Tag Archive: mumbai

DNA- Summer Spins

Tune into the frequency of Mumbai’s hottest DJs and get the low-down on the summer’s biggest anthems.

DJ Janux

DJ Janux In his ten years on the decks, local DJ Janux spins psytrance, progressive and tech house. His music has crossed waves toAmsterdam,London and NYC amongst others. DJ Janux’s ideal venue would be The Shaman Sorcery Summit in the Amazon back in 3077 B.C. But for now the mixer must content himself with a summer tour to Nepal, playing at the ‘Mountain Madness’ three-day outdoor festival and then onto Factory club in Katmandu for Nepali New Year.

The DJ’s ideal tour partner would be Stevie Wonder, “so that I could tell him there are 20,000 people on the dance floor and he wouldn’t know the truth” he exclaimed. And if he had to hear one song on loop for a whole year? “The would be Maybe next year by Meiko” the mixer joked

DJ Janux’s summer picks  “Sad Movies by Orca. A party-busting and iconic track with samples of 1950s movies combined with driving dance floor beats.”

Quench by Golong. “Twister and melodic track that moves through several spaces. It has lots of samples and loony sounds.”

Teleporter by Avalon. “Great track to play at outdoor parties during the day, superb groove and psychedelic melodies.” 

Welcome to Summer by Artist Headroom. “Clean groovy positive track with a lot of power.”

DJ Sa Credited asIndia’s premier hip hop spinners, DJ Sa packs hip hop, reggae, dancehall, and mash-ups in his arsenal. The DJ packs a political punch too. “I would love to have DJed during political activist Gandhi’s fight for freedom. Since he preached non-violence, music with a political message could be used as a different approach to protest.”

DJ Sa is following the ‘I am Music Tour’, featuring hip-hop superstars Nicki Minaj, DJ Khaled, Ace Hood, Young Money, and Lil Wayne, with envy. “I would love to be on the ‘I am Music Tour’ right now. Waynehas some of the craziest energy-driven live shows.” However Sa has his own plans, “I’m just about to go to Pune to open for the R&B singer Akon’s performance, then songster T-Pain’s concert afterwards. I am then the official tour DJ for rapper Hardkaur on her world tour aroundMauritius,USA,Canada,South Africa, andAustralia.”


DJ Sa’s summer picks Bow Chicka Wow Wow by Mike Posner ft Lil Wayne. “This slow R&B tune is addictive and with a magic hook, plus it feautures the biggest name in hip hop, Lil Wayne.”

All of The Lights by Kanye West. “Massive club banger, whatever Kanye touches turns to gold!”

I Need A Doctor by Dr. Dre & Eminem. “Eminem provides some very personal lyrics and the song is taken from the most-anticipated album of the century, Dretox.”

Yeah 3x by Chris Brown “This is a return to form for Chris Brown since his peak when Forever came out, similar tempo and catchy hooks.”

Black N Yellow by Wiz Khalifa “This guy is on fire right now and, with the help of hit producers Stargate, is one of the biggest tunes of the year.”


 Cool off this summertime with some tasty cocktail recipes from Mumbai’s trendiest watering holes.


What? Pommegranza Where? Lalit Bar

Ingredients: 60ml pinky Vodka, Pomegranate seeds and Grenadine syrup.

How: Muddle the Pomegranate seeds in a Margarita glass and put Vodka and dashes of Grenadine syrup in the shaker with ice cubes. Then shake and strain in a chilled glass.


What? The Garden Where? Bonobo Bar

Ingredients: 45ml Tanqueray Gin, 200ml Tonic Water, 1/2 Cucumber, 1 Lime, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Mint.

How: Put small portions of the Basil, Thyme, Rosemary and Mint together, five-six slices of Cucumber, and one lime cut into six-eight pieces all into a cocktail shaker. Lightly muddle until the aromas are released. Add the Gin and Ice then top with Tonic and stir. Take a tall glass and rim it with a mixture of Salt and Pepper then pour the mixture into the glass. Top with Cucumber and Herbs as Garnish.    

“The cocktail has a limey taste and is an instant cooler with a refreshing feeling.” –Head Bartender Sandeep Singh.


What? Gooseberry  Where? Red Zen Bar


Ingredients: 30ml Grey Goose Vodka, 30ml Jose Cuervo White Tequila, 90ml Cranberry Juice, 30ml Pineapple Juice.

How: Mix together in a shaker, then strain over fresh ice in a chilled Hurricane glass. Serve chilled and topped with a garnish of pineapple slice.

“Adding Elderflower cordial adds a tasty level of sweetness for the drink and serving the Gooseberry with vodka sorbet is a perfect summer option.” –Barman Kevin.

What? Whisky Crusta Where? Bonobo Bar

Ingredients: 60ml Whisky, 5 Lemon rind strips, 5 Orange rind strips, 3 drops of Bitters, 1 teaspoon of sugar.

How: Pour Whisky into a glass along with Sugar and Lemon andOrange rinds. Burn the outside of the glass then slowly tilt the glass and bring the flame to the top of the drink and apply the flame to the drink. Let the drink burn slowly for about 20 seconds then blow out the flame and add three drops of bitters then stir.

What? Bubblegum Martini Where? A Bar

Ingredients: 45ml Gordon’s Gin, 15ml Martini Extra Dry, 10ml Bubblegum Syrup.

How: Mix together in a shaker with ice, shake well then pour it into a Martini glass.

 “This fainted pink martini has a unique, sweet flavor which excites the taste buds and lets the bubblegum flavor come through. It is very easy to prepare at home for a house party,” -Barman Rajkumar.



Bombay Mary(right) & Blueberry Basil Martini(left) Trilogy.

What? Bombay Mary Where? Trilogy

Ingredients: 45ml Vodka, 5 dashes of Tabasco sauce, 3 drops of Worcestershire sauce, 2 pinches of Pepper, 1 pinch of Salt, 1 scoop of ice, a wedge of Lime, Guava juice and Chili powder.

