South Bombay is famous for its night life or food to be precise. But this is not about Bade Miyan or the Minara Masjid area around Bhendi Bazar.
Little is known and written about the narrow gullies adjoining JJ Hospital. Maulana Shaukatali Road or Do Taki as it is popularly known is stacked with numerous such places.
Food for thought
I have been a regular here for the last 13 years. Most of these eateries sprung up in the late 1970s and have survived the ravages of time. Earlier they would be open all night, but nowadays they are licensed to run up to 1.30 am.
They usually open shop at 4 pm, with business picking up pace around 8 pm and the place is packed after 10. The fare is pure non-vegetarian and is a strict no-no for vegetarians.
Patrons who frequent the lanes include teenagers who come straight from a night of clubbing or drinking session in the nearby bars. Then there are people who drop-by after last movie shows in town side theatres. And of course, locals who are habitually motivated.
Doctors studying and working at JJ hospital too form a major chunk of customers. Says Arafat Sheikh of Zaika, “Relatives of patients admitted to the hospital prefer our place as it is close by. Some doctors have even promised every possible help and support to keep the place open all night.”
Most of the high-end customers prefer being served in the confines of their cars. After 6 pm, the entire gully smells of naans, seekh kababs or parathas, bhuna mixture sandwiches, mutton or baida rolls and egg or chicken rotis while jalebis, malpuwas, halwa parathas, bundi and gulab jamuns appeal to the sweet buds. The nearby chaiwallah is the preferred last stop. It is famous for its malai tea. While in the area, one can also opt for Multani lassi which serves kesar, dry fruit and many other varieties. Unfortunately, breaching the 1.30 am deadline is not easy, with the minimum fine being Rs 5,050. The owners then have to attend court the next morning.
Dusk to dawn
Business is maximum during Ramzan. The entire area buzzes with light and decoration and the eateries remain open throughout the night. Says tea vendor, Fayaz, “During this time of the year, the local police is very cooperative since the area is Muslim dominated. Most people look for such outlets to eat after breaking their fast at dusk, or even before starting it at dawn.”
Coming to the present, the deadline is 1.30 am and that’s when the first police van drives by. Most lights are switched off and customers asked to hurry up. It’s time to say good night or rather good morning.