Sunday, 22 September 2013

“Those were the days, my friend .....''

‘’Those were the days,my friend, we thought they’d never end, we’ll singand dance for ever and again so sang MaryHopkins,not so long ago.Yes, those were the days, the simple pleasures of life one enjoyed in good old Bombay. The Sunday morning jam sessions at the popular disco Venice opposite Eros Theatre,which was also a night club where Biddu,known as The Lone  Trojan belted songs of The Beatles, Trini Lopez, and other popular numbers and The Ritz which was also much frequented and popular for its conventional music and dancing. Sunday morning jam sessions were packed with teenagers as well as oldies. Age no bar. After a morning show either at Strand theatre or Eros, making way towards Venice was only natural. As sometimes the sessions began at 2 Pm. Really don’t recollect how we managed the finances but we always did manage within the group, with eats and colas as well. Life was uncomplicated, no strings attached just permission needed from home which was given readily. Mind you we did get home on time. Thus we worked hard to win over the confidence of our parents. Life was fun.

Image Credit : Biddus Orchestra Niravna Vinyl Cover from here 

Sometimes for a change we went to hear Usha Iyer (Utthap) sing in her deep throated voice at The Talk Of The Town the catchy numbers of the time. We loved the lyrics she composed impromptu which she sang accompanied by lovely tunes. I recollect she composed a song on the lambretta which had just come into the market, at the snap of the fingers and soon we were swaying to its catchy tune and amazing lyrics. Such was her spontaneity. Unbelievable but true a couple of years ago when I met her at an event in Bangalore, I dared to ask her whether she remembered singing a song about a lambretta and guess what she was humming the tune!

Image Credit click here

Image Credit click here

Eating delicious pastries and oven fresh mutton patties at Gourdon (which was near the current Asiatic department store) was a treat so also occasionally a buffet lunch at The Taj which was just Rs 50! Well how much can one eat. For the perpetual hungry collegians could anything be better than this. I know 50 bucks then was a lot of money. But splurging on eating those luxurious items  was like a new  lease on life. The famous Gaylord restaurant was also popular in its heyday with mouthwatering fare and continental food. The cream rolls and mutton patties at Marosa Bakery were a must when in Fort area. So popular was it that the owner once told us that Raj Kapoor used to visit it very often, travelling all the way from the suburbs. The fish and chips from Victory Stall  near Gateway of India, run by the Womens’ Wing of the Times And Talents Club was also on the agenda. How can one overlook another famous fish and chips stall beside the Taraporewala Aquarium.    

Image Credit : Million Mile Secrets

Image Credit: Wiki

Those were the  days when some of the prominent buildings like the Victoria Terminus, the Municipal Building, the Times Of India  were lit up to the tee during the Republic Day.Lorries would be organized by  (still don’t know) the residents I suppose of different colonies, at night, to go around South Bombay for viewing the lights. I remember going on one such tour with a group - most of them who were Parsees from Parsee Colony  and Christians and a few Gujarati families. Everyone was loaded with food which was exchanged and gorged till not a morsel was left. New friends were made without any qualms and addresses were exchanged for the organizing the same for the next year. En route there was much bonhomie, screaming, singing and cracking jokes. Honestly till minutes ago one did not know a soul and in the next there was embracing and laughter.There were no traffic cops to man the route nor any security since the return was always scheduled for early morning. Today this would be unheard of in the maze of traffic Bombay has developed over the years. With hardly any traffic in the mornings, skating down Marine Drive was sheer delight. The wind whipping into your face. It was a thrilling and an exhilarating experience as well.

A ride on the tram and atop a double decker bus admiring the city view was equally pleasurable. Long distance journeys by train were always exciting. One looked forward to the journey. The trains were spick and span and travelling by first class or in a coupe was a luxury where personalized service by the railways was assured. Linen was clean and starched stiff. Waiters in starched uniforms lurked around the compartments, however much you wished to ignore them, waiting for you to give them the orders for the next meal. Breakfast was on request “eggs to order” – the typical “ferang way”. I guess the colonial influence had still not rubbed off. Railway platforms were clean and were washed every day. Minimum tea stalls occupied the platform. Only tea and sandwiches were sold. The concept of vada - pau and other accompaniments was non-existent. The waiting rooms and toilets were clean and were fit for sleeping in case you were catching an early morning train or a late night train. Just like the railway platforms, the roads in Bombay were washed every day.
Hence walking was a pleasure. Eating was a pleasure In short living in Bombay was a pleasure.

Image Credit: Wiki

No doubt a burgeoning population and intra - migration has made inroads into Bombay’s undeveloped infrastructure but at least we can keep the city uncluttered and safe and make normal and everyday life saner!    

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bombay Duck - Love it or Hate it - Can't ignore it!

The Bombay Duck or ‘Bombil’ or ‘’Gatagte’’ as it is locally called is Bombay’s most loved fish. It is believed that it acquired its name in the days of the Raj, from being transported on a train The Bombay Daak. The term was then referred to as duck and has since remained. According to references Robert Clive first coined the name after he had tasted it for the first time.The Daak (newspaper) smelt of Bombay Duck as it has a distinct sharp, strong, smell.  

Image Coutesy :Wiki

It is found in the city’s coastal waters especially during the monsoon.The Bombay Duck  can be described as a lizard – like fish in shape   having a thin, longish transparent body,pinkish in colour and a considered a relish at any dining table offering coastal cuisine.  It is native to the waters between Kutch in the Arabian Sea and found in small proportions in the Bay of Bengal. Not every fish lover has acquired a taste for Bombay Duck. And many run away  from its smell. Its versatility can be seen by the different ways it can be cooked. Curried fried, in the form of fritters or dried. It is a delicate fish hence care should be taken so as not to overcook it .
When curried, a Maharashtrian special requires minimum effort as once it’s marinated, its soft flesh cooks on its own steam. The charm of eating it is when it does not break.Dried Bombay duck is equally tasty. On fishless days one can have a dried Bombay duck which is already salted and dried months before with soft rice (In Marathi my mother-tongue and the language of the original  inhabitants of  Bombay such a soft boiled rice is  called Kheemat) or made into a chutney with spices to be had with Bhakri (Indian bread) or curd rice.

Image Courtesy :Indianfoodbazaar

You can also remove the bone from a fresh Bombay duck  (a single one in the centre) and press it down with a weight, removing the water and frying  it in a tasty batter ------Bombay duck fritters are surely to die for. You can eat several of them  washing them down with a few beers and feni.

I recall the days when the ‘kolin’ (Marathi) 'masliwalli' (Marathi) or 'macchiwali'(Hindi) or the fisher-woman used to go from house to house with a basket of fish on her head carrying a variety of fish but we yearned to hear her call only for ‘bombil ghya,swaste ani taaje bombil’,( Marathi for - 'Buy fresh and cheap Bombay duck) only then was there a flurry of activity.All housewives would literally lean from their balconies waving frantically for the mere glimpse  of this precious personality to emerge from wherever and avail of the first pick.Then would begin the haggling Lovers of Bombay duck would buy not in kilos but in vatas , as they call in Marathi  ( a measure ) but the quantity that constituted one vata was always questionable.Naturally arguments would follow.Finally the sale would be completed with both parties contented.
Which were the communities that relished the Bombay Duck - the Maharashtrians,the Parsees,the Anglo Indians and the Goans. I remember  the days while returning by train from college the topic always centered around fish  especially  the Bombay Duck,in the ladies compartment. Each of them would compare prices in their own locality and the quantity sold vis-a-vis the prices at the fish market.Many of them would buy them from Sassoon Dock cheaply and then gloat  over the reaction of others.Such was the popularity of the fish . How can one forget the fisher-women crowding the second class ladies compartment with their fish baskets  and literally spreading themselves . And the prim  and neatly turned out office ladies turning up their noses at the smell emanating from the baskets as well as their clothes.The fisher-woman would  pass a rude comment while the demure ladies held their breath or put handkerchiefs to their noses.his gesture would further infuriate the ''kolin's'' in the bargain and then would start the abuses and the fights  . This is so typical of the Bombay  fisher-women. You cannot mess  with them!!      

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Irani Cafe - series of 3 posts

I have turned guest blogger on a blog called Sliceoffme written by Manjiri who is a food and travel blogger.
My first guest post is part of a series of 3 articles on Irani Cafes in Bombay.

Here's the link to the first in the series:

The next post in the series is about two interviews Manjiri and I conducted with Agha and his daughters who own and run Cafe' Colony at Dadar Hindu Colony.

Shall share the links to the other two blog posts here as soon as they are up.

11th Sept'13

After a brilliant day in London with Manjiri at the London Review book store am looking forward to reading the books I purchased from this book store which is opposite the British Museum near Russell Square.
While I settle in with my cuppa and start reading ''The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable'' by Carol Baxter (Did you know that its' about the  first ever electric telegraph message sent in the world?) why don'y you read up my next post on Sliceoffme , it's an interview with Agha - the owner of a crumbling old Irani Cafe in Bombay city called Cafe Colony -

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