talk while eating it. There might even have been soft murmurs of appreciation as I not-so-gracefully devoured it. Caffeine and carbs always come first, and they’re both absolutely delicious here.
Photograph by Suruchi Maira 
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