Day 8: A Fun Day

What is a fun day made up of? Well, good food for one. Good company for another. Some shopping doesn’t hurt either–everyone needs retail therapy once in a while!

Christmas day last year was surely one such fun day. We decided on a whim that the day  was as good as any to explore the famed Irani cafes of Mumbai. Some furious googling led us to zero in upon Brittania cafe in the Wakefield House, Ballard Estate. Within half an hour we were on the local train to VT–err okay CST (One cannot be too careful after the trouble those two girls got into over a facebook status update last year)

Anyway, the cafe is a ten minutes walk from the CST and we found it easily enough. And what a quaint little place, brim-full of old-world-charm! High ceilings held vintage fans that whirred gently overhead. The turquoise plaster on the walls could do with a fresh coat of paint.

A huge painting of Queen Elizabeth II hung alongside an equally huge painting of Mahatma Gandhi. Above both of them was a painting of the Parsi prophet Zarathustra. The unlikely trio serve as  a pointer to the Cafe’s Parsi heritage, it’s origins at a time when the Raj was at it’s peak, and ultimately it’s Indian-ness.

We were waiting for the food that we had ordered to arrive when the owner of the cafe, a ninety-something, ramrod-straight, chatty old man, who makes it a point to go to every table and  talk to the customers, came to us. (Maybe that is the reason why the cafe is open only four hours from 12 to 4 PM–how much walking and talking can you expect a man his age to do?)  He greeted us with much warmth, inquired about our order and fished out several laminated photographs and letters to show us. His most prized possessions appeared to be a letter from Prince Charles and another with the Windsor Castle letterhead from the Queen’s chief of staff . I found his fixation with all things British amusing and suitably anachronistic.

The food, on its part, was just fabulous. We ordered for dessert the caramel custard this cafe is much famous for. The husband and I loved it but the kids didn’t, which suited us just fine because we both got an extra bowl to tuck into 😉

On our way out, we ran into Soli Sorabjee, the former attorney general of India. We went up to him and shook hands with him, and he seemed pleasantly surprised at being recognized. I told him he was on TV every other night, at which he only smiled .

Next on our agenda was the Girgaon Chowpatty, just ahead of the Marine Drive. It is not really a great beach but any combination of sun, sea and sand does fine for the kids, apparently. Watching kids have fun is a lot of fun by itself 🙂

An hour later, we took a cab to the Flora Fountain, which really is my favourite place in Mumbai, not just because of the awesome colonial-style buildings all around it but also because of the booksellers that line the pavements! After a lot of haggling, I managed to buy  The Zoya Factor by Anuja Chouhan, The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri and A Feast of Roses by Indu Sunderesan for all of Rs. 500! How wonderful is that! Meanwhile the husband and elder daughter combed through the piles of children’s books and picked a couple of them, which prompted younger daughter to grumble,” When will I be able to read these books?” In no time at all, we assured her.

I was grinning from ear to ear as we walked to the CST to go back home. If you’re happy and you know it then your face should surely show it, as the song goes!

This entry was posted in Blogathon January 2014 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Day 8: A Fun Day

  1. That must have been a memorable evening.
    It brought back boyhood memories for me.

    I was born in Bombay (Oops! Mumbai) and spent the first 18 years of my life there, living in Kings Circle area of Matunga behind Aurora Cinema. I did my schooling at Don Bosco and later attended Elphinstone College before my engineering studies at Pilani in Rajasthan.

    We had an Irani restaurant attached to Aurora Cinema called Cafe Blitz and I remember, going there for tea at 10 pm so that we could stay awake till late in the night to study for our exams.

    500 Ruppes for three books?
    Gosh! I used to buy books like those for Rs 2 each from the Kings Circle and Matunga market footpaths way back in early and mid sixties.
    Those were books we wanted to read and keep. Circulating libraries offered us novels and magazines for borrowing for just Rs 5 a month those days. It was the Pre TV and Pre internet era and reading books and magazines was one of the ways “goody goody” boys kept themselves occupied during their non-study hours. Others listened to Vividh Bhaarati /Radio Ceylon on the radio, or queued up outside cinema houses for tickets or played street cricket and flew kites. Owning a cassette deck was considered a privilege and so was having a telephone at home.

    I was sad to hear of the change of names. I still say VT, never CST. We still call it Santa Cruz airport, We still say just “Fountain” instead of Hutaatma chowk.

    I remember the fun I had with a BEST Bus conductor once.
    Those were the years when the Corporation was on a renaming spree.
    I decided to go along with the new names even though they had not yet become customary and when I boarded a bus and asked for a ticket to Maheshwari Udyaan the conductor looked puzzled and asked “Kyaa?”

    “I repeated “Maheshwari Udyaan” slowly and deliberately”
    तो किंग्स सर्कल बोलो ना! कायकु श्याणा बनता है? snapped the irritated conductor.
    Ah! Mumbai!
    One can never forget one’s place of birth and childhood haunts.
    I left Mumbai for good in 1967


  2. R's Mom says:

    oh okay cool, this is definitely what I plan to do with RD and R one day…I have never been to any Irani cafe at all..and I have been in Mumbai for 7.5 years now *gasp* lovely lovely lovely day

    Rs.500 for three books is a steal rey!

    • Yeah, I was fairly happy with the deal too, because they are brand new copies, just as you get on Flipkart or in proper bookstores. The guy was asking for Rs. 750 and I had to do some heavy-duty bargaining to get him down to rs. 500!

  3. chattywren says:

    Wow, reading this made me so nostalgic. Even now, when I get back to B’bay I never get to South B’bay, and I’d like to do it alone:) (without kids, that is). Enjoy your books, all 3 on my list, since a long time!

  4. Bingo says:

    wow.. I had a mini tour and got to know about places 🙂

  5. Sapna says:

    One can never be immune to the charm of South Bombay. Your day sure sounds fun!

    Loved the comment by GVji. Esp. “Toh Kings circle bolo na kaiku shana banta hai?” was nice 🙂

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