Tag Archives: Mumbai

Festive Market: The Elephant headed Ganesha Idols

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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)

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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

 

 

 

 

Aside

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.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/travel/looking-for-the-hottest-chillies-mumbai-s-mirchi-galli-is-your-place/article1-1309887.aspx

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- A Vibrant City with a Big Heart

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Re -edited post, June 2020.

Chalo Mumbai, let’s go to Mumbai, is a phrase commonly uttered by rich and poor. This has always been a city of opportunity for the arriving settlers. Bombay, as the city was called by the arriving British in 1600’s, they got to task,built the port, beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings and Gymkhana Clubs. After the English, Dutch and Portuguese, were the Mughals who attacked the city. Trade, commerce of cotton, gold jewellery and spices made the city a big trading post and brought in more people.

To date, the city attracts many thousands of Indian rural migrants who arrive in search of a job. Determination, grit and competition, struggle sum up the vibrant life of this every evolving, ever pulsating city! The people welcome one and all, whatever calamities and challenges life brings…it swallows.

Mumbai: Iconic red BEST bus near Churchgate station.

The city is your’s as long as you live in it…but somehow both  artificial and real life exist side by side, I feel. Mumbai is to be experienced and understood. The book Shantaram and the regional linguist P.L. Deshpande’s article in Marathi, the local language have a wonderful take on the life and people of Mumbai. Mix some magic and some masala.

Mumbai is nostalgia, my childhood home, brimming with  memories of bus rides in the iconic red BEST buses, pouring monsoon rain and swelling seas of the Arabian sea. Talking of markets – memories of holding my mother’s saree pallav in the crowded markets of Girgaum, Crawford or Dadar markets as she busied buying raw mangoes during the season or vegetables and sprouts for our daily Marathi cuisine have etched their mark on me. Mumbai street food..see here. The city is home to Parsis, Marathi, Anglo Indians, Gujrati’s and even some South Indians.

Where do you fit in, dear reader?

‘Chaalo market’ I say to my ageing mother, on my recent visit to the city. I tucked and pulled her saree pallav jokingly, as she recounted a rainy day adventure of yester years – when I sat atop a push cart covering my head with flimsy, plastic sheet. That my dear reader is Mumbai rains, which is another story!

Here, at the Vile Parle (east) train station, the street market is right outside the station premises,a bustling place all year round. Almost every suburban station in Mumbai has its own market strategically located just outside the station. This makes it ultra convenient for daily commuters, on their way home after travelling long hours by train.

Bhajiwalah’ is a colloquial term for the vegetable vendors, who arrive as migrants from Bihar or Uttar Pradesh (states in North India). Or he is the rural, typical white dhoti clad bhajiwala with a white topi cap coming by train from outskirts of the city from Vasai, Virar or Ambergaon. He brings locally grown, produce from small farmers thus ensuring quality and freshness.

Make shift stalls were quickly covered with wet jute cloth to protect the vegetables from dust pollution and the temperate heat in Mumbai. Large umbrellas shaded fresh stock from sun or rain.

Makeshift stalls selling fresh vegetables

Makeshift stalls selling fresh vegetables

What about the intense competition between adjacent vendors?  Mounds of juicy tomatoes, mounds of green  cabbage, beans and cauliflower, long white gourds (lauki or dudhi) made for picture perfect photographs. About 40 bhajiwallahs were selling almost the same vegetables. ” Hum ek doosere ko madat kaarte hain, behenji, sabka pet hi to hai na?” said the bhaiiyaa calmly,  competition is in its place and help in its place, all have to feed the stomach!

Women customers tend to browse around, yet they loyally favour their regular Bhajiwallah, who squats at the same space allotted to him by the municipality each day and fill their reusable cloth bags, called pishvi.

Beware of two things here – mounds of vegetable trash and unwanted plastic bags ( however there has been a recent ban on plastic) make an unpleasant scene. Though the municipality trucks clean it all up at the end of the day .

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

A widow sells flower garlands,an art she learnt from her late husband.

Secondly be aware of pick pocketing. Well, world over, densely populated cities, where the rich and poor divide is huge, pick pocketers are part of the crowd. Cash is essential to pay for high rents, bribes to policemen, medical expenses caused by pollution and heavy rain and maybe depression…as part of family is back home in the rural areas. There are rag pickers, school drop outs, and beggars too freely intermingling. Many a migrant vendor will complain about expenses back home – a dowry for his daughter, home repairs or building a new toilet and roof. Mumbai life – reminds me of an old Bollywood song by Raj Kapoor ”yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan’.

Head to the popular Maduram stores! A piece of Malayalee business acumen and store owner and salesmen are migrants who came from Kerala, in the South India. South Indian cotton bed sheets, chequered Madras towels, fancy handkerchiefs and coir mats for home and kitchen – get it all here.

My mother and I walked towards her regular, Marathi manoos (local man) the Vasai Vallah. Even as a young girl, I remember my mother patronizing the Marathi vendors community who came to suburban markets by train from Vasai, bringing wiht them farm fresh greens and local vegetables used in Marathi cuisine.

Brinjals sold here in at least 5 different varieties – slender purple brinjals, round green ones, stubby green ones and the big sized bringal /aubergine specially used for making baigan bharith laced with coconut cream milk, freshly made. Yummmm.

Palak, Methi, Cuka the green leafy vegetables looked farm fresh, and not like the other places where its sprinkled often with water, just to keep them fresh. And remember, hands dipping into buckets…are they washed? Come on, be brave, toughen up your immunity! This is a street market in a densely populated city of the world!

India being a tropical country, many varieties of both fruit and vegetable bananas are found in this market. Rajelis for making a coconut filled sweet treat, small yellow Velchi and Sonekali are aromatic and soft. Green raw bananas mostly used by South Indians for deep frying into chips or made into a dry vegetetable.  “Kanda Mala – kai bhav deta Bhau?’  my mother inquired the Vasai vallah in local Marathi. The small sweetish white salad onions, are sold neatly braided into a plait. 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.

Photo courtesy: indiamart.com

Its’ payment time, murmurs the old Vasai Vallah. I tuck deep into my shopping bag, getting more intrigued in search. My face turns pale, my heart skips a beat. I show him how the underside of my bag has been neatly cut and ONLY my purse stolen! Skilled perfection!

My mother raised her eyebrows, gave a knowing nod. Slowly, a faint smile appears on the Vasai Vallah’s lips and his words leave me humbled. ‘Udaya yaa ani paise dhya, me roj ithech basato..…khup varshe jhalii’ he tells us. “Come back tomorrow surely and pay me, this is where I sit daily, come rain or shine.’ he said softly.

This is the simplicity and trust of these vendors! I nodded in agreement to pay, humbled at his trust and understanding of relationships between a known customer and a vendor.

Mumbai -a city of dreams and hopes and big hearted!

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

Shanti Bai – showing off her flower garland, just for the photo.

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

 

All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2020) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer