‘Aamchi’ is the most commonly used epithet for Mumbai. In Marathi (the local language), it means ‘our’.
And Mumbai (or Bombay, as it was known when I was growing up) is exactly that. OURS. It embraces migrants from all over India (and now the world) and weaves them into her colourful fabric.
I was born in Mumbai and have lived a majority of my life there. This city teaches you so many things – to be tolerant, to have a ‘can-do’ attitude, to speak your neighbours’ language (I am fluent in 4 Indian languages and can wing my way through a few more), to expertly navigate the insane traffic… the list is endless.
Having lived away from India for the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to return to the city as a visitor several times. Each time, I get to appreciate its beauty with a fresh pair of eyes. Yet, I’m acutely aware, that no blog post (or for that matter even book) can ever do justice to this glorious, city of contrasts.
Your first experience of Mumbai will be when you land at the swanky new airport. No matter how tired you are from your flight, the bold colours and sheer variety of the Indian artworks on display, will perk you up. The airport is home to India’s largest public arts program called ‘Jaya He’, with over 7,000 pieces of art from all over India.
So if you have just 3 days in Mumbai, here’s what I would recommend:
Day 1 – In South Mumbai
– Enjoy the Colaba skyline from a boat off Apollo Bunder. You could choose a luxury yatch or a down home local ferry, but the iconic Gateway of India and the legendary Taj Mahal Hotel are there for all to see.
– Follow that up with a visit to Elephanta Island’s part-Hindu, part-Buddhist rock-cut caves from 5th/6th century CE. The caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Believe me when I say, it’s good workout just getting there! 😉
– Hungry? Eat the best pulao in Mumbai at Britania’s, an old Parsi haunt in Ballard Estate. The restaurant looks like it’s crumbling but the berry pulao served there is made with love. And that by far, is the best ingredient in any dish! But make a note, its only open for lunch.
– Walk around the Fort and Colaba areas and observe this bustling city as it goes about its daily business.
One long forgotten place in the heart of Colaba is the serene Afghan Church. It’s an Anglican Church completed in 1858 and was built to commemorate the dead from the First Afghan War (1838). I particularly enjoy the history and the stories associated with this church.
– Visit the Pearl of the Orient, a one-of-a-kind revolving restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel. I can’t say much about the food but it does offer spectacular views of Marine Drive (also known as the Queen’s necklace), especially at night.
– Wrap up the long day with a drink, or two, at Cafe Mondegar (or Mondy’s as it is known to generations of frequenters) and admire Mario Miranda‘s trademark cartoons on its walls. This popular establishment has been open since the 1930s and has entertained generations of Mumbai’s youth as well as many a tourist. Did I mention they have a jukebox too? 🙂
Well, that’s a lot to do for one day in South Mumbai.
I leave you with these soulful words about Bombay, by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936), author of the timeless classic ‘The Jungle Book’…..
“Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.”
My next post, Bollywood & Bhel in Mumbai explores the suburbs of this vibrant city in 2 days.