Two things are synonymous with Versova’s Yari Road and its extension, Aram Nagar: the inescapable smell of dry fish, and the bustling community of actors — young and senior, struggling and successful. At 9.30am on a Sunday, we spot some enthusiastic cyclists and joggers at the parks in the locality. We hear no honking and find no traffic. It’s a good day to go around.
Our guide to the area is Manav Kaul, a resident of Yari Road for almost a decade now. He walks us to his go-to tea stalls, the ones from before the hip cafés invaded Versova; a cricket ground where he used to play with fellow actors Kay Kay Menon and Lalit Sathe; parks where you can play badminton for free, and so on.
Leaping Windows comic book cafe: In 2010, the popular Leaping Windows started as a comic book rental store. Two years later, it became one of the first comic cafes in the city. Over cups of chai, Kaul remembers hundreds of afternoons spent here. “It’s never too crowded. People value the concept a reading room and are never boisterous. There are over 2,000 books to choose from. I have most of my meetings here,” he says.
Super Milk Centre: A fair share of almost every actor’s struggling days are spent in Aram Nagar, in search of work,” Kaul says. A five-minute drive from Leaping Windows, Kaul takes us to a nondescript tea centre, where he claims he found the best and most reasonable samosa (Rs 10) and chai (Rs 20) in the city. Soon, we find ourselves sipping our second cup of tea at the 20-year-old tea centre.
Versova Rock Beach: Mumbai and its pockets of beaches are inseparable. Versova’s Rock Beach, currently in the news for its extensive clean-up drives, is Kaul’s regular haunt. “The beach is packed on weekends, and I prefer silence. You must visit on weekdays. It’s more peaceful then,” he says.
Versova Koliwada: If the smell of fish is your kryptonite, avoid Versova Koliwada or the Versova Ferry Wharf. The area is populated by generations of kolis (fishermen), and you can spot fisherwomen drying batches of fish, mostly Bombay Duck. Kaul himself was not a fan of the area, but has warmed up to it over the years. “You see fishermen hard at work. You cannot alienate yourself from this. If I am a part of this city, I must embrace all of it,” he says. The daily ferry service here runs between Versova and Madh Island.
Parks and grounds : It’s a blessing to find parks and gardens tucked away in the quaint alleys of Versova. Kaul drives us to one such park — Swatantra Senani Janardan Rama Patil Park — in Aram Nagar 2. It has two outdoor badminton courts, and is open to anyone, for free. On the way back, he shows us what used to be a cricket ground. Remnants from its glory days are evident from pitch rollers, nets and a pitch covered in moss. “During my initial days, me and my friends – Sathe, Kay Kay — would come here to play cricket. I miss this ground,” he says.