Yes yes, you’ve been to the Gateway of India. You’ve had the obligatory pani puri in Juhu and taken selfies on Marine Drive. You’ve even been thrown out halfway before your destination on the evening Virar Fast.
You’ve spent like a king, saved like a squirrel, been squeezed like a mosambi and stretched like the wet bedsheets of Dhobi Ghat. But Mumbai, where millions of us are jostling for legroom, mindspace and that half seat to perch our backside on, on the train home, is changing every minute. And there’s new stuff to do every day.
Here’s your list for the year, they’re all fun things that we hope will make you see the city of dreams, crowds, slums and expenses in a different light. Let us know how you fare!
Visit the night market before Eid
Because the starlit streets are overflowing with bling
It’s the perfect Ramzan experience, even if you don’t shop,” says Dongri resident Prerit Gomes, who has visited the stalls that are set up on Mohammed Ali Road at iftar at dusk. Walk from Shalimar restaurant along Mohammed Ali road towards Minara Masjid and browse along the way.
What’s on offer? Shoes, sequinned burqas, bangles, bags and whatnot. “Muslims from Mohammed Ali Road, Dongri, Byculla and Pydhonie shop here,” he says. Many come from further away. “People come here during Ramzan to eat, but this market is another aspect of the celebration.” Plus, where else can you get a Rs 400 crystal-studded Hermès knockoff handbag at 3am?
Go on a bird race
Because the city is greener than you think
Sorry to disappoint you; this isn’t where you get to giddyup on the back of an ostrich. Birds do not race in a bird race. Teams of humans do. Armed with binoculars and guidebooks, they try to spot as many avian species across their city within the time limit.
“The idea is to go out in the field and see birds in the Bombay region,” says Badruddin Ali a birding enthusiast who judged the event a few years ago. “You start in the morning and your team leader, an experienced birder, will guide you on where to go and when to spot the birds.”
Ali says participants start as far as 130kms from Mumbai, sometimes even in Karjat, and make their way to the Maharashtra Nature Park in Mahim, covering forest areas and mudflats. Don’t try to fib. “Experienced watchers know when you’ve cheated,” Ali says. “Especially if you say you spotted a flamingo in Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Several teams take photos anyway.”
The Mumbai edition of the race is part of the 16-city India BirdRaces, the largest and most popular birdwatching activity across the country. Mumbai races on February 1 and if you’re lucky you may spot Ali’s favourite – the tiny but aggressive fan-tailed flycatcher. We’re not saying where.
Source high-fashion from fashion street
Because Bollywood A-listers and stylists do it too
Fashion Street is full of rubbish. But stall numbers 66 and 46 are where all the in-the-know shoppers go. Gia Kashyap of the fashion blog, Gia Says That, is a fan.
“I have picked up ASOS tops that cost £50 on the web site, but only `200 at Fashion Street,” she says. “These days, the shop guy sells it for Rs 400, but if you go regularly, they give you a bigger discount. I have also bought some of my favourite Top Shop dresses for less than Rs 300.”
The only problem with the export rejects is that you may have to visit your tailor. “If you are a size 12, you may have to buy a size 16 and get it altered [because sizes aren’t always available]. But it’s still worth it.”
Watch the visarjan
Because it’s actually quite safe, even for women
Do like our colleague Riddhi Doshi did last year, throw caution to the wind, and just join the festivities. “Despite living in Mumbai all my life, I’d only seen the visarjan on TV,” she says. “There were all kinds of things I was worried about – drunk men who might misbehave, no place to walk. Everyone asks you to stay home that day.”
But she and a female friend watched the proceedings live last year at Chowpatty. “I was really surprised by how organised it was. Human traffic was stopped when trucks moved to the beach and vice versa, so everything was always moving. No chaos. No gridlock.
So many volunteers, including women, were working hard to manage the crowd. And everyone was surprisingly well behaved – families, kids, old people.” Doshi believes it’s an essential part of understanding Mumbai. “It’s not about your religion, it’s not something to avoid. I’ve never seen Mumbai so enthusiastic and colourful – you just have to get out and see it.”