How: Pour into a cocktail shaker, add ice, Vodka, Pepper, and Salt. Top up with Guava juice,Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce then stir. Strain the liquid into a high ball glass rimmed with Chili powder then serve. 

“My signature cocktail is something refreshing that can be served with brunches. I took inspiration from the Guava with Salt and Chili powder sold on Mumbai’s streets.” – Keenam Tham, co-owner.

What? Blueberry Basil Martini

Ingredients: 60ml Vodka, 20ml (half sugar syrup, half lime syrup), 20ml Blueberry syrup, 30grams Blueberry, 3 leaves of Basil.

How: Grind the Blueberry and Basil leaves together. Then put all the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker, shake well, pour and serve in a Martini glass.

“Mumbai summers can get unbearably hot and humid and the concoction of basil and blueberry can be extremely soothing. The sweet taste of blueberry and a slight hint of basil guarantees a refreshing coolness.” –Keenam Tham, co-wner.

Mumbai’s new cast of International Chefs get on the griller as they divulge their cooking creeds.


Chef Alex Sanchez, Executive Chef, The Table


Who: Alex Sanchez,
Restaurant: The Table,
Cuisine: International

The range of Sanchez’s cooking style reflects the cultural diversity of his hometown, San Francisco. He is dedicated to preserving the integrity of his ingredients, be it a carrot or an expensive cut of meat. “Cooking is about spontaneity, sensuality, and the giving of pleasure,” he declares.

Craziest order you have received?
“In an upscale restaurant back in San Francisco we had a superstitious guest who refused to eat anything in even numbers. He ordered a salad, naturally, and I was in the kitchen counting every leaf, every herb, every garnish to make sure it was in odd numbers.”
You have 12 hours to live, what meal do you have?
“Hands down my mom’s lasagna or my grandma’s leg of lamb — either would allow me to relive my entire life in one bite!”

How do you rate Mumbaikar diners?
“It’s difficult to generalise but I’m learning they like bold flavours and large portions. Being largely well-travelled there is also an appreciation for some subtlety and nuance.”

Chef Praiwan Sripal, Thai Chef, Courtyard

Who: Praiwan Sripal,
Restaurant: Red Zen,
Cuisine: Pan Asian

Four months into his Mumbai culinary foray and Thai Chef Praiwan has assembled a menu drawing from Thai, Chinese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian influences. He cooks by six words, “Keep it fresh, keep it simple!”

Craziest order…?
“A guest once requested a dish that was ‘not dead’.”
12 hours to live, what meal?
“I’m a simple man with simple tastes so it would be a fresh, authentic meal, raw papaya salad, Thai green curry and steamed rice.”
Best thing since sliced bread?
In the Thai food world that would be the strong and aromatic fish sauce (Nam Pla) — the staple ingredient of Thai cuisine.

Alain Coumont, Owner, Le Pain Quotidien

Who: Alain Coumont,
Restaurant: Le Pain Quotidien,
Cuisine: European Continental

Having opened a Colaba branch of the international brand in January, Belgian Coumont believes dishes should be a combination of colourful presentation and flavourful ingredients.
Kitchen injuries?
“A friend was re-enacting a stylish tennis shot with a long slicer and took a piece of my finger off in the demonstration. I also broke my toe after dropping a six kilo frozen salmon I was holding by the tail.”
12 hours to live, what meal?

“The best bottle of wine for sure and fresh truffle, if I’m lucky enough to die in

Mumbaikar diners?
“There is a very diverse range in preference and demographics and, as diners, they are discerning, sophisticated and well-traveled.”

Gia Tong, Head Chef, Trendz

Who: Gia Tong,
Restaurant: Trendz,
Cuisine: Vietnamese

Vietnamese Chef Tong has been plying his trade in Mumbai for just one month and is determined to bring eye-catching and colourful dishes to the dining scene.

Craziest order?
“A customer wanted their braised spare ribs medium-rare but I had to go out and personally explain to them that, because the dish is cooked for six hours, that would be pretty hard!”

Kitchen injuries?
“I was using a Chinese chopper to cut up some chicken and was so busy listening to instructions I chopped off part of my thumb.”

Weirdest ingredient?

“I am used to using snails but when I came to Mumbai I was told to take them off the menu, clearly it’s not Mumbaikar diners’ cup of tea.”

A new batch of Mumbai’s International Chefs prepare for a roasting.

Ian Kittichai, Head Chef, Koh

Name: Ian Kittachi Restaurant: Koh Cuisine: Thai

Hailing from Thailand, Chef Kittachi is a man devoted to his ingredients. His dishes arive courtesy of influences from across the globe and capped off with Thai flavors, spices and herbs. Look out for his signature offerings, such as lamb shank slow-cooked for 12 hours.

What’s the craziest order you’ve received? “Some people who are spice intolerant expect me to do a Green Thai curry without any chilies. But one guest asked me to do a Som Tom without Papaya and I did it with tender coconut shreds instead, it went down well.”  

What’s the weirdest ingredient you’ve cooked with? “Lamprey, an eel-shaped fish with delicately-flavored but fatty flesh, it’s a challenge to cook but even harder to eat!” 

What’s your ideal song to cook to? “Music helps to keep you in the flow of cooking so anything soft and soothing works. I have yet to find if spatulas make good microphones or if my kitchen can be a dancefloor.”

Jihad El Shami, Head Chef, Mabruk


Name: Jihad El Shami Restaurant: Mabruk Cuisine: Lebanese

Lebanese chef Jihad El Shami ensures that hygiene and organization rule in his kitchen. “No one appreciates a meal cooked by someone with a sweaty brow and hair loss issues” he declares.

Cooking song? Classical tunes by Fairouz, a female singer from Lebanaon.

What is the best dish you’ve prepared? Fakhed with Riz (A leg of lamb with rice).

You have 12 hours to live, what meal would you have? “Has to be Tabbouleh, a Levantine salad traditionally made of bulgar, finely chopped parsley and mint, tomato and spring onion, seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil.”

Who is your cooking inspiration and what dish would you serve them? My grandfather, he was a complete foodie who loved the Samkeh Harrah (Lebanese Garlic Fish)

Thomas Wee, Head Chef, Spices

Name: Thomas Wee Restaurant: Spices Cuisine: Chinese and Japanese

Seven and a half years into his Indian culinary expedition, Chinese chef Wee has developed a cooking creed centered around health conscious and nutritious cooking.

Weirdest ingredient? “I’ve cooked with wild animals such as Deer, Python, Flying Bat, Squirrel and Turtle.”

Any kitchen injuries? “I was new in the kitchen and fell on a slippery floor right onto the BBQ griller.”

Best thing since sliced bread? Asian rice and noodles!

12 hours to live, what meal? To be honest I don’t think I would have the appetite to eat anything.

Mama Villie Van, Head Chef, Ocean

Name: Mama Villie Van Restaurant: Ocean Cuisine: Pan-Asian

Chef Mama is credited as one of the pioneers of Thai food in Mumbai, being in the city for over 19 years. Her cooking aims at creating authentic and ethic cuisine.

Best thing since sliced bread? The pressure cooker, it makes cooking so much easier.

Your best dish? Panaeng (Meat in Spicy Coconut cream).

Your cooking inspiration? My grand mother, I would serve her my personal version of the Tom Yam Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup).

What do you think about Mumbaiker diners? They are a spicy lot, over the years their taste buds have evolved but they always want quick service, spicy food, and lots of gravy.

Once the arteries of imperialism, the Indian railway exudes a raw charm, derived from its imperfections. From its open doorways to six hour delays, nothing beats a ride on the Indian express. Set off with an open mind, and prepare for a few diversions. 

Delhi- The journey’s starting point and a baptism of fire for the newly-initiated tourist. In order to tackle Delhi’s plethora of sights, hire an all-day cab driver from your hotel. Bask in the meditative aura of the Lotus temple and accustom yourself with the Hindi gods in Lakshmi temple. Be prepared to wrestle against some of India’s most persistent hawkers, silence is the best option. 

AgraThe home of the Taj Mahal and its voluptuous curves. Wake up at 6am to view this milky-white wonder with the sun on her back, and get the perfect desktop photo. A half-hour cab ride away is the hauntingly deserted Fatehpur Sikri. The sandstone city was abandoned in 1599, after only 14 years of habitation, due to the lack of a water supply. 


Jaipur- A vibrant and chaotic city, Jaipur is coined the ‘pink city’ because it decorated its buildings in pink to welcome Queen Elizabeth II in 1876. Nowadays, such sights are rare but the pyramid-shaped palace of Hawa Mahal is an architectural feat to marvel. Sample Rajasthan’s distinctive dishes such as Gatte Ki Sabji, a rolled paste of chickpea flour and curry. 

the palace of the winds

Ajmer– Ajmer is a comparatively serene city, religiously significant because it houses a shrine to the Muslim prophet Mu’īnuddīn Chishtī. 11km away is the lakeside town of Pushkar, with 500 temples to accommodate the Hindi pilgrims who come to bathe in its lake and cleanse their sins. Unfortunately, the lake is now dried-up, after the local government dug up the lake bed, but its beauty remains. 

Pushker's dry lake

Jodpur– Jodpur holds the title of ‘blue city’, thanks to a sea of painted blue houses around the Mehrangarh Fort, a hill-top fort that is one of the largest in India. Get lost in the labyrinth of Jodpur’s markets, where you can browse the colorful array of hand-dyed fabrics. To escape the city, venture into the desert by camel and camp overnight in the dunes to catch a desert sunrise.

Udaipur-Udaipur has earned its title of Venice of the East because it is situated on a cluster of lakes. The city’s previous role as capital of the Merwar kingdom has yielded a number of majestic palaces. The most prominent of which, the Lake Palace hotel, is a five star hotel on its own island. The carvings adorning Jagdish Temple are a wondrous spectacle and the entrance is guarded by two stone elephants.

The city of lakes

Mumbai– Be wary of arriving into Mumbai too early, otherwise you’ll catch the city with its pants down, literally. The railway tracks are a communal toilet for local’s early-morning bowel movements. Dhobi Ghaut, where the city’s laundry is washed by hand, is a uniquely Indian spectacle. At night, take a taxi across the Bandra Worli Sea Link to look back on the city from the sea. Colaba’s art stores are a chance to pick up unique pictures, some of which have been painted with a single squirrel hair.

Dhobi Ghaut, Mumbai's laundromat

In the train waiting room

My travels around the north of India, and namely Rajasthan, had brought me once more into the arms of the Indian railways and I arrived on its dirt-laden platforms like a prodigal son returning home. Unfortunately, my inflated sense of confidence was somewhat undermined by the absence of accompanying equipment and my overnight bag, slung camply over the shoulder, looked out of place next to the guerrilla rucksacks of my travelling companions.
Once we had established that consistent advice on the location of our train would be a luxury, we chose instead to bide our time in the waiting room, which held an assortment of characters comparable to the board game Cluedo. One of whom -a Korean student- announced his presence with an act of gentle masochism that involved placing a number of burning coals across his forearm. A remedy, their box said ambitiously, ‘for all kinds of disease’. These tools were swiftly concealed when a good-looking girl, motivated more by a lack of alternatives than anything else, sat down in the chair next to him.

Sensing an opportunity, he reached  into his rucksack, brushing aside the Badminton travel kit for another occasion. Presumably he had read too much into the courting techniques advertised by Greek Mythology and withdrew instead a wooden pipe with a princely flourish. Whilst it did not have the desired romantic effect, his passionate display instead succeeded in rousing the resident population of rats from their subterranean lair. Once liberated, the horde wasted no time in inhabiting the nearby side room, whose sparing decorations and general decrepitude rendered it better suited for waiting to die than waiting for the train.
Despite its flaws, the Korean had already cast his sanitary eye over the room and deemed it acceptable to host his lifetime goal of sleeping overnight in a train station. I couldn’t help thinking that, whilst being a country of many firsts, India is not best-suited for this particular aspiration . Before leaving, though, I trusted he would value the information I had on his potential bedfellows, but his vocabulary did not extend to ‘weasel-sized rats’ and he offered me instead a naïve laugh before leaving to wash his hair in the bathroom sink. Blissfully unaware.

The train itself was sectioned into a range of different classes and the quest for the right carriage was a journey in itself. I was momentarily joined by the ‘flying Dutchman’,  a tourist from Holland who had occupied the previous half hour sprinting desperately across the platform, occasionally leaping onto what he thought was the right carriage before emerging seconds later, beaten back by a group of squabbling locals. As his panic mounted, the scene offered a small allegory for the Dutch colonial success in India.
I eventually found my carriage, which had been given the title of 3AC and thus housed a primitive ventilation system and a bunk bed comprising three platforms. The twist being that, by day, the middle bunk was temporarily retracted, making a back rest for passengers sitting on its bottom counterpart. This set-up inadvertently created a silent and strategic contest as to who would seize the top bunk. Other passengers had already laid weak territorial claims with the use of bags or by ostentatiously reviewing its mattress, but experience had taught me that these were mere frivolities and bore no influence on the eventual outcome.
I concluded that Machiavellian guile would be best-suited to the situation and so, feigning a visit to the toilet, I waited until relevant guards had been lowered, and scrabbled up the ladder and onto the top bunk. Gracious in defeat, the other contenders accepted the return of their baggage as the olive branch of peace, leaving me free to turn my attention to the fact it was only 8.30pm and I still had all three of the bunks’ bedding, sandwiched between my calf muscles.
Having severed diplomatic ties with my section of the carriage, I turned to the Eastern front for a means of depositing the, seemingly, goat-haired blankets. From my perch, I could make out a suitable space on the other bunk and, leaning across, placed my offering at the feet of its slumbering occupant. My assumptions that the recipient’s sleep would be long-lasting proved incorrect and, when I returned from the train‘s kitchen, the blankets had been stacked innocuously by my pillow.
Although his features betrayed little, I recognised the subtle invitation and, when he was forced to heed nature’s call, I readdressed the temporarily skewed balance by returning the pile. Defiant in the face of my advantageous high ground, he retaliated as soon as the situation allowed it and this war of attrition continued late into the night. As it breached 2am the effects were beginning to show on the carriage, blankets were strewn haphazardly across the theatre of conflict and, mercifully, a silent truce was agreed.
This, however, was by no means the end, and he exacted his revenge minutes later where, amongst the demonic orchestra of snores, his chainsaw-like offering distinguished itself in both pitch and tone.
The seventeen hour journey from Jaipur to Mumbai was buoyed by the train’s primary asset of doors which could be retracted when the train was in full flight. Undeterred by the 200 rupee fine (£2.80) , passengers used the area as a smoking section. The most prolific amongst this gathering were the train’s kitchen staff, whose professional perks included an uncontested position at the helm of the doorway.
During the quieter hours, the doorways offered an enclosed insight into rural India. If you can tolerate the track’s occasional encounters with gaping ravines, the mosaic of scenery is a stark contrast to the overflowing hue of cities. Glimpses of life present themselves in clusters of crude, wooden huts or the rhythmic bobbing of a farmer.
My position was located near the train’s kitchen and, during a routine night time stop, a band of country folk emerged from the veils of darkness surrounding the train. As I watched them clamber on, they were led, as if by natural intuition, to the awaiting cooks. After a round of handshakes, the visitors were handed the neatly-wrapped leftovers from dinner before returning into the night. The evidence was not conclusive enough to suggest a regular occurrence, but I feared the one-sided nature of the deal left the recipients in a precarious position, should there be a next time.
The breaking of dawn saw the surrounding bunks twitch into motion before the, now calming, sound of snores were replaced with awkward and ungainly shuffling that suggested the approach of Mumbai. I reached the doorway in time to see that the train was heading southwards through the city, and away from my flat in the suburbs. Having deemed my seventeen hour sentence as sufficient to experience the sleeper train and noticing the train had reached a manageable pace, I threw my bag onto the tracks before following shortly.
As I looked around for the recognisable features I had grown accustomed to in my previous stay, I noticed that I had caught Mumbai at a particularly vulnerable moment. The local men were firmly accustomed with the guilty pleasure of the early morning shit and had, for some reason, chosen the railway tracks as deserving of their waste. Whether as a sign of protest or appreciating the element of danger, the established technique seemed to be to squat directly over the train line, and the orderly line followed the track as far as my stomach would allow my eyes to see. With head firmly down, I passed in between a momentary gap and, seeing the relieved face of someone who had thought I was going for his spot, continued into the city.

Crawford Market

Mumbai has always struck me as having two personas. The older of the two can be found quietly surveying the city from its vantage point on the imposing state buildings which rise, detached, from the grubby roads. Characterizing the streets is the younger and more spontaneous Bombay who hustle and squat below, balancing their lives in the wicker baskets on their heads as they meander through the crowds. Crawford market is an arranged marriage of the two.

On the outside, the building’s colonial design plays to the tune of the fanny-pack brigade and the sleek Norman arches and sun burnt bricks wink sleazily at passing tourists, inviting them in. But not even the addition of a charming clock tower can hide its dirty secrets and the interior gives way to a more unruly underbelly where all manner of stalls are sprawled around the narrow passageways.

Brimming with confidence after I had successfully fought off the advances of a pony-tailed tailor, I saw the market’s enclosed space as the ideal grounds to give my newly acquired skills of evasion a fresh challenge. I was immediately put the test when, moments after I had read a sign which stated that visitor’s must be accompanied by a porter, an ancient figure apparated from the shadows right on cue.

Dressed head to toe in a white tunic, his attire was crowned by a small sailor’s hat that looked as if it might have been made out of origami. Neglecting any verbal introduction, he instead presented me his porter I.D card with the ill-disguised apprehension of a sixteen-year old handing his fake Belgian driving license to a nightclub bouncer.

Nevertheless, I was undeterred and I saw in him the qualities of a seasoned campaigner. He bore his marks proudly in the form of a glazed eye, and a reduced set of teeth which enabled him to open his sales pitch with the line, “I can show you shpishes, animalshs or shilk, what’sh it going to be?” After that I was taken over by curiosity, both in seeing what these categories would offer and hearing how my guide would tackle more complex sentences.

Upon my request, we headed for the animals and he led with the care and attentiveness of a loyal butler showing a visitor around his deceased master’s house, pausing to show me the firmness of the beetroots or thrust lemongrass under my nostrils. However, his monopoly power over the solitary tourist was short-lived and I was soon embroiled in an attempted coup d’etat from a predatory associate. Steering me in the direction of his potatoes, the relative youngster deposed my current guide unceremoniously saying, ‘that’s my father, he’s crazy.’ Looking at his crooked smile, I doubted any form of relation. My suspicions were confirmed when, after we were reunited, my host disowned his temporary son and ushered me onwards.

Although I knew little of what to expect, the courtyard which housed the animals certainly wasn’t on my list. Sawdust had been scattered across the ground and the smell had a pungent quality to it that far surpassed anything that had been offered by the outside streets. In modestly sized cages that were as crude as they were small, a Cruft’s catalogue worth of puppies lay around lethargically, almost resigned to their fate.

The message, however, had not gotten through to the hordes of rats, which clawed continuously at their glass walls in an effort that would have inspired communists worldwide. Lurking near the back of the courtyard was the largest cat I had ever seen and, borrowing a popular technique from Mother Nature, had further magnified its size by equipping itself with a rug of white fur. It was also one of the only animals to have the luxury of a personal cage, either because it had eaten the previous inhabitants or there was a subtle challenge from the owners to see if it could grow to fill the remaining inches of space.

In small shops, and with the benefit of shade, huge choruses of birds provided the soundtrack to this lively scene and their range of colors rivaled those of the saris that brushed past them. I was also surprised to see the addition of pigeons, who were seemingly aware of their role in making up the numbers and paced guiltily around the cage. In a bid to bring in some diversification, the walls had been lined with fish tanks in which, through the murky water, I could make out their aquatic inhabitants drifting around aimlessly. I couldn’t think why anyone would choose such a place of singular depression for the traditionally joyous activity of buying a pet, but the throng of people proved me wrong.

Back inside, I bypassed the spices in favour of the fruit and vegetable section. This was tended to by hawkers who had decided that the labyrinth of stalls was a picturesque setting for their early retirement. Having amassed a pile of supplies that towered over seven feet, they employed these sacks of carrots and lettuce as mattresses and surveyed my presence with the detachment of a Roman Emperor.

My guide seemed unable to comprehend that my visit was motivated by curiosity and chose instead to characterise me as some kind of underground fruit dealer. He savored in telling me the origins of each of the goods and looked expectantly for my approval when he described some melons as the “besht in whole of France.” It all got a bit much when, in a desperate effort to appeal to my fruit expertise, he jammed a banana in my face, squeezing it gently with an almost pedophilic glare while saying “you like that, eh. Shoft.”

After that, I started to have second doubts over my guide’s sanity and this was only made worse when he took me across the road to the silks, taking on the role of traffic-tamer in the process. As he slapped car bonnets and the backs of dawdling pedestrians, I began to reassess my assumption that he had lost his teeth through age, and not brawling. Whether it was through a general lack of knowledge about cars or sheer bravery, he seemed undeterred by their hulking mass and the horns only served to instill in him new degrees of fervor.

When we finally reached the other side, it was after he had re-enacted his individual take on Moses’ crossing of the Red Sea, where he had waded out into the traffic and held his arms aloft whilst irate drivers swerved to avoid him. His credentials as a subjective guide were then put under scrutiny, as he led me down a back alley to, what I can only assume, was his real son’s shop.

The tour, much like the hot water in my shower, was good while it lasted, but I soon had to leave and realised I would have to cross the exact road that he had just terrorised to return to the station.  As I left him arguing with a cab driver I regretted not catching his name, but I had a feeling I would see him again somewhere, probably on the news.

During the afternoon, at low tide, the sea retreats across the Mumbai shore line, leaving in its wake a jagged wilderness of rocks and stranded fishing boats. Although the terrain is particularly muddy, I had made a business investment of two hundred rupees to buy a box of equipment for a persistent shoe-shiner which, he reliably informed me, would propel him into a new league of shoe-cleaning. This also meant that, thanks to some fine print I had added in the deal, my shoes would enjoy his services free of charge and I thus had a blank cheque with regards to where I walked. He had originally tried to escape his charge by hiding out in Burger King and dimly-lit alleyways, but I had contacts in the shoe business and was determined to get all of the one hundred cleans which would constitute breaking even on my investment.

I was thus able to trudge confidently across the rocky beaches, a band of some of Mumbai’s numerous wild dogs momentarily joined me and I passed a policeman pissing nonchalantly across a boat’s hull. A sight, I thought, that might interest the graffiti-artist Banksy for his next work of art. This relative calmness was broken by the shouts of a few locals, who scampered towards me waving their arms. At first, I saw this as a warning sign that I had inadvertently strayed into gangland dog territory, and indeed the dried coils of shit placed tactically across rocks supported this theory.

(At this point, I would like to deter those who, thanks to the title, thought the story was heading in a different direction. You may depart, and shame on you…)

As the crowd drew closer, I noticed the plastic bags that were dangling threateningly by their sides and reassessed my original feeling of gratitude to them. But when the bags were opened, rather than the novelty junk I had expected, I was confronted by a seething mass of crabs. As appetizing as it was, seeing them silently fighting for their lives, I trusted neither my culinary ability nor my flat’s medieval pot to cook them, and turned down the opportunity of a purchase. I was more interested in the group that roamed the shores to find them.

