Tag Archives: Mumbai

Festive Market: The Elephant headed Ganesha Idols


Come September, streets of Mumbai and Pune in western India, as well as many other cities prepare for the most loved festival Ganesha Chaturthi or Vinayak Chaturthi.  The elephant headed God Ganesha, (known by several other names)  is prayed to for prosperity and wisdom.  Amidst loud chants of ‘Ganapati Bappa Moraya’ the colourful idols that once occupied rows of shelves on street shops are lovingly bought and carried home to the altar.

Weeks before the festival day, street markets begin cleaning, making stands, preparing clay, pre booking orders, contacting artists and helpers. Soon the frenzy of activity heats up, as the festival draws near.  Idols are traditionally made with mud or clay, giving them a brown colour. During the prayers idols are smeared with sandal wood or turmeric paste. These eco-friendly idols thus make for easy visarjan or dipping into flowing water after the festival. However, Plaster of Paris (POP) is the new preferred material. It is cheaper, lighter, but certainly harmful to Nature as idols cannot dissolve in water.

Mud Ganesha idols

Mud Ganesha idols

Artists arrive to major cities, sometimes from rural homes, the festival provides a big income and a platform created by co-operative organisations. It takes many weeks of patience, dedication and exact materials and temperatures to prepare the idols. The whitish grey or brown idols are left to dry on street pavements (or shop kilns). Once dry, colours transform them magically! Turmeric yellow, leaf green, vermilion red, glittering gold, peacock green…how  beautiful the rows of Ganesha idols look standing on the street stands. And why not add some glitter, beads and fancy ornaments for a festive aura? Prices vary according to size and decorations ranging from Rs. 200 to 2 crores!

With great pomp and music, the super size idols are carried to community halls, temple foyers and public gatherings. Smaller idols bought by family members, make their way home covered by traditional silk cloth.

Super sized Ganesha idol

Super sized Ganesha idol

Now, Ganesha is known to have a great liking for food, just look at his big tummy! There are many mythological stories to support this. Festival markets are filled with plenty of fresh fruit – bananas and pomegranate being favourite. Besides garlands of flowers, rose petals, marigolds, banana stems and leaves, lotus flowers occupy every inch of floor space in the market.

It’s a frenzy of hectic activity! Loud noises of people bargaining, soft swishing of women in sarees, young children begging to choose a special idol, bright lights add to the human frenzy, screeching cars and vehicles passing by. Suddenly rises a loud chant from among the crowd ‘ Ganapati Bappa.. Moraya’ ..Salutations to the God.

All is in abundance, all in good spirit.

Flower seller

Flower seller

When a special guest comes home, the house ( or community hall) needs extra decorations and twinkling lights. Another visit to the markets before the last day – decorative lamps, earthenware pots, trinkets, bells, twinkling lights and ….just some fancy stuff!

Suddenly… an eerie quietness descends on the street and shops, on the Ganesha Chaturthi day. Action moves indoors. Prayers, social meets and abundance of festival food.

The markets will have to wait for another year.. till Ganesha visits again.

Ganesha idols in shop

Ganesha idols in shop

Have you celebrated this festival? What did you buy from the market? Do share your comments.

For another blog on Ganesha see here.

All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2016) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer






World Palate Recipes: Street Food of Mumbai (Bombay)


Mumbai, (earlier Bombay) the city conjures a zillion images to the mind. From the vibrant, ever busy people, crowded trains and dabbahwallahs, Bollywood posters looming large, to the hawkers selling street food, push carts laden with mangoes and the iconic Red bus and black and yellow taxis, Mumbai has the stench, squalor and zest and pride!

Mumbai is a living, breathing city! A city whose people make it all happen.

Iconic Red bus and yellow top taxi, Mumbai

Iconic Red bus and yellow top taxi, Mumbai

To feed its millions of people, the city boasts of hawkers at every nook. Food sold at street kiosks is more convenient than a tight space at an Irani restaurant for the Mumbaikars. Its cheaper, tastier and fresh. Eating out is almost a culture – first are the early morning white-capped Vasai wallahs, train commuters and beach side joggers who satisfy hunger with a quick bite of vada pav or maska omelette. As the sun sets and crowds gather at the three beaches (Chowpaty, Juhu and Versova),dozens of street peddlers and hawkers get busy, preparing and instantly serving the hungry young crowds.