But plan it well. The bigger and more popular idols are allotted a specific time for immersion and the Lalbaugcha Raja only reaches by 5am the following morning. Doshi missed it. “But I’m coming back next year.”
Order wine like a king
Because what is money if you can’t drink it away?
Mumbai’s most expensive wine bottle is the Château Pétrus from Bordeaux, France, priced at Rs 3.49 lakhs plus taxes and currently in the cellars of The Oberoi, Nariman Point. What are you swirling for all cash? A wine with a rich texture and notes of cherries and plums. Want a price that’s a bit less giddy?
The Leela has the 2004 Château Latour, Pauillac, which has notes of blackberry and licorice, for Rs 2 lakhs plus taxes. Still too much? The Taj Mahal Palace has the Château Cheval Blanc, 1994, (smoky, with notes of cherries and blackberries), for Rs 90,000.
Break Sachin Tendulkar’s record
Because you’ll earn props for the rest of the decade
Okay okay, not in cricket! But at go-karting. Tendulkar has completed a 330-metre lap at Kamala Mills’s gaming complex Smaaash in just 26.09 seconds and his record is waiting to be broken.
Or you can win a Harley Davidson by shooting seven consecutive goals at another activity called Goalie Guacamole. Henderson Dias, who ambled in one Sunday in March this year to play pool with his dad just tried his hand and won the motorbike.
Dias has a handy tip: “Focus on the bracket right above the left and right corners, because the digital goalie won’t be able to reach there easily,” he says. The goalie, just by the way, moves faster than a Formula 1 car, so maybe you’ll need to practise a little beforehand.
Be a VIP
Because sometimes, there are just too many people, yaar
*Front row at Fashion Week
Only sponsors, Bollywood stars and hallowed fashion magazine editors are allowed that spot. So how do you score front row? Manali Parmar of Edelman, which handles the PR for Lakmé Fashion Week, says they’re always looking to include regular people.
“We once had a contest in which if you bought a Lakmé product, we raffled a front row seat,” she says. Odds too high? Shanaya S, 22, who runs the fashion and make-up blog Little Miss Sinner, and has around 4,000 followers on Twitter and gets 2,000 hits a day on her blog, was chosen as an official fashion blogger for her social influence. “I got to watch Rajesh Pratap Singh’s show from the front row!” says the blogger. “People were dying to get in. It was so amazing.”
*To see Lalbaugcha Raja
No official passes exist, despite what “agents” on the Internet may tell you (or try to sell you). While regular darshan (there are separate queues for those who want to see and those who wish to touch the idol’s feet) can take up to 30 hours, VIPs breeze through. You could donate a large enough sum (often heavy gold jewellery) for VIP access, be part of the entourage of Bollywood stars, politicians, local heroes or befriend the hundreds of volunteers in advance to get in. Be warned: it can still take two hours.
*A private box at the IPL
While ‘Twitter influencer’ Ashok (@krishashok) landed IPL VIP seats as a part of sponsor-partner Pepsi’s campaign, visual designer Sarvesh Amre bought his tickets availing offers on his debit card.
“I watched a Mumbai Indians V/S Kings XI Punjab match this year from the VIP seats. For a slightly higher price, we were thrilled to be sitting in our own box, away from the crowds, cheering for Mumbai. Our box was close to where Preity Zinta sat, so some of us were a little star-struck,” he says.
At the 2015 IPL season, try your luck with Twitter contests run by accounts like @IPL, @PepsiIndia and @bookmyshow and keep an eye on your credit/debit cards, they’ve all kinds of discount offers during the season. The ticket rate is up to Rs 2,500.
Boogie with the celebs
Because, this is the heart of Bollywood, baby!
The five-star clubs are great places to rub shoulders with movie stars. Exo, Asilo and Li Bai at the Palladium Hotel in Lower Parel are currently hot favourites with the swish set. Exo, a nightclub, often hosts stars like Sonam Kapoor. Stylist Riya Dhalla, an Exo regular, says she has been at the same table as Sushmita Sen twice.
“But if you want to spot stars, go to clubs like Tryst in the Phoenix Mills compound, where I once saw Ranbir Kapoor!” In the suburbs, head to Trilogy at the Sea Princess hotel or get a ticket for the last show at Juhu PVR on Friday nights. Celebrities like Karan Johar, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone have regularly been spotted there. Maybe they’ll pose for a selfie.
