Flamingos Among Other Things.

AFishermen Starring into the Sun

It is a cool sunday morning. I am walking down a long stretch of railway platform, which is teaming with people. A familiar monotone feminine voice from a grey loudspeaker rings gently in my ears. The announcement in three languages unfolds slowly, resulting in a peculiar effect on the people around me. The more impatient ones walk over to the edge and peer into the distance, waiting to catch a glimpse of something. I,on the other hand step back for a minute and look around. I then walked up to one of the food stalls. Most railway stations in India house a number of "platform" business operations. These range from blue uniformed shoe shine boys/men to refreshment kiosks that sell cool pineapple juice [among other things] for Rs6. I would love to enlighten you on these services, but I will leave that for another day
and an another post. Meanwhile at the refreshment stall a cup of tea is ordered - actually glass of chai is more accurate. The youngish looking man behind the glass counter,attired in an untucked khaki shirt, glides the "chai" glass skilfully over the counter. A glass of water is also added,this time with a thud rather then a slide. There was my first 'glass of chai' served with the first smileof the day.

Empty Glass on a Winter Morning.
[An empty 'glass of chai' on a winter morning - Depressing]

I slurped the Chai greedily. Halfway through my chai, a shrill low sound heralds the coming train. The 7:24 'Slow' to C.S.T - is steadily arriving onto platform 7 and I am soon off to Sewri. Sewri,let me remind you, is pronounced 'Shevdi', for the same reason that Wadala, Bandra and Panvel are spelled with Vs.

[Waiting at] Bandra Station Platform7
[Fellow commuters on Platform 7]

I love playing word association and if you shout Sewree at me the first words that would come into my mind are 'trucks' & 'pollution'. Sewri is not place I especially like. The question then arises why am I on the Harbour Line train bound for Sewree ? The answer to that is - Flamingos among other things.

Ashbird's post provided me with a map and directions so I decided to make a morning of it.

I blatantly ignored the map and headed to the Colgate factory first.

Standing there,on the grease stained, rocky beach with plastic bags strewn in all directions, with the heavy rumbling of the Colgate Palmolive factory behind me, I witnessed a sight which was a sort of an anti-climax to my current environment. A distant line of light pink covered the mudflats, the pink swayed in the tide like spring flowers in a summer breeze. I needed a better vantage. Walking to the jetty I could see the ruined Sewree Fort above so I decided to make a stop at the fort.

More Flamingoes

The Sewri Fort is a fort built by the British in northern Mumbai (Bombay). Its ruins stand on a quarried hill near Sewri area.

In 1769, Yadi Sakat of Janjira had conquered the Sewri and Mazagon Forts. It had a garrison of 50 sepoys under a subedar, and was probably equipped with 8-10 cannons. Its famous had cannons repelled a Portuguese attack in 1772.

Sewri Fort, Mumbai
[Sewri/Sewree Fort overun by vegetation]

Sewri Fort, Mumbai
[A barracks like structure in Sewree/Sewri Fort]

The kite shaped double walled fort is now in ruin and is sadly used more as a public toilet than the heritage site it is.A note of caution would be that the hill that the fort stands has been subject to excessive quarrying and parts of the outer wall have giving making it unsafe.

Let me admit it, I am not a much of a wildlife photographer. I am used to myprey standing patiently in front of me,hypnotised by the camera lens as I do my thing. However,in this case my "targets" were totally oblivious of me, eating smallcrustaceans and sea weeds. Well, that is the Lesser Flamingo for you.

The Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor) is a species in the flamingo family of birds which occurs in Africa (principally in the Great Rift Valley), across to northwest India. It is the smallest and most numerous flamingo, probably numbering up to a million individual birds.Like all flamingos it lays a single chalky white egg on a mud mound. Most of the plumage is pinkish white.

The sun had just risen and land breeze had given way to a soft cool sea breeze and in this virgin sunlight was great beauty amongst great harshness. Rusting fishing boats, factories and an oil refinery was a backdrop for a gift of nature - a light pink blanket of flamingos. A more skilled photographer would have typified this image better but alas my amateurish skills can bring you only this.

Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor)
[Flamingos Key - Blackish flamingos in the picture are infants, the ones with pink plumage are fully grown. The birds on the top corner of the pictures are sandpipers.]

Rusting Narcissism

Crows checking out some birds.

[Kids at the Sewri Jetty]

Aajis [Grandmothers]
[Aajis [Marathi : Grandmothers] on there morning outing.]

Sadly even though there is great beauty here it may all be gone in the not so distant future. The MSRDC - Mumbai Trans Harbour Link hopes to bridge this creek destroying a valuable avifauna habitat. BNHS and other agencies are putting up a fight-good luck to them.

Chiang Mai PostCards


My parent were in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand this last week. I on the other hand have been quiet miserable here in Mumbai, not to mention a tad under the weather with a paralysing case of the dreaded sniffles. Chiang Mai, I’ve learnt from my vicariously readings of Lonely Planet South East Asia is in the cruz of what is known as the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle also designates the confluence of the Ruak and the Mekong river, since the term has been appropriated to describe the nearby junction of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. Originally the Golden Triangle was designated so to signify it’s role in the production, traffic and consumption or opium. Not to mention it was a part of the Silk Route.

I thought it would be nice to share some the picture they took while they were there. My Parents are of the opinion that Chiang Mai is better place to visit than the more crowded beach destinations of Southern Thailand namely, Phuket, Koi Samui & Pattaya - which I visited in 2003.

[Chiang Mai is a historical city. A lot of guilded Buddhist temples, the architecture very similar to that in Burma.]

[Some colourful exotic fruit.]


Ohh sweet tamarind, I love imli it's brilliant all so khatta meetha. My parents did get home allot khatta meeta[sweet & sour] stuff. There was dried berries, ginger, some black stuff that tastes like aam-papad.

Chatta-Meetha [Means Sweet and Sour]
[A little digression to a street vendor the selling the same stuff in Mumbai]

[How can I end without a shot of some lip-smaking Thai Cuisine]

Indian Self Fulfilling Prophecies

Stars & Bhramani Kites

In a world where mouthy parrots 'reveal sex secrets', in India some prophetic ones reveal your future with a flick of their acicular beaks. Even the most practical Mumbaikers sometimes fall prey to the inevitable necessity of fatalism. From parrots to palmists to fortune telling robots to fortune cookie sized insights on your mobile phone all seem to feed on ones urge to explore the future tense. Nowadays, in an urban spread like Mumbai your traditional corner street palmist has given away to tarot card readers, clairvoyant computers, numerologists and even people who read your fortune in a cup of Turkish coffee.

Palmist Purple
[A "plamist" (spelling bottom right corner) consults a family. I think this picture would be brilliant for a 123 horoscope Hutch ad - all I would need is Rahul Dravid and a pug - I already have the pink.]

I'm sure many people in the audience would dismiss all this as balderdash but I feel there is more to it. No, I do not believe that anyone is actually capable of seeing the future. All I'm saying is that if a fortune teller is charismatic and experienced in human psychology they'll be able to do so to an accurate degree. After all a self fulfilling prophecy is a prophecy by itself.

Fortune Telling Robot.
[A fortune telling robot, you've probably seen this guy standing around Juhu Beach]

Mumbai Meetup, January 31st

In conjunction with Scott Rafer, WINKsite , Metroblogging and Bloggers everywhere, I’m announcing a meetup on Tuesday, 31st of January at 6 p.m. at the Carter Road - Cafe Coffee Day (Bandra West). So if you live/work in or around Mumbai or you intend to be in Mumbai on the 31st please do drop by.

Here is the full address.

Shop No. 14/15,
Gagangiri Premises Building,
Ground Floor,
Carter Road

If you have any questions, or would like to confirm your attendance, leave us a comment or fire off an email to akshaym [at] gmail[dot] com. Also, feel free to get in touch with me at 9833230562, as long as you're not trying to sell me something that is.

For directions use the Mumbai Navigator stating caterroad(pali) as your desitination

I realize that I donot have the readership nor the reach to pull this off alone so people please do spread the word.

UPDATE 1 : Many thanks to Charu, Sakshi, Saket, Dina & Desipundit for spreading the word.

UPDATE 2: The Blog meet could be best described as a success, about 20 people turned up (Evenstar has the complete list) & we all shared allot loud pleasant conversation over coffee, donuts and vanilla ice-cream. Melody has a complete round-up on her blog.
Scott has one on his blog too.

Makar Sankranti Round-Up

Diamond Shaped Kites.