Vada Pav, Bhel Puri, Paani Puri, Jhunka Bhakr, Kanda Bhajji, Papdi chaat and Sev… tantalising treats for the taste buds as you walk the crowded streets. Braving the summer heat and a weak stomach, I decided to plunge headlong into a trip down memory lane to satiate my taste buds.

Vada Pav at Dadar

This is a MUST TRY! A top favourite with Mumbaikars, this simple, substantial dish is popular as ‘on the go breakfast’ by the train commuters and the Vasai wallahs who come into Mumbai suburbs in search of various work at factories, offices and container ports.

Sivaji Park and Gokhale Road, Dadar, are the best places to indulge into the buttery iconic Vada Pav, a Potato savoury dumpling sandwiched between soft, fluffy buttered bread. A spicy, fried carbohydrate rush!

Bhel Puri, Sev Puri near Versova Beach and Juhu Beach

Care for a tangy chutney spiced with fresh coriander chutney and spoonfulls of fine sev (fried gram flour vermicelli)? Head to Mumbai’s beaches at sundown. Along with the amateur football players and kite fliers, these are the best places intown to taste  Bhel Puri, Paani Puri, Sev Puri. For a healthy drink ask for fresh tender coconut water from adjacent hawkers. Loaded with plenty of mineral goodness, coconut water is a refreshing drink and contamination free.

hawker selling tender coconut

hawker selling tender coconut

Most of these tangy snacks are eaten for their taste, rather than nutrition. Indians, by large also like to eat with their families or friends, so an outing to enjoy the sea breeze will mostly end up savouring some street snacks.

Cutting Chai and Makhan Toast

Even I, as a Mumbaikar stumbled off guard, when the stall owner asked me ‘Madam, cutting chai ? Ya poora cup?’ Well, it only meant whether I wanted my tea strong and cut by half, as consumed here. The small glass reminded me of a vodka shot glass. Large aluminium tea kettle, strewn paper cups thrown into a nearby dirty, plastic bucket and the smell of strong boiled tea leaves and a hint of ginger completed the street picture. Cutting chai can be taken  more often, as one cup is divided / cut into 2 or 3 portions.

Tea stall in Mumbai

Tea stall in Mumbai

Falooda, Kebabs and Ramazan Treats at Haji Ali and Bandra Mosque

Mumbai is a cosmopolitan and very liberal city, a home to many communities like Jews, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs along the very vernacular Marathi speaking man and the outer Mumbai rural population. Thus festivals, cultural programmes and food are all laced with a tinge of  communal harmony.

Come Ramzan (Ramadan) the popular Mohammed Ali road, Haji Ali Dargah, Byculla, Crawford market witness a change of food scene. In preparation for Iftar ( breaking of fast at sun set), streets are laden with fresh fruit cuts – watermelon, mango and kharbuja. Meat balls on sticks are wood fired on makeshift gas burners or charcoal bhatti.

Kebabs at street corner, Mumbai. Courtesy: Internet. static.guim. co.uk

Kebabs at street corner, Mumbai. Courtesy: Internet. static.guim. co.uk

Hawkers outside Colleges and train stations.

Indulging in chai discussions, preparatory talks for exams,  women meeting outside the same train station every day is a common practice.  Where else to relax with friends and food? Right on the streets outside most colleges ( SNDT, Mithibai, Parle, Ruia, KEM medical) dozens of hawkers set up semi permanent stands, mostly by day. Profit is counted only after the ‘hafta’ or bribe payment is given to the police watchmen, the area’s kingpin and municipal workers who make their regular rounds at the sites. The unwritten law goes ‘Live and let live’…Mumbai is a city for all.

The rich man, common man and beggar on street.

Food is for all. Come stand and savour it with the warm and simple Mumbaikar.