Catch a Khan film at Gaiety/Galaxy/Gem at Bandra
Because that’s how a true fan would do it
Sure, you like to sit back in that plush recliner, munch on popcorn that cost as much as your movie ticket and ask the usher for an extra blanket when it gets cold. But for the true-blue Bollywood movie-goer experience, you need to be with the fans at Gaiety/Galaxy on the opening weekend of a Khan starrer.
Tickets are as cheap as Rs 80 (though you’ll be in a queue for hours) and you’ll see fans clapping and hooting to dialogues, singing along with item songs, and laughing hysterically at the bad jokes.
at Gaiety in 2014, and it was a mad rush!” says research analyst Neha Garg. “I could barely hear the dialogues because Salman fans were going mad applauding his stunts. When Nargis Fakhri’s item song started, the whole theatre went into overdrive. The non-reclining chairs, the low-hanging ceiling fans instead of ACs, the euphoria, it was all worth it!”
You can catch Salman’s
(July 16), or
Prem Ratan Dhan Payo
(Nov 11) and SRK’s Fan (Aug 14) this year.
Pedal through old Bombay
Because you’ll cycle past our glorious past
Woodside Inn’s Old Mumbai Bicycle Tour takes you around Colaba, Navy Nagar, Ballard Estate and Fort on the second and fourth Sundays of every month. They cost Rs 1,650, including the bicycle rental for the tour and a lavish spread at the end.
A guide shows you around, tells you the stories behind the landmarks, and you get to see the city you only hurry by on weekdays. “You don’t get exhausted cycling around for three hours because they stop for water-breaks, plus the energy of the people keeps you going,” says restaurateur Anup Gandhi. “It’s a well-curated tour.”
Eat gourmet for cheap
Because some restaurant prices can make you choke
Smart Mumbaikars wait for Restaurant Week, which offers set menus at lower prices at top city restaurants so you can sample their stuff for cheap. “The set menu is so well thought out, they cover everything. They pair each dish with a wine too,” says Antara Roy, who ate at Botticino in Trident, Bandra-Kurla Complex, during Restaurant Week last year.
“We were served a sorbet to cleanse the palate and it was the best sorbet I’ve ever had. You get these little surprises only during this time; otherwise I’ve never seen such a sorbet.”
Restaurant Week will be held in March/April and September. Log on to restaurantweekindis.com for details and to sign up.
Give out free hugs
Because we all need a little love in the big bad city
Yes, you can. Take your cue from 25-year-old wedding photographer Vinit Mehta, who started the Free Hugs Campaign in 2008. Mehta went to places like Worli Sea Face, Marine Drive and started offering hugs to strangers. “I just thought we live in a world where social contact is limited to Facebook. I wanted to change that,” Mehta says.
“What I realised was that after getting a hug, people actually wanted to sit and talk and share their lives with me.” People have mostly responded with warmth, he says. “I never met anyone who didn’t want a hug.” He had to stop when Mumbai’s moral police went into overdrive and began arresting people for public displays of affection.
“At first I used to tell police stations of that area that I would be conducting this campaign, but then they started arresting people for even hugging.” But it’s still legal in a private setting (malls and hotels), provided you have permission from the owners. So share a hug, won’t you?
Give back to the community
Because it can’t always be about you
* Donate time
Shirley Menon, one of the founding members of Save Our Strays – an NGO that works towards rescuing, fostering and medicating stray animals – left a lucrative legal job to help street animals. The organisation now has two ambulances and looks after the area between Bandra and Dahisar.
“We manage money somehow, but getting people to dedicate time is more difficult,” she says. Rinki Karmakar, a long-time SOS volunteer says that helping animals who live on the streets is extremely fulfilling. “I’ve learnt how to medicate them on the spot, because most injuries don’t need extensive medical care.”
They’re always looking for volunteers. Visit Saveourstraysmumbai.org.
