Cultural Experience | India

12 Hours in Mumbai: The City That Never Sleeps

The Other City That Never Sleeps

Unlike Mumbai’s hustle and bustle fast-paced lifestyle, the city that never sleeps is resting in this little corner I sit in. I have a book to keep me company and that’s all I really need. If I crane my neck a little, I can catch a glimpse the sun embracing the entire sky above and sea below beyond the all-glass exterior. Inside, there are dark wooden seats and warm yellow lights hanging overhead in this tiny-two storey eatery. I am waiting for a friend and being indoors makes that easier. Of all things there is to love about this city, heat and humidity don’t feature in any lists, yet you learn to live with it and learn ways to avoid it.  

10AM: Tucked away in a hard-to-find by-lane, I sit in Silver Beach Cafe in Juhu, which is quite full for a weekday morning. Judging by all the great reviews on Zomato (the more widely used Yelp-like service in India), I wasn’t too surprised to see corporate personnels teeming in and out. I guess it was too early for everyone else and eating breakfast out is culturally unseen all over India. Home food is a prized possession when I come home from New York City, but I’m glad I gave Silver Beach Cafe a try! I ordered a ‘Kheema with Sunny Side Up,’ which was minced meat and fried egg served with a portion of fries. My friend joined me half an hour later at 10.15 and ordered a pepper and spinach omelette. Both dishes were flavorful and the portion sizes were just right. Before we left, we made sure to scan their lunch/dinner menu and put a memo at the back of our heads to visit again- especially for the chocolate pizza everyone raves about!

11AM: We take an auto rickshaw- the main transport in the suburbs of Mumbai that become irrelevant beyond Mahim and Dadar- to the Bandra train station and on the way, we are driving past Linking Road. One of the tourist attractions in Bandra, Linking Road attracts many teens and youngsters with fashionable dreams and shrinking wallets. From jewelry to accessories to clothes, you get the latest trends but at lower costs( and therefore, unfortunately at lower quality too!). We reach Bandra station and catch the train to Churchgate. We’re going to South Bombay’s version of Linking Road– Colaba Causeway. From the Churchgate station, a 30-rupee taxi ride (less than $1!) drops you at the tail-end of Causeway. Here, vendors sell a variety of articles. The jewelry is breathtaking. Ethnicity and modernity are evident in the wide variety of patterns on display. After a while, a lot of it looks very similar but hidden treasures are frequented upon here. Also, there are many “branded” bags that may have misspelt a letter here and there but are good fun for those who can’t justify buying the real deal to themselves. That’s not all you’ll find replicas of- watches, perfumes, necklaces- you name it, and Causeway has it!

Ethnic earrings in a stall at Colaba Causeway.

Ethnic earrings in a stall at Colaba Causeway.

11am is too early for Causeway to be busy so a vendor catches a breath next to his stall that's teeming with watches and sunglasses

11am is too early for Causeway to be busy so a vendor catches a breath next to his stall that’s teeming with watches and sunglasses

 

Unfortunately, for those who are not Mumbaikars (the residents of Mumbai), the vendors can sniff them out in the clothes they wear and the way the speak even if they are not starkly different looking to Indians. In this case, they may try to hike prices. So, try to take a local along or just bargain to the best of your ability. Sometimes, you can even end up paying half of what they initially suggest, so don’t give up hope.

Post-10am is a good time to visit Causeway but it will start getting crowded around lunchtime and after. Some people will enjoy that market experience but I for one feel more more relaxed when it is emptier. Also, the vendors pay more attention to you when less people are around and bargaining becomes easier because the vendor knows no one else hears the prices he agrees to, so he can still hope to make more money from them!

Everything here, from bracelets to shirts to shoes, are between 100 to 500 rupees. Basically, under $10 you can buy 2-3 bracelets or one shirt and pair of earrings to go with it. Wallets will be in the same range, but a bigger bag may be a littler pricier, up to $15-17, which is around 1000 rupees.

12PM: Two streets down any of the by-lanes branching out from Causeway, the Colaba seaface invites a breeze that cools down the stuffiness caused by the heat. After so much walking, we come to a halt here. Taking in the views of Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on one side and The Gateway of India on the other reminds us just how much beautiful the city is, architecturally and spiritually. The serene seas balance a number of boats on the surface as 45-minute ferries take people to the Elephanta Caves. Unfortunately, we are bound by time and unable to visit but it is a must-see!

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel owns the seaface in it's grandeur.

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel owns the seaface in it’s grandeur.

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The Gateway of India sits majestically like a king on a throne where sea meets land in Colaba, Bombay.

1PM: The famed Leopold Cafe now holds the untoward memory of the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai, but this Parsi-owned joint was always famous for their multitude of cuisines from continental to the local favorite Indian-Chinese along with the traditional staples. Situated on Colaba Causeway itself, Leopold Cafe opened in 1871. Since then, it is a regular spot for everyone who lives in South Bombay and an unmissable lunch spot for all the tourists too. Always full, Leopold not only has efficient service and great food, but it is perfectly priced for the student budget too.

Leopold Cafe is a welcome break for shoppers who need to rejuvenate before they continue their spree.