What is your favourite street food in Mumbai? Where did you eat?

All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2016) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer






Have you ever been to Crawford Market,Mumbai? Intense action, vivid colour and freshest groceries is a promise.

This article from Hindustan Times brought back to me some sweet childhood memories.


Imagine a girl, accompanying her mother to a very busy street market, in the very heart of old city, Mumbai. She is tagging along, holding the end of her mother’s saree pallav, in a bid to keep firm contact with her mother. Yes, that’s me!

As a girl, I loved visiting markets, carrying shopping bags and watch my mother haggle over prices. Crawford market, is one such place. A haven for the Mumbai women, mostly Gujarati, Marathi and Rajasthani communities. They sourced the most competitive and fresh produce of seasonal mangoes raw ones for pickle, and ripe ones for a summer treat and chillies and lemons. Then, laboriously taking home few bags, they cleaned, cut and mixed them with spice. Fresh aromatic pickles were ready – bottled and stored in ceramic jars. Yumm….deliciously tangy,spicy and colourful!

Memories of streets being occupied by vendors, who sat cross-legged on floor, spreading out their fruit, comes first to my mind. I remember my mother buying few kilos of raw mango, then the vendor cut them into large pieces, removing the centre seed. Wait… I can almost hear mother bargaining and rambling, and the noise of other women screaming and shouting too:)

Now,enjoy the article describing Mirchi Galli, or Chilli street.

I promise to share a simple chilli /ginger pickle with you in due time.

Have you read my earlier post on Mumbai: the city with a heart?



Want to Buy some Chilli?

Mumbai – The City with a Heart


Chalo Mumbai, let’s go to Mumbai, is a phrase commonly uttered by rich and poor. For this is a city where one needs determination and a vibrant spirit to live life. Mumbai is a city to be experienced and understood with an open heart. It has the mix of magic and masala or spice. To me, Mumbai is home, a place filled with childhood memories, tugging at my mother’s saree pallav and jostling the crowded markets of Girgaum and Dadar. Both these markets are heavily crowded and bursting with cloth, fresh vegetables and seasonal fruit, especially mango.

The routine summer holiday visits to Dadar and Vile Parle markets with my mother, carrying along cloth bags or pishvi to tuck in seasonal lemons and mangoes has left a lasting and energetic impulse in me. Till date, I am always heading to city or country markets, wherever I travel.

‘Chaalo market’ I say to my old mother now, still tugging her saree pallav jokingly, as she recounts a  rainy day adventure, when I sat atop a push cart of juicy seasonal mangoes, covering my head with flimsy plastic sheet to ward of the rains.

Outside the Vile Parle east train station, the street market is a bustling activity centre all year round. Suburban markets are strategically placed outside very train station in Mumbai. Bhajiwallah’s, vendors begin their day early by unloading truck loads of baskets arriving from outskirts of Mumbai. Stalls are quickly covered with wet jute cloth that serve as perfect air-conditioners in a hot, humid Mumbai. Colourful large umbrellas shade fresh stock from the sun.

Makeshift stalls selling fresh vegetables

Makeshift stalls selling fresh vegetables

Repetition of produce makes it easy to strike bargains, but the vendors stand guard and their community bonds to protect each other. Numerous  stalls of tomatoes, onions, cabbage, beans, cauliflower and carrots line both sides of the wide street, making it dense with the commuting traffic and the women folk in sarees. I wonder how more than 30 odd vendors selling similar vegetables, compete with price and yet make a profit?  Tip of the day: Walk around a small area to find out the prices and compare. Then, go to your regular  Bhajiwallah, and request the price you want. Mostly, he will reward your loyalty with the best affordable price. A philosophical lesson.

At the other side of the street, juicy over ripe tomatoes were thrown as rubbish on the floor. A pile of unwanted leafy cabbage, cauliflower stems and rubbish plastic bags, crumpled paper turned the market area into an instant dump. All this for the want of proper dust bins, precious time of the vendors, and surging crowds and proper hygiene facilities and sense!