* Donate skills and tech
Tarang, an NGO from Andheri East, helps provide education to the less fortunate. Volunteers visit night schools around the city and teach technological skills and English. “We also try to improve their overall outlook to life,” says Tarang spokesperson Amit Thanvi.
“We encourage them to set goals and follow them. A lot of the students are adolescent daily-wage labourers, so we need to teach them to move ahead with time.” The NGO is specifically looking at donations in the form of second-hand laptops, tablets and phones in working condition, to be able to familiarise students with these technologies.
You can also teach the students on your own device. Or donate money. For more information, log on to their website, Tarang.org.
Audition for a movie or a TV show
Because it’s what Mumbai dreams are made of, and surely there’s a star inside you too
s own Aastha Atray Banan has tried her hand at it when a friend at a film production house asked her to try out for a role. “I felt nervous but also a twinge of excitement. Maybe it would be my big break,” she recalls. “But when I was asked to kiss a girl in front of 50 other girls also trying to bag the role as a “lesbian hottie”, I baulked.”
Siddharth Sen, 24, an aspiring actor from Assam advises everyone to audition for the fun of it. “Once I was called to a posh club and was asked to stand up in the middle of it and talk for 10 minutes about myself. Not only were there 20 other actors watching me but the entire club was packed.”
He was also once asked to try out in a “dude look”. “I had to check what that meant; the girl kept saying ‘like a dude’. Apparently that means a tight T-shirt and jeans.” But you don’t have to look like a model to give an audition. There are plenty of auditions for regular people for character roles.
To get to know of auditions, register with a casting agent or get on Facebook groups like “FilmFarm Casting” and “Audition for movie & TV serials”.
Know how to get into a secret pub
Because bouncers are so 2014
For the last two years, young punters have been entering secret pubs (places with no sign over the entrance) by means of an often-changing password.
At The Local Bombay in Kala Ghoda, the city’s first secret bar, you request the password from their Facebook page and ‘play’ it out on their keyboard to gain entrance.
At another watering hole, Please Don’t Tell, inside Kamala Mills (which is pretty easy to find) you make reservations or dial 5 on the phone at the entrance, which sort of defeats the purpose but it’s still fun.
Take up a menu challenge
Because you should be rewarded for your appetite
The Sundance Sasquatch burger challenge at Sundance Café, Colaba, pits you against a 567gm beef patty, plus crispy bacon, fried egg, guacamole, melted cheese, lettuce and pickled cucumber with the burger buns. You’re expected to polish it off, plus fries, within 25 minutes.
One of the partners of the café, Sumeet Nanakani says that about 70 to 80 people have attempted the challenge, and only 15 have succeeded so far . “It’s clearly a tough challenge.” If you meet it, the meal is free. If you can’t, you pay Rs 1,000.
The Budchug challenge at The Little Door in Andheri offers free beer for a month to anyone who can chug 330ml of Budweiser beer in 5 seconds on a Thursday. The current record is 1.9 seconds.
Stand up (And Walk) for gay rights
Because a protest doesn’t get more fabulous than this
There are probably a million causes to fight for in Mumbai. Better roads, sure. Cheaper homes, undoubtedly. Slums, safety, sanitation – Yes, yes, yes!
Why support gay rights? Because they’re human rights that cut across class, religion, neighbourhood and personality type. Because being gay or knowing someone who is, is nothing to be ashamed of. Because what consenting adults do in private is not the government’s business to criminalise.
Because when we say Hum Sab Ek Hai, we also mean sexual minorities. Because Mumbai’s Queer Azaadi march has paved the way for peaceful protests across India. Because you don’t have to be gay to participate, you just have to care.
We march on January 31. Visit Queerazaadi.wordpress.com for details.
See how the rich live
Because sometimes a sneak peek is all you can afford
*See one of those super-luxury apartments
You may not be able to cough up the crores for a 7,500 sq. ft flat at Omkar 1973 in Worli. But you can still gawk at a sample flat at one of the most expensive, luxurious residential towers for free. Call their toll-free number or log on to their website to book an appointment and let smooth-talking, well-dressed guides show you around.
Three private elevators open into the living room of what Omkar director Gaurav Gupta calls a “mansion-in-the-sky.” The mock-up has hot tubs on balconies overlooking the Bandra-Worli sea-link, each flat has a gym, three dining areas and a private theatre. The show flat looks ready for you to move in – even the bookshelves are full!
* Drive a super-luxury car
In Mumbai’s bumper-to-bumper traffic, who wouldn’t want to make heads turn with a shining new Rolls-Royce? The brand’s Ghost Series II Standard Wheelbase model starts at Rs 4.5 crore, and you can take one of these beauties for a spin. Call their helpline or log on to the website to book a test drive. Of course there’s a screening process.
“It is important for us to understand the customer’s lifestyle, his/her driving habits, preferences, and existing collection of cars, before processing a request,” says spokesperson Sven J Ritter. Cross your fingers and hope you make the cut!
Be a mango maniac in Matunga
Because we take our love for the fruit to the next level
Forget frozen pulp. At Matunga’s Sheetal Dairy, mango season means you can have aamras from even a specific kind of mango. The popular place close to Matunga’s Central Railway station offers Hapus (from Ratnagiri) and Payari (from Chennai), Hapus and Payari in a 50:50 ratio and Rajwadi (75 per cent Hapus and 25 per cent Payari). They don’t keep the Totapuri, as owner Niket Mehta believes it to be of lower quality.
If you can’t wait till the summer, you can head to Matunga now and sample the Hapus aamras for Rs 300 per kilo. Or forget about mangoes altogether (as if you can!) and drop in for many flavours of basundi and shrikhand.
Visit Sheetaldairymatunga.com for details.
Run a marathon
Because there are so many to start off with, these days
The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon is on January 18, and registrations are already closed. But don’t hang up your running shoes yet. There’s a midnight half-marathon on February 14 (Run for singlehood! Run for love! Run for heartbreak!) and the Puma Urban Stampede on March 1.
Several neighbourhoods have also been organising their own mini marathons: Powai did it last Sunday, Kalyan on January 25, Kharghar has planned one for February 2 and Thane on February 15. Across the year there will be mini marathons on Palm Beach Road, Lokhandwala and even Bandra-Kurla Complex. And the all-women (plus Milind Soman!) Pinkathon is at the end of the year.
“Everyone thinks of the Mumbai Marathon as the big race and it is,” says 36-year-old Shashi R, who took up running six years ago and ran the Full Marathon (42.19kms) in just over five hours. “But thank god for smaller races!
They let you practice through the year, and keep you motivated which is awesome.” Many of them also offer a time certificate when you complete the run so you can apply to the bigger races later. “Plus, everyone is always cheering in Mumbai,” Shashi says.
Get a top down view
Because you need to get some distance to enjoy the city
For about Rs 7,000 per person, you could hire a helicopter from Yagnya Aviation. It organises joy rides across North Mumbai (Juhu, Versova, Malad, Gorai and back) on the fourth Sunday of the month and South Mumbai (Juhu, Bandra-Worli Sea Link, Haji Ali, and back) on the second Friday of the month.
Or you could charter your own chopper for a 30-minute ride for Rs 36,000. Rides are organised round the year and they typically take off in the afternoon in winter and when weather conditions are best during the monsoon.
“About 7,000 people have been on our rides,” says spokesperson Nandan Korgaonkar. “They come to propose, cut a cake, and see the city. But one thing everybody does is try to spot their building!”
The ride lets you float over the city that everyone (including you) curses and crawls through. But if the price is too steep, here’s how to get high for less. The highest point in Mumbai is inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and is popularly known as Jambulmal.
Several groups offer packages to trek 1,480 feet above sea level to reach the spot. It’s a gentle climb, typically completed over the course of one morning. You’ll have enough energy to look down on and contemplate the kilometres of concrete jungle in the suburbs below. Can you spot your building?
Open up at open-mic
Because, the city of strangers is warm and supportive too
If you have a joke to share, a story to tell or simply want to be sarcastic about life, city folk are willing to listen. Simone Patrick, 33, a creative director in advertising, recalls giving it a go a few years ago, reading aloud creative writing from her teens.
“I had a silly love/not-really-erotic story, written in all seriousness, but so corny after all these years,” Patrick recalls. “One line was ‘We lay on the beach like two wet seals’! The audience was in splits. You choose what you share, but it’s not therapy, just some fun.”