Their ringleader, who also held the title of eldest, sported an authoritative moustache to show for his seniority. Whilst he preferred to operate as a lone wolf, the other three kept together and so I followed their lead as they crouched next to a large rock. The most obvious mark of their profession was a thin metal pole with a jagged hook on the end, which they brandished with the pride of a toddler holding a toy sword. As I soon discovered, this tool was thrust and jammed around the gaps between the rocks and beach, like someone picking a lock.

This activity went on for some time and, just as I had begun to lose interest, the pole was swiftly withdrawn to show a medium-sized crab flailing helplessly, its shell caught on the hook. From other viewings, and with the benefit of some theatrical hand movements, I worked out that the technique was to use the hook to taunt the crab as it lay in hiding and, once it had clamped the pole with its claw, to pull it out into the open. For more passive crabs, the claws were bypassed and the hook went straight for their hard exterior to latch onto an edge or gap. Once the crab was exposed in the open, another member ripped off the right claw impassively and jammed it between the crab’s shell and its left claw to nullify any risk to the fingers.

Thanks to a translational error, I had been given the name of Ocross, and I unconsciously fulfilled its prehistoric connotations as I scrabbled across the rocky landscape to keep up. One thing that interested me was the disparity in techniques. One member, who was known as the beggar due to his lack of success, was very tender with the movements of his pole and whispered gently to the rock as if reciting an ancient incantation. On the other end of the scale, the youngest hopped from nook to cranny with lightning speed and was so prolific that he had become a veritable danger to the beach’s crab population.

During a more prolonged hunt, the team had become so desperate that they had turned to my relative inexperience to remove a particularly stubborn crab. It was then, as I was forced onto my hands and knees to rummage into the far reaches of the rock’s underbelly, that another tourist appeared on the scene. Vulture-like, he had circled the group, but I was glad to see the loyalty displayed by my compatriots and his infiltration efforts were in vain. As he began to retreat to the path, I felt a tug from inside the rocks and pulled out the pole to reveal this brute of a crab clinging desperately to the hook.

As ‘the beggar’ tore off its right claw impassively, I saw a small wave of hesitancy flash across the outsider’s face. Sensing an opening, I pressed home the advantage and, wild-eyed with my hunting success, I gave him a look to say, “yes my friend, this is how we roll.”

Mumbai may be a city of diversity but there is no doubt that it is united under the language, and in some cases religion, of cricket; it is everywhere and it is huge. Cricket is a sport that knows no boundaries and the innovation of its disciples means that no open space is safe from their nomadic reach. Groups of players can be seen wandering from street to car park, bat in hand, searching for the next fix.

Whilst most surfaces are tolerated, there is a preference for would-be cricketers to flock to the many city parks, or maidans as they‘re known locally. As a result, daily attendance can easily breach the hundreds, and the relatively small grounds become so packed that games often overlap. One of the most popular venues is the southern-located Oval Maidan, where the matches are presided over by a horizon of prestigious buildings.

Although an attempted flying dismount from the train had left me with a reluctant ankle, I had been enticed by the ‘gateway drug’ of street cricket and, soon enough, found myself staggering across the Oval on the lookout for a game. My enthusiasm was there, but I had failed to observe the unofficial dress code of all-white kit, and my yellow shorts did me no favors amongst the traditionalists.

Fortunately, I spotted a group of ‘plainclothes’ who had been exiled from the good pitches and had settled instead on a cordoned-off section by the fence. The players’ liberal attire was also reflected in their attitude, and my approach was greeted as if I were an old friend. Soon enough, I was thrown the ball expectantly and, with the pride of a nation at stake, I bowled a shapely full-toss which was punished to the far-reaches of the park. My second ball suffered the same fate and I had to wait some time before I was given an opportunity to make amends.

Following in the same trend as my last deliveries, my next ball drifted lazily through the air. But at this point, the balaclava-clad batsman had let his confidence get the better of him and, having dodged past his wild swing, the ball thudded into the garbage bin which represented the wicket. Riding this wave of form, I seized the bat from him and eyed up his cock-eyed companion whom I assumed would be doing the bowling.

What I had failed to acknowledge was the monster that they had been preparing out of my line of sight and was now being summoned by his keepers to exact revenge on my British heritage. There was a fire in him which I knew, all too well, would only be extinguished by my tears of submission. He now held in his hand a prototype ball which lethally combined the bounce of a tennis ball with the hardness of a cricket ball.

With my protection comprising what was effectively a small stick, I desperately searched for any kind of natural armor in the bushes, but he was already galloping in. A black crow flew ominously across the pitch and, as the first ball whistled an inch past my hip, I finally understood that he was targeting my family tree and planned to erase any chances I had of having children. He was toying with me before he went in for the kill. His second delivery sailed over my head and it was only the fourth time lucky that he struck gold in the form of my ribcage.

Leaving me precious few minutes to recover, I was then drafted into the match that, apparently, being hit in the ribs constituted training for. The captain placed me in an innovative fielding position which saw my head stationed four inches away from the temperamental bat of a neighboring  match. I was further inspired when, later on, I noticed that the opposition had placed their oldest and most rotund player in the same position.

The standard of cricket was surprisingly high and every mistake was taken collectively to heart by the whole team. There was no room for baggage and, when I dropped a catch, I was viewed by an older player as if I had just emptied a bag of shit at his feet. I began to recognize that the manifesto for batting was ‘hit out or get out,’ and the path that wound through the park was consistently peppered by monstrous shots. I pitied the fielder who was placed in that particular firing zone, but his commitment was such that, when one ball was struck in his direction, he was so intent on catching it that he backed into a book stall by the path, scattering fake copies of War and Peace as he fell.

As it grew darker I kept expecting the game to be called off, but it was only after every movement became a gamble as to where the ball would land that we finally trooped back. As was tradition, we headed to the maidan’s pavilion. Or rather behind it, where there was a small crowd gathered round a simmering vat of tea. The cauldron belonged to a permanently cheerful local, who was introduced as something of a legend. As proof, he was surrounded by an assortment of newspaper clippings which pictured him with identical smiles and different Indian celebrities, including members of the national cricket team.

Before I left, one of the players put his fatherly hand around my shoulder and, unknowingly dismissing my ten years of experience, asked, “so Christian, how did you enjoy your first game of cricket.”

Training Day


Having endured a torrid first date, I have found a hidden gem in the Indian train service. But before this is dismissed as another homage to the relics of imperialism, hear me out.

Its appeals come from where it differs from its chubby and unreliable British counterpart.

Whilst any London commuters are regarded with eternal taboo if they brandish their elbows during the boarding process, a liberal forearm and a Rambo attitude are essential to have any chance of reaching the haven of the Indian railway carriage. The boarding technique preferred by locals is ‘the lion,’ where, having selected a carriage with suitably weak occupants, they chase it down across the platform until the train reaches a manageable speed to leap onto.

If you survive this process then you become accepted into the carriage community and are free to enjoy its membership benefits. An array of downward-facing fans provide the ventilation, but this is often not sufficient for some and there is stiff competition for places around the two-metre long open doorway. This prime spot has the benefits of a breeze and, at times, several people plunge their faces out of any available gaps to relish in the swirling air, whilst avoiding electricity pylons in the process. There is also a general consensus to beat a hasty retreat every time the train passes over the river of open sewage.

Due to the competition for places during rush hour, some mavericks take this pastime of ‘breeze riding’ to the next level and use the barred windows as a foothold to ride on the outside, clinging to any feature of the train that will have them. Fortunately, the Mumbaikers are more accommodating than their iron mount and one particular local took it upon himself to ensure the safety of his travelling companion by cradling him around the waist with his arms.

When they are not re-enacting scenes from the Titanic, commuters content themselves with watching the passing scenery, whilst some even burst into song. During one journey I was treated to a tear-jerking rendition of ‘Ain’t no Sunshine’ by the 50 year-old businessman, standing next to me who, I can safely say, had the sweetest voice in the Sub-Continent.

Things were not always so dandy.

On my first attempt, as a Virgin to the train etiquette, I saw a carriage that was only defended by a skeleton guard of Indian women. My luck had finally turned and I could avoid the wild rush going on around me. But as I got on I was immediately greeted by the shoos and hisses of a mob of female suffragettes who, led by a wrinkled reincarnation of Emily Pankhurst herself, forced me off the carriage. It later transpired that women had several carriages to themselves, probably to protect them from the boarding frenzy.

Fortunately I learnt this lesson before the arrival of the Pune express, a train made up of an entirely female contingency, and my attempts to board it would have appeared to the locals as a sex-starved tourist, desperate to get on to this mythological entity. It was factors out of my reach that had saved that train from certain boarding and as it danced gaily past, I set my sights on its successor.

Having already seen two legitimate trains escape my clutches, I was determined not to let the next fish get away. I selected a relatively empty carriage, that also appeared to be mixed, and tightened my grip for the long haul as the first signs of dissaproval, which at this point seemed inevitable, manifested themselves in the around me.

As the red mist descended and my knuckles whitened, I hung on amidst a growing chorus of unrest and it was only a particularly well-placed tug from one of the vigilantes who had gathered outside the carriage that dislodged me from my perch.

It was then, from this new perspective and with logic slowly returning, that I saw an indiscreet sign which showed that the carriage was reserved solely for disabled people and cancer patients.

With my tail between my legs I withdrew to the refuge of a cab, but I would be back. After all it is ten pence to ride anywhere in the city.

After seeing off the first assault of jet lag, bereft of any basic supplies and with ‘first-day explorer syndrome’ pulsing through my veins, I decided to extend my knowledge of Bandra beyond the cramped window of a taxi. A prestigious member of the ‘burbs, it had grown northward from the historic centre of Mumbai and was to be my haunting spot for the next month.

It took only a few chaotic minutes and a barrage from the local fruit-selling, Armani-wielding populous to convince me that, despite my best efforts, I could not go it alone and would need to recruit the aid of a local. Not only to help with general navigation, but also to sift through the hundreds of street vendors to find the most reputable source of food in an area where KFC was the landmark culinary establishment pointed out to me by my landlord.

Such a bill-fitter came in the unlikely form of Ravi, a novelty map seller who, still ruing the day he had given the finger to his waiter friends in favour of the alternative market for illustrated maps, was more than happy to throw off their laminated shackles. If nothing else then to placate the voice in his head, on a continuous loop saying “you should’ve slept on it mate…”

As a guide he was one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve met, despite that fact that he had the misfortune to look like an Indian version of Gareth from The Office. His voice filled with unadulterated regret when he spoke of the squalor which many of the locals lived in. Pointing out small patches by the road with only a dusty sheet to qualify them as houses.

Having never been to any form of school, Ravi had picked up Englishfrom his time in Delhi. Something which had proved an invaluable asset in the face of a merciless job market that did not look fondly on his lack of educational credentials. It also had its use in luring foreign dickheads to their demise at the hands of an over-friendly tailor. Dickheads like me.

But today was not such a day and, having escorted me to one of the few restaurants with roofs in the area and refusing any financial embellishment, he pledged to return in an hour to take me to his house. Although I didn’t know what to expect, I had an inkling that I could put my call to MTV cribs on hold.

As promised, he returned with minutes to spare and we set off on the long walk to the West side of Bandra. An area, I would later discover, that had a formidable slum population and was separated from its Eastern equivalent by a long railway bridge that was a hub of activity for beggars, hawkers and commuters alike. Crossing onto the other side I could detect no noticeable difference from the roads I had walked down before and it was only when we parted company with the main road into terra incognita that the stakes were raised.