Leopold Cafe is bang is a welcome break for shoppers who need to rejuvenate before they continue their spree.

Food and fans- the only two things you cherish in Mumbai.

Food and fans- the only two things you cherish in Mumbai.

My friend and I order Fish Tikka, Chicken Chilly and Hakka Noodles (Chicken) between the two of us. With two cokes, the bill is still under 1000-rupees. If you’re not religious meat-eaters like us, there are various vegetarian options too. If your palette can’t handle too much spice, the pastas and sandwiches are a great choice too. And there’s always dessert for the sweet end to a fulfilling meal.

2PM: We head to CST Station because we noticed that we had actual bought our return tickets to CST, not Churchgate, from Bandra. Luckily, we didn’t get caught by a TC but we didn’t want to repeat our mistake again. Anyway, we saw the huge station ahead of us, upholding it’s Victorian roots with pride.

Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, also known as CST, is one of the grandest train stations in India, inside and out.

Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, also known as CST, is one of the grandest train stations in India, inside and out.

It takes less than an hour to get back to Bandra and we hail a rickshaw to our next spot.

3PM- We head to Guilt Trip, a bakery that specializes in cupcakes. Slightly pricy for Indian standards, most cupcakes are still between $2-3. My favorite flavor is always the Ferrero Rocher one but I vowed to not choose the same one this time. My mixed box of mini-cupcakes consisted of Cookies n’ Cream, The Original, Death by Chocolate Truffle- two of each. I realized a little too late that I had still cheated by indulging in only chocolate offerings but for the more adventurous travelers out there, do try a Pinacolada or Berrylicious Swirl!

4-6PM: Arriving at Prithvi theatre, the atmosphere is trendy and edgy for a theatre that my mother went to as a child. Where I expected to see a concrete facade, I saw wooden benches and colorful overhead lamps. A cafe had opened alongside the theatre where we waited for our play to begin and again feasted at in the interval since it had been six hours since we had eaten lunch.

Prithvi stages Hindi and English language plays as well as many regional ones. Usually, there are multiple showtimes offered that can be found on their website.

Here, you’ll not only find a theatre, but also a cafe and a bookshop. You can also enquire about workshops for buddying actors.

6PM: Coming out of the theatre, we decide against hailing a cab and cut through the space between two buildings and head to Juhu Beach. Second to Chowpatty featuring on Marine Drive, Juhu Beach is the hot spot for jogging celebrities at 5am and countrywide tourists at 5pm.  Luckily, over the years, surrounding residents have started to keep the area cleaner than usual with their own cleaning programs to lessen the burden on the government.

One half of the beach is serene and silent; a beautiful sunset pervades the tranquility.

One half of the beach is serene and silent; a beautiful sunset pervades the tranquility.

Local children play football and cricket every two steps along- keep an eye out for them as you weave your way along the beach.

Local children play football and cricket every two steps along- keep an eye out for them as you weave your way along the beach.

Out of the various venders, the Gola is a must-try Mumbai specialty!

Out of the various venders, the Gola is a must-try Mumbai specialty!

The entire beach, especially the north end, is teeming with stalls serving local delicacies. The vada pav, breaded potato in a bun with spicy sauce, and chaat, local snacks ranging from sweet to spicy flavors, are the most lucrative businesses on this beach front that draw thousands of customers in everyday.

7PM: I run home to have a shower and rest in air-conditioning to beat the heat out of me. I am exhausted but I have a family dinner awaiting so I knock myself out of my tired state with a cold shower. I am fortunate enough to be living at home but my friend has to go back to her hostel. She is staying at a woman’s hostel, which is one of many options for students who can also stay as paying guests or tenants, depending on their duration of stay. I have eaten out enough for the day and settle for a mild but mouth-watering homemade meal.

9-11PM: After dinner, some friends invite me to Tryst in Lower Parel. It is one of the most frequented clubs by students. Tryst is like any other nightclubs matching with all international standards of drinks, decor and music. The legal age to purchase beer is 21 and hard liquor is only sold to those 25 and above, but not drinking doesn’t always contribute to a dull night. I apologize to those who enjoy their drinks, but nightlife in Mumbai is just as fun without!

Dress as you wish. In broad daylight, venturing in very local areas does demand a slightly more conservative attire- maybe avoid the short shorts and tight tube tops and dress conservatively in a pair of jeans and t-shirt (or a modest dress that makes you feel easy-breezy). However, at a place like Tryst there are no such needs. Dress comfortably, dress well, dress you.

You will need to take a cab since it is not very safe to travel by public transportation late at night and it is also inconvenient to do so from Lower Parel. Many signature black-and-yellow cabs are available but if you feel more comfortable, you can call a taxi service like Meru Cab or Tab Cab too- the former even gives you the option of texting your location at regular intervals to a family member or friend’s number to make you feel that extra bit safer!

Ananya Bhattacharya

New York University | 7 stories

Ananya Bhattacharya is a rising junior at New York University, double majoring in Journalism and Economics, with a minor in Creative Writing. She can't travel without a good book to read and she can't sleep without a good meal to eat (foodie alert!). Having grown up in three countries in three different continents, she can't stay put in one place for too long- an avid explorer, she documents her life, partly as journalism and partly as poetry.


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