Dhruv Deshpande, a budding stand-up comedian says his first time at an open-mic was the worst. “I compiled my funny tweets which had got the maximum retweets and read them out. I thought people would laugh, but they didn’t and I cried that night.” So pick wisely.
For songwriters, singers
is held on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7pm
For storytellers Tall Tales
, send your stories to
For queer content and other comic and satirical content
Dirty Talk, check for updates on Gaysifamily.com
For stand-up comedians
The Big Mic and Open Mic Night at Canvas Laugh Club. Check for their next event on Facebook.com/bigmic.in and canvaslaughclub.com
Party on top of a double-decker BEST bus
Because it’s the only way to go topless
You’ve probably seen them on Marine Drive. Here’s how to get your party on wheels: book one of four open-deck BEST buses from the Government of India Tourist Office opposite Churchgate station (22033144/22074333), pack food and wear sunscreen.
Each bus is available for Rs 6,000 per hour and you can book a bus for not more than two hours. The vehicle ambles through Marine Drive and past the Gateway of India, Oval Maidan and Eros cinema.
“I was absolutely thrilled to have rented an open-decker with a group of friends to take kids from a shelter home to tour south Mumbai,” says former
intern Junisha Dama.
“We played guides for the kids, photographed the funny faces we made, ate hot samosas and sang all the way. But a great way to turn it into a party would be to carry your iPod and speakers, and dance on the open deck.”
See new city sights in new ways
Because Mumbai is more than Marine Drive and Colaba
On the Western Express Highway, turn at Dr Hans Bhugra Junction and pass the Kurla-Kalina Flyover to get on to the new Santa Cruz-Chembur Link Road. The 6.45km double-decker overpass is the only one of its kind in Mumbai and ends at Chembur’s Amar Mahal Junction on the Eastern Express Highway. It’s a short drive eastward to the Chembur Monorail station where you can board a shiny new car to Bhakti Park. Get off, hail a taxi or rickshaw to Ghatkopar to use the new Eastern Freeway.
At Ghatkopar, it’s time to take the Metro. Float over Jagruti Nagar, Saki Naka and Marol to get off at the Airport Road station so you can take the new elevated road to the T2 terminal. Of course, you could catch a flight out of the country now. But if you still want to come back, the road takes you right to the Western Express Highway, only a few kilometers from where you started.
Do Bollywood karaoke
Because English lyrics are only half as fun when you’re drunk
In Bollywood’s own hometown, only a handful of pubs/nightclubs play Hindi karaoke. Thursday nights are Bollywood karaoke nights at 3 Wise Men in Santa Cruz and by 9pm, there’s a queue outside the tiny pub. Business journalist Henna Achhpal had been longing for a Bollywood karaoke place.
“Every club you go to has pop, rock and trance music these days. I’d dance to a good Bollywood track with as much enthusiasm, you know? The Thursday night karaoke at 3WM was such a find! Yes, the place gets overcrowded and a couple of hours into it, everybody sings every song in chorus, but that’s the effect of Bollywood.
You scream your lungs out to
Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani
) and then suddenly everyone sways to
) silently while some hum it.” Book a table in advance, or you might find your plans out of tune.
Dig into a dabeli at 3am
Because the city that never sleeps, never stops eating
Where’s the party tonight? At the stalls, shops and mini-restaurants outside Mithibai College in Juhu. And they’re churning out dosas, dabelis, sandwiches and pav bhaji sometimes till 3am. Park your car, leave parking lights on for service, place your order and either eat at your seat or use the bonnet as your table.
Purva Jeswani, a Dheeraj Vada Pav loyalist says it’s the best option when hunger strikes at odd hours: “I drive down to Juhu for grilled sandwiches or vada pav there!” If you’re there after 2am, and see empty streets, drive slow and look around shadily. A guy will run up to your car asking, “Kya khaoge?” He’ll take your order and disappear into the empty alley he came from and return in 10 minutes with your food – bhurji pav is a late-night favourite.
Illustrations by Abhijeet Kini
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From HT Brunch, January 11, 2015
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