Category: Mumbai

Street Shopping, A Bargainer’s Delight!

A friend, who had come down to Mumbai on a short visit from the United States, was very keen on shopping. She had a day in hand. Her idea of owning ‘a party-wear salwaar kameez( Indian dress), fancy bangles, and mouth watering chaats (Indian snacks) ’, made me select a mall in the vicinity that had all ‘possible brands, cleanliness, and cool environment to beat the heat’.

Surprisingly, she made a humble request to go “street shopping” instead. Wow! Now, for someone who likes to wander, wonder and wriggle through the crowd of fellow wanderers by the roadside, the experience at street markets like Linking Road (Bandra West) and Fashion Street (South Mumbai, near Churchgate) is joie de vivre. Clothes, bags, accessories, sandals, including the latest fashion trends – you just have to name it.

What is even more enticing is the price quoted for the products. In ordinary words, the look-alike of any branded clothes come at half its price. “So cheap, you see!” She was overjoyed. Within minutes she was busy scouting for her goods. And with every shop she stopped by, she was gaining confidence in bargaining. At a point she mentioned “how much she enjoyed persuading and convincing.” It was a surprise indeed.

Of course, bargaining is a skill that comes with practice. In fact, I see it as a tool of communication. Here, the seller and the buyer both are aware of the rules of bargaining. Each has adorned their persuading and influencing skills to the finest. However, some of the buyers are so convincing with their reasoning that, the stall owner gives up ultimately.

Apparently, some of these stalls have a regular customer relationship. Yet, the shoppers/customers bargain and the shopkeeper/seller hands over the goods, saying “sirf aap ke liye” (only for you). But those shops/stalls that don’t encourage bargaining make their position clear with a ‘Fixed Rate’ board.

Well, there are interesting tips on bargaining pointed out by many like-minded bargainers on the World Wide Web. However, not many of us are good at bargaining. When it comes to the “real” thing, we oblige the sellers blindly. As for my friend, her happy hours in Mumbai were a dream come true, and with the “savings” she bought food and shared it with an elderly destitute.

Cornering Corn

We ambled along the shore enjoying the music that played from an unknown corner, on a Sunday evening. People had thronged from near and far. The food stalls, ice-cream carts, fancy balloons and colourful toys were welcoming the strangers enthusiastically. Not to forget the nariyal paani (coconut water) and the bhutta (roasted corn).

A typical scene. Beaches around Mumbai have a familiar pattern. Interestingly, the beaches in India  seem to be picking up similar patterns. Yet, bhutta-wallahs (roasted corn vendors) in Mumbai have an exceptional flavour, probably it is their unique selling point.

They roast the corn on smouldering coal. Once the kernels change colour to a deeper shade with scatters of burnt black here and there, the bhutta-wallah removes it from the coal.  With a wedge of lemon, s/he smears the masalas, chili powder and salt to taste, as per our requirement.

A bite into the roasted corn stirs the palate with an array of flavours, and surprisingly the kernels are fresh and juicy. It is a wonder that, in spite of going through a process of fire and burns, the corn oozes the freshness as if it were untouched!

We continued our walk along the beach relaxing to the Nature’s treat and savouring the delicious corn. Somewhere, deep down, my heart was thanking the unknown person who had stumbled upon the recipe of a perfect bhutta.

Who Gives Birth to Whom?

mahim “A child gives birth to a mother.” The quote runs below a public work of art on the way along side the western express highway in Mumbai. A prized location, the sculpture of the mother-and-child stands tall, seemingly linking the roads to Mahim, Bandra and Worli-sea link.

It is hard to miss, especially if you are on a religious trip to visit the famed Siddhivinayak temple (Lord Ganesha) at Prabha Devi , St. Michael’s church in Mahim, and the Durgah of Mahimi in Mahim. Each of these places is historically relevant. For instance, while the church is one of the oldest existing Portuguese buildings, the Makhdoom Ali Mahimi’s Durgah is a reminder of the great Sufi saint and scholar who was also the “first commentator of the Holy Quran in India”.

Coming back to the mother-and-child sculpture, I happened to take a sparing look at it once, when stuck at the traffic signal. Appearing to be of a mother holding up her child, the metal sculpture is devoid of any distinct features or facial expressions. Yet, surrounded by the bed of greens, the mother and child cut a happy picture of the nurturer and the nourished.

A few minutes distraction from the traffic snarl, the sculpture and the quote, “A child gives birth to a mother”, kindled my mind. Mother and child – who gives birth to whom? Undoubtedly, each gives birth to the other. Undoubtedly, the mother and child relationship rooting to birth can be correlated to the relationship of a creator and his creativity. Nevertheless, it takes the creativity to give a name to the creator, and a purpose of life.

Wonder, what could have been the mind-set behind its creation and its location? The sculpture of mother-and-child will withstand the years to come. Like the many curious onlookers, I may perceive the duo in a different light, on another occasion, a different day.