Visit the Banganga
You’ve been to the malls and multiplexes, hypermarkets and business districts, but to catch a glimpse of old Bombay, set aside some time — evenings are best — to visit the Banganga tank. Part of an ancient temple complex in Walkeshwar, Malabar Hill, the rectangular pool surrounded by steps on all sides was originally constructed in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 18th century. The tank, around which are three temples, is spring-fed so it has sweet water despite being so close to the sea. It’s peaceful, quiet, dirty, and has loads of atmosphere — the vestiges of a bygone world — until you look up at the sky and see the looming skyscrapers.
There are plans to revive the Banganga music festival, an annual event held in January, when the area looks lovely all lit up and decorated with flowers, so keep an eye out.
Walk to the Haji Ali dargah
Feel the wind whip your hair, taste the salt on your lips, hear the waves gently lap at the edges of the narrow causeway as you stroll to the 400-year-old mausoleum built 500 metres into the sea. The trip to the dargah, built in 1431 in memory of a rich merchant from ancient Persia, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who gave up his worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca, will not take long, but consult the tide chart before you go as you can go to the dargah only during low tide. The walk on the causeway, with the sea on both sides, is one of the highlights of the visit. Time yourself so that you get to the dargah to watch the sun set — or, if you are a morning bird, the sun rise. The central shrine is in the marble courtyard behind the sculpted entrance.
Watch a horse race
Not all cities can boast of a racecourse that attracts the country’s best thoroughbreds, so experience the thrill of watching these horses gallop on the 2,400-metre track before you quit Mumbai. Between November and April, the racecourse comes alive, with activities sometimes spilling into weekdays as the Royal Western India Turf Club hosts five classic races each season — the 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Oaks, Derby and St Leger — with classy audiences to match. The excitement is palpable as the gambling fraternity queues up to place their wagers and shout themselves hoarse as they goad their picks towards the finish post. You can also catch show-jumping, dressage, polo and tent-pegging events held by the Amateur Riders’ Club. The spot is open for jogging and walking, in the mornings and evenings during specified timings.
Bet on the stock market
You can’t leave India’s financial capital without having tried your luck at its biggest casino — the Bombay Stock Exchange. The oldest exchange in Asia, the BSE traces its history to the 1850s, when stockbrokers would gather under banyan trees outside the Bombay Town Hall at Horniman Circle.
As the tribe increased, they shifted from place to place until, in 1874, the brokers found a permanent place and named it Dalal Street. But you no longer need to go to Dalal Street to dabble in the markets.
All you need is a demat account, fast Internet connection, and, critically, some working capital.Do research, follow the business news, keep track of the market for a while, set a maximum loss limit that you can withstand, both financially and mentally, and then try your hand at intra-day trading.
Catch a match at Wankhede
If you haven’t already made the pilgrimage to Wankhede, you can do so later this year, when India and England play their second Test at the 45,000-capacity ground from November 23. Built in 1974 by the Mumbai Cricket Association following a dispute with the Cricket Club of India, the ground is less than a kilometre away from the CCI’s Brabourne stadium and has been hosting internationals since 1975, when West Indies toured India.
The stadium has been witness to some epic performances — Ian Botham’s century and 13 wickets in the Jubilee Test in 1980, Gavaskar’s 205 against the Windies and Kallicharan’s 187 in the same game in the 1978-79 series, Ravi Shastri’s six sixes in an over in the Ranji Trophy — as well as some controversial scenes, the latest being Shah Rukh Khan’s brawl with a security guard and MCA officials after an IPL match.
Pick up Mumbai memories
Want a piece of Mumbai? It’s all up for sale, around you. And no, we’re not talking about a new scam, but the many city-themed products available in boutiques and on your computer screen. Tappu Ki Dukaan in Fort can take you on a kitschy ride with T-shirts that say Bus Kya (with a picture of a BEST bus on it) or a ‘ticket chest’ inspired by bus tickets. Loose Ends in Bandra can serve up a dabba case that is actually a CD holder. Play Clan, also in Bandra, has Colaba and Bandra tote bags, as well as the Chawl ‘bag in a bag’, Gateway of India mugs and cushion covers inspired by Kolis (see photos). And if you get lost with all this Mumbai stuff, find your way again with No Nasties’ (find them online) Mumbai tee, called Where’s You At Mumbai, which lists the city’s longitude and latitude (18N 73E). Other online bags include Pyjama Party’s funky cutting chai glasses and UnWrapIndia’s Antilia tee. Raise a toast to all things Mumbai with Chai Time’s Mumbai Tapri Chai.
Eat at an Irani café
If you haven’t had khari chai and bun maska or ordered berry pulao and whatever else the old gentleman sternly ordered you to eat as you sat next to instruction boards that tell you ‘not to argue with the management’ and paid in cash, your experience of Mumbai is not complete. These charming, old-world, no-frills Irani joints were once a staple for most ordinary Mumbaiites looking for a meaty, non-fussy meal or a place to tarry over cutting chai with pals. The high-ceilinged corner shops with glass-top tables, bentwood chairs and red checked tablecloths — originally set up by Irani Zoroastrians who came to the city to escape religious persecution in their homeland — may not survive long as more and more people opt for glitzy chain restaurants and fast-food joints, so go have a hearty meal — don’t count the calories — and catch a glimpse of one of Mumbai’s dying traditions.