India Stories and Tips

Bombay - Crammed with juxtapositions

Immortalized by Bollywood, frequented by industry giants, despised by environmentalists, loved by dreamers--Bombay is a city of carefully chosen contradictions. From its modern sense of style to its classic structures, Bombay provides ample nourishment for the imagination!

Be christened by the sea at Bandstand, Bandra. Bandstand is the meeting place of one of the liveliest set of people in all of Bombay. From travelling midways to full-fledged concerts (it’s quite amusing to watch a truck full of actors pull up along the side of the street, set-up, perform and then drive away before you can say "supercalafragilisticexpialidocious"), you’ll always find ample to see and experience in Bandstand. The best time to visit this tiny gem is during sunset. The giant burning orb puts on quite a display as it dissappears into the majestic Arabian Sea. It’s no surprise that many of Bollywood's brightest stars have built their stunning villas along the Bandstand coast.

My grandfather’s good friend owned a farm and every Saturday, he’d setup a petting zoo at Bandstand. Coincidentally, every Saturday evening, my family would climb Mt. Mary’s steps (a set of 1000 steps leading to the famous Mt. Mary’s church in Bandstand), make a short prayer stop at the church and then head over to Bandstand for the sunset. Afterwards, I, an all too anxious 6-year-old, would rush over to the petting zoo to visit my best friend "Baa," a snowy, soft lamb. I am certain he knew I was coming because he would bleet loudly and spring up and down with joy. My grandpa’s friend always allowed me (and only me) to take him wherever I wanted to go (which was usually wherever Baa wanted to go). I had such fun feeding him milk, chasing him around the promenade and reciting his favourite poem, "Baa Baa Black Sheep".

The Dhobis
Get a good view of a Dhobi Ghat. The Dhobi is a traditional Mumbai laundry-person who, for a minimal fee, collects your laundry right from your doorstep, washes it until it’s sparkling clean, presses it until it’s smooth and then promptly returns it back to your doorstep. A Dhobi Ghat consists of row after row of concrete pools, each with its own flogging stone. The clothes are soaked in the soapy pools, flogged clean against the stones, then thrown into giant vats of starchy water and hung to dry. Once dry, they are hand-ironed, neatly bundled and delivered back to their respective customers. One of the most famous Dhobi Ghats is located at Saat Rasta near Mahalaxmi Station where dhobi families work together in a now dying art.

Fondest Memory: Going to school in a sparkling clean uniform thanks to our Dhobi walla…. Well, perhaps I wasn’t that grateful as a child (after all, I was less than 8-years-old), but in retrospect, I’m definitely a lot more appreciative. I never fully understood the convenience of having someone handwash and iron my clothes until I had to do it myself. Thank you Mr. Dhobi walla for your hard work and diligent efforts!

Tourist Trap
Buyer Beware: Locals trying to sell inexpensive quality silk shirts/blouses at the train station.

Of course, if you are a tourist at a Bombay train station, you are probably on a heightened sense of alert already. But just in case, watch out for locals trying to sell you exquisite and well-packaged silk apparel at unbelievably discounted prices. Many times, the pieces are badly damaged and unwearable. Through ingenious folding and careful packaging, major flaws can be camouflaged. So unless you are allowed to carefully inspect the material, or plan on redesigning the item anyway(which is a definite possibility if the silk is of a good quality), don't waste your time.

Off the Beaten Path -- Elephanta Caves
Elephanta caves, are a series of exquisite ancient rock temples carved into the landscape of Elephanta Islands. Built between the 9th and 12th-century CE, these structures are true marvels of architectural ingenuity. Elephanta Island is only accessible by boat (a journey of about 11km) from the 'Gateway of India.'

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