‘Once you live in Mumbai, no place else will ever be good enough.’
I feel exactly the same way about Bandra – Queen of Mumbai’s Suburbs. Having lived most of my life here, I have seen Bandra undergo a metamorphosis into the thriving, contemporary suburb it is today. But the Bandra I knew and grew up in was different. It was not the hipster Bandra filled with clubs and high rises we know now. It was slow, lackadaisical and relaxed. It was filled with tiny bylanes and arterial roads flanked with picturesque bungalows on either sides.
The roads now are either dug up or saturated with traffic at all times. The roads then were sparsely covered by automobiles, so much so that we spent summer afternoons playing cricket on the streets. The houses now are modern sky scrapers and high buildings. The houses then were heritage bungalows and ancestral homes. The restaurants now serve modern, world cuisine that encourages foodies from all across the city to dine here. The restaurants then were small cafes run by locals, mom and pop establishments, and bakeries with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through.
The only thing constant in life is change, and that holds true for our city as well. But there are still a few pockets in Bandra even today, that are clutching onto the past. You can still find old bungalows, locals selling snacks and condiments, and streets that are picturesque as always in certain parts of Bandra. Which is the motivation behind my #BandraByFoot initiative, where my mother and I take fellow Bandra lovers on a heritage walk to explore Bandra of the yore.
The Houses: Bandra bylanes are filled with some beautiful bungalows and small cottages, a few of them dating back to almost a century. A few are deserted, and fragile – a strong gush of air can bring these homes tumbling down. Only residents that remain here are ghosts of the past. Many homes still remain inhabited, their residents peeking out of their windows with half curiosity – half pride while you admire their structures.
The ‘village square’ in Ranwar depicts the susegaad life – a space where children would come together to play, uncles would gather to discuss the headlines, and aunties would gossip about neighborhood romances.
The Roads: We continue to lose the roads to traffic, redevelopment and digging activity due to BMC work. The roads here are so narrow that you can stretch an arm out of your window, and into the window of your neighbor opposite. It is on these roads that you’ll find some of the best graffiti this city has to offer. As a part of a Bandra beautification project a lot of artists have come together to create beautiful art work on the walls.
The Food: I consider myself lucky to still be able to eat the mutton pan rolls from Kalpana Snack mart. Or the kebabs and khichda from Bohri owned caterers Jeff. (Or his estranged brother’s catering company Saife.) Or buy masalas and snacks from Olly’s home in Bandra bazaar. Of course, this depends on his mood and whether he has had time to cook.
There is a treasure trove of East Indian snacks just waiting to be devoured – pan rolls, potato chops, flaky puffs and patti samosas. Let me not forget the fugias – sweet, deep fried, dough balls – at Kalpana that get sold out the minute they’re kept on display. Apart from the East Indian fare on offer, you’ll also find Bohri snacks and dishes – a tribute to the Bohri Muslim community of old Bandra.
The Market: Just like any marketplace, Bandra bazaar is a amalgamation of chaos, colour, and sound. But what really makes this market special for us, is the people. Like the fruit vendor who complains about his wife thrashing him every time his business is down. (I don’t believe him though. I think it’s an excellent way to stop me from bargaining with him.) Or the banana seller who is my grandfather’s age, but still sits out in the sun doing his business inspite of aches and pains. Or the old gentleman who hands out copies of his self published newspaper called Bandra Times from his porch. I could go on….
There’s also the really famous Jaffson Masala who makes every sort of masala and pickle imaginable from the confines of his home. His is a beautiful story – a bus driver’s son who started making pickles along with his mother to support their family. You’ll find hundreds of such stories in the market, along with a fresh supply of groceries.
How can you be a part of the #BandraByFoot initiative?
- Come along with us on our montly heritage walk, where we explore Bandra’s hidden bylanes, dine at hole in the wall joints that you may not find on Zomato, and interact with the locals.
- Post pictures and stories of Bandra’s rich history and culture on social media using the hashtag #BandraByFoot.
By doing both of the above we hope to nurture and preserve the little bit of history and culture that we have remaining in Bandra even today. Because very few suburbs in the city demonstrate history as rich as Bandra does.
(Fun Fact: Did you know that St. Andrew’s Church on Hill Road is older than the Taj Mahal?)