Furnished by an alleyway that would be stretched to fit a well-sized American, the houses were intimately spaced to say the least. As particularly graphic scenes from City of God raced through my head, I reached into my pocket to fashion a home-made knuckle duster out of my flat keys, should the need arise. I also inched slightly closer to my guide, but without partaking in the exercise of ‘bromance’ that saw a number of Indian men holding pinkies through the streets, oblivious to any homosexual connotations.

My fears were, of course, unfounded and the only threats came in the form of passive women washing their clothes outside and the walls of smiles from the children who rushed to shake my hand and wish me a happy new year.

After a few minutes of walking we arrived at his pad, which distinguished itself from its neighbours only by the crackling din of a device that barely scraped the definition of a television. Apart from the fan, this was the only electrical device in the single-roomed house, and the only other furnishing was a tottering shelf with piles of metal pots balanced on top.

In one corner, the concrete wall bore the mark of a younger member of the family, who had tacked up any stickers he could find. Unfortunately for him, this meant that the corner was covered by a horde of lesser-successful Disney characters, and, for some reason, Tom Jones. If I returned, I resolved to bring a true ambassador of the Westside to the dilapidated walls, Tupac Shakur.

Eclipsing all of these features, and on the wall opposite the entrance, a plaster shrine to the Hindu God Ganesh revelled in its modest surroundings. Besides it, and sitting comfortable on a thin rug that also seemed to double as the bed, was the older brother who was intently watching a fuzzy screen which occasionally resembled a game of cricket.

Finally, as I removed my shoes, I was also greeted by the mother, who paused from washing the family’s clothes in one of the pots to offer the traditional Hindu greeting of pressed hands and a bowed head. Other than that, she was seemingly oblivious and treated the situation as if it were a daily occurrence.

Drawn in by the black and white cricket, I took my seat on the rug and watched as the two brothers had a quiet conversation which ended abruptly in the older one getting up to leave. As he did so I immediately regretted my decision to accept the offer of the communal cushion from behind his back, thinking that this was the cause of his departure. But, waving away any apologies, he left with a knowing smile.

During his departure, the hospitality of the family was made evident to me by the increasing array of offers poured on me, from drinks to full-on meals. I politely declined, conscious of the how little the family had. A crowd of young children had also gathered around the window and door and, despite the best efforts of my host to get rid of them, persevered, desperate to know what I thought of MS Dhoni or if I liked their trainers.

I answered the crowd as best I could and it was only the return of the older brother that ceased the question time, he had brought a coke with him from the local convenience store. Relatively, it was quite a small token, but the fact that Ravi told me, with a hint of regret in his usually passive voice, that his mother was going out begging soon made it seem like one of the most generous offering I’ve had, Any of my protests were resolutely dismissed and, reminding me that I was a guest in his house, he passed it over.

I spent another couple of hours in the room, in which I was also persuaded to have some of the bread, but eventually the time came to leave. Promising to come for a game of cricket later in the week, I started off on the long walk home, humbled by the kindness and good will of a slum-dweller.

Travelling through Mumbai is like nothing you could ever have imagined.

My steed was a black and yellow FIAT which looked as if it had driven straight out of 1970s Havana and boasted, amongst other gadgets, a solitary light bulb. However, by far the one accessory which interested the driver the most was the high pitched horn which acted as an outlet for his frustration and was thus used generously. In fact
most drivers shared this partiality and the overall effect was that of an urban rainforest with the mating calls of Honda Civics piercing through the dry air in a never-ending chorus.

The roadside scenery was littered with piles of rubble which, in places, were being tenderly transferred into dusty sacks. A job, I feared, that was cursed never to end, but the presence of this rubble also portrayed a symptom of the absence of much government activity on the street level.

You also couldn’t help but notice the array of slums which had evolved by the road. Some of the houses were comprised of large billboards with ‘Coca Cola’ draped next to the entrance in faded letters. Sitting on top of these DIY foundations at a fashionable slant, a corrugated iron roof provided the primary means of protection against the ominous monsoon rains.

Each of these houses were then balanced precariously on top of one another to give the impression of an unfinished jig-saw against the horizon. Whilst this organised chaos suggested the haphazard nature of the houses’ construction, it also lent an artistic flair to the surroundings which is barren to most Westernised cities.

Against this backdrop were the Mumbaikars themselves, the life force of the city who flowed and ebbed through the streets each with their own purpose and unique knowledge of the city.

Whilst activity was never far away, many locals contented themselves with perching besides stalls and watching the stream of bikes, cars and rickshaws- which resembles a cross between a scooter and a squeezed VW campervan- beep and whine their way through the streets. In fact, so little were these particular locals’ actions that they had ceased to become human and simply blended in with their surroundings as an another decoration for the stalls.

Inevitable to such a place of extreme poverty, beggars also walked the streets. Exercising their broken English phrases to any tourists strolling past and, when that failed, they pulled and tugged at clothes as if trying to will money out of the pockets. Even though such an activity was nothing new to me, it was a shock to see that none of them were older than seven. No doubt sent out by their parents to earn their keep, even at so young an age. Although the weight of the responsibility is distressing for such small shoulders, some comfort can be derived from the fact that, even in such dire circumstances, the children rallied together and still found the energy and will to play by the road.

Standing out amongst this bustle of life was the elegance of the women, who glided authoritatively through the crowds like a swan negotiating its way through a pond of lilies. In contrast to the dusty décor, which had been cast lavishly across the buildings and streets, vibrant colours, plucked from every crevice of the spectrum, lit up their saris. Plumes of emerald green collided with splashes and swirls of dark blue, whilst delicate patterns lined the edges, all to create small vortexes of colour in every direction you looked.

As if this elaborate attire was not sufficient, many women also sported patterns across their hands and upper arms in such a delicate shade of brown that it served to compliment the skin on which it rested. Though it was observed that plants and flowers served as the primary artistic inspiration, there seemed to be no limits to this extravagant ‘mehndi.’

The diversity of such characteristics gave the