Yesterday was Makar Sankranti; I can confirm this by the fact the trees in the neigbhourhood are flowering kites intead of their usual crop of leaves. In Bombay the festival is a passing interest but in Ahmedabad it's absolute war or as this french blogger call it Veillée d'armes à Ahmedabad !

Rishi in Ahmedabad also walks us through the proceedings [with some picture] in his post 'fight in the sky'.

"Birds and clouds cleared the way, leaving a perfect bluescreen for the confetti explosion above. Kites of all colors dotted the sky, hundreds of them, circling and dashing round one another in the annual friendly fight called Uttarayan"
[read more]

How could I miss partaking in festivities such as this, so I headed to the Kite Flying Festival at Shivaji Park. Times of India were the organisers of the festival. The only jarring note was the unecessarily loud DJ, who was a bit over the top....But it was fun all the same.

[An attempt by some Kite enthusiast from Bhopal to fly 100 kites at the same times. I don't know whether it was a record of sorts but it was cool all the same and very popular with the photographers. ]

[Everybody loves the Times of India]

[After a busy day of Kite Flying, a man enjoys dusk at Dadar Beach]

The Byculla Soufflé

Assorted Colour

By-cul-laah’, I repeat to myself; it seems to roll off the tongue nicely, a strong syllable ring of some place important. A sense of time gone by seems to bequeath its streets, even though most of it now lies in the shadow of concrete flyovers. I can imagine the partial shadows that once glanced her streets were those from fully branched trees . I tend to romanticize things lost or things I have never experienced or things no one may ever experience again. Others may think this romanticism is misplaced- for how can you mourn something you have never had? How can you yearn for the “Byculla Soufflé"? If you look carefully the past clings on like a phantom in a time machine - may be you will see it or may be you won’t. I went searching for the Byculla Soufflé but I didn't find it today. Lets see what I found:

The Byculla Soufflé - a very Edwardian dish, the pride of the Byculla Club in Bombay; a sweet mousse in which layers of cream are flavoured with different liqueurs - Chartreuese, Benedictine and Maraschino - and set with gelatine. Since the Byculla Club ceased to exist in 1920, to the best of my knowledge so did the Byculla Soufflé; but maybe some reader can correct me.

Byculla Market.

Bhajji walli - [Green Grocer - Female]
A sabjiwalli at Byculla market, which was Bombay's muncipal vegetable market but then Bombay became Mumbai and they shifted the market wisely to Navi Mumbai [Vashi].You can still find the freshest and cheapest vegetables at Byculla.

Potatoes neatly lined up in jute bags; our smiling salesman here is waiting for you to say yes so that he can weigh them, bag them and the collect the money.

Garam Chai
Busy Byculla runs on chai and its the chaiwallah who runs a successful roadside business. Here is a batch of fresh steaming, sweet, strong chai in half-glasses....... Ohh I want some cutting... right now.

Brand Circus at
The colourful exterior of the Maharaj Jhunka Bhakar Kendriya.... Just look at all the brands on display here- Brooke Bond Red Label [did I mention chai before], Pepsi and if you look very closely- an upside down Coca-Cola crate holds up the pay-phone.
So what is jhunka bhakar? 'Bhakar' is basically a roti made of jawar. 'Jhunka' is a very special dish made out of besan[type of corn flower], wheat, onions and basic spices.
If you interesting in learning how to make a Bhakri The Cooks Cottage gives us a good account here.

More Life.

[Byculla has temples, mosques and synagogues.]

Palace Talkies
"Palace Talkies" - "A continuous babble on and off the screen, music and shouting, the cry of pedlars selling peanuts, flaking rexine seats, the unrestrained comments of spectators – all this jarring sound under the slow light of an aging 42mm projector.
Palace Talkies stands here, painted in a regal chalk white but sadly the films it has been reduced to showing are not all that regal. A dubbed version of Basic Instinct is running, probably a platinum showing.
Mumbai Matinee at Palace Talkies

More Magic.

Doing the Accounts,
[A diligent accountant]


That's it for now but if you guys are looking for a larger helping of Bombay go on over to Metroblogging Mumbai.

The Punjabi Connection

Lakshmi Puja

No city in India can represent as an approximate microcosm of India as well as Mumbai can. The city’s cosmopolitan essence blurs regionalism across class.

It is a melting pot of India, the best of North and South. Even though some political parties play on the regional insecurities of some of its residents, most residents defy it. An obvious side effect of this diversity is the city's food. The khaana-peena [food & drink] habits change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. This is a quality of Mumbai I specially cherish and I can assure you so does my palate.

This week I am going to explore the Punjabi cuisine in the city-rich, ghee filled, heart felt, delicious food. An open celebration of all things loud, homely and tasty. Regional identities are proudly protected by most Indians but for some reason I do not seem to fall in this category. Even though I am supposedly Punjabi by nature I do not speak my mother tongue and for that matter neither do my parents. Whenever I mention the fact that I do not speak my ‘mother tongue’ to others I am met with oohs and aahs as if it is a cardinal sin. Possibly the only thing that connects me to my diluted regional identity is its food. There are a number of restaurants which serve Punjabi food in this city but two of my favourites are the ones that serve simple home style food- the famous Guru Kripa in Sion and the Crystal Restaurant on Marine Drive.

Guru Kripa Ka Samosa.

Samosa is the king of all Indian snacks and Guru Kripa is Bombay’s samosa king. There is song ode to Bombay which is quiet popular on Google which goes something like this:

Woh Elco ki pani puri,
Woh Chowpatty ki chaat,

Woh Naturals ki ice cream,
Wah usme thi kuch baat.

Woh Tiwari ki mithai,
Woh raste ka dosa,

Woh Shivsagar ki pav bhaji
Aur Guru Kripa ka samosa.

This eatery located just off Sion circle has become a tourist attraction of sorts. Every morning over 30,000 samosas are made at this virtual samosa factory and dispersed all over the city for consumption. Guru Kripa is said to produce 1/3rd of Mumbai’s samosas available in cinema halls/multiplexes, college canteens, etc

I paid a visit to Guru Kripa last Friday. Here is what I ordered:

Samosa Chole” (Rs 12.) is their most popular dish.
Samosa Chole - Rs 12 - 25cents
[This is Mumbai's more famous samosa.Seen here topped with chana (chickpeas), sweet tamarind chutney and a garnish of onions and mint]

Being over indulgent I also sampled their humongous “Chole Batura” (Rs. 32).
Chole Batura - Rs 32 - 70 cents
['Chole Batura' - spicy chana [chole] (chick peas) with yummy puffed, deep fried batura (type of bread made of super-refined flour). Served with Raita (salted curd) , papad and a garnish of onions and mint.]

Gurukripa also serves favourites like ragda patties, sev puris and bhel puris, south Indian snacks and kulfis with faloodas. The restaurant interestingly does not serve any aerated soft drinks and serves only rich creamy lassis.

So next time you are in Sion and you are feeling a tad hungry visit Guru Kripa for a quick refuel stop.

Ghar Ka Khana at Crystal.

Living alone ? Tired of eating the tasteless food at you office canteen ? Missing your mother's cooking ? Then I have a solution for you. It is the only restaurant that I have been to in Mumbai that servces hot phulkas to your table. There is also rajma [lima beans], baigan-bharta [a brinjal preperation] and alloo matur [patotoes and peas] to die for and all surprisingly easy on the wallet.

One of my favourite shows on television is No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain on Discovery Travel and Living. Mr. Bourdain is a strict believer and I am too of the fact that the best food is served at most non-descript restaurants - the ones on which you need to take a chance on.
Crystal is one of these restaurants where cosmetic measure ( read ambience) accounts for nothing and the only communication here is via the food they serve. The restaurant is located on Marine Drive at the corner after Wilson College behind a well stocked coconutwallah. The restaurant has kept its fifties décor intact with flaking walls and a wood rimmed roof, complemented by a melange of old and new ceiling fans as well as antique table fans.

[Taking in the athmosphere]

The menu is fairly straightforward and vegetarian- sabzis, parathas and some rice dishes; the most expensive thing on the menu is priced 50 rupees and happens to be an unlimited thali.

Here what we ordered.
More on my plate
[Top left: Bhaigan ka bhurta [mashed brinjal cooked on an open flame],Bottom Right: Rajma ,Cente: Dal fry, Raita and an Aloo [potato] and Mulli[radish] Paratha [stuffed bread]. Not in picture: 2 Salted Lassis and hot pulkas/rotis]

Every item was simple but delicious and I left the restaurant with a distinct feeling that I had over eaten yet again.

Here are some of my previous food posts.