In Mumbai, be warned of the crowds and their quick and nifty hands!  Hmm…no wonder I was warned of loosing my money purse.

Flower garlands for sale. Tied by a widow who has learned to make her living.

Flower garlands for sale. Tied by a widow who has learned to make her living.

Vendors in Mumbai are called Bhaaiyya, or brother, as in North India. Most of them are migrants from northern states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, to eke out a better living and make extra fast money to send home. This helps to pay off heavy debts incurred in daughter’s dowries. irrigating and providing for dry lands, and making better concrete and brick houses. The daily struggle of existence in this big and fast city has its own share of problems for them – no families, strange community, rising expenses, and shortage of space and water. One gain, other loss.

Clutching on to my purse ever so tightly, I continued walking to the end of the market, to brightly lit shops and food stores. Maduram stores has made history for its long existence as a provision and cloth store. Cotton bed sheets, chequered Madras towels and fancy handkerchiefs are sold on the street, rather on the footpath! A migrant Madrasi vendor shouts in his language ‘We have paid the policeman Rs. 300  this week’ he boasts of the seemingly high price paid to the local policeman. ‘This is his weekly pocket-money –and he gives us permission to occupy this small space. No trouble this week, I am assured’

Deals struck between illegal footpath stalls holders and local policemen are commonplace in Mumbai. A win –win solution for all, isnt’ it ? ‘Challo Mumbai’ I hear the echo in my head, just like all these migrant vendors who have come to Mumbai to earn a living.

My next stop is at the Vasai Vallah vendor. I remember my mother patronizing this Marathi vending community who commute by train from Vasai, northern Mumbai and sell farm fresh vegetables in suburban markets. Vegetables from Vasai are popular in the community as they cater to special taste and cuisine.Brinjals and bananas come in at least 5 different varieties. Palak, Methi, Cuka the popular green leafy vegetables are very farm fresh, and not sprinkled with water as with the other Bhajjiwalahs. The  Vasai farmers boast of a local co-operative society that helps them gather knowledge and expertise in farming, research and marketing.

Bananas varieties that lace a Marathi kitchen are :red Rajelis for making a coconut filled sweet treat, small yellow Velchi and Sonekali are aromatic and soft to swallow. “Kanda Mala – kai bhav deta Bhau?’  I ask the Vasai vallah in local Marathi. These small sweetish white salad onions, are neatly tied necklace with a jute string. The white bulbs look like festive bulbous balloons. The Kanda Mala is traditionally hung from the wooden kitchen ceiling, in typical wada or ancient homes.  Breaking away one onion at a time as an accompaniment to Jowar Bhakri, a traditional cereal Roti, it is the perfect way to savour the sweet zing of these salad Onions.

Its’ payment time, murmurs the old Vasai Vallah. I tuck deep into my shopping bag in search of my purse. Extra fidget and a push. My face tells another story, my heart beat rises. I show him how the underside of my bag has been neatly cut and my purse stolen! Skilled perfection! I stand bewildered unable to pay the vendor. He looks on, wondering if this is a gimmick or truth as he is aware of such encounters in crowded markets.

Slowly, a faint smile appears on the Vasai Vallah’s lips and his words leave me numb and humble. ‘Udaya yaa ani paise dhya, me roj ithech basato..…khup varshe jhalii’ he proposes to me.  “Come back tomorrow surely and pay me, I have been sitting here, at this place, for years.’ he said softly.

I nodded my head in deep reverence to the spirit of this old man. Today, I understood the patronizing between the vendor and consumer ( my mother) and the trusting bond it creates. The weaker society is so richer than the rich, comes to light with this small act of kindness.

Mumbai – its people struggle for a living but have a big heart. Suddenly the teeming market with its array of green red and yellows vegetables, soft rustling of the sarees as women walk, and the distant din of the hurried vendors seems far away. My head is filled with pride for this city, my city, Mumbai!

Shanti Bai - the lady vendor making and selling flower garlands - Smile please

Shanti Bai – the lady vendor making and selling flower garlands – Smile please

 Have you visited any market in Mumbai? What impression did it leave on your mind?


All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2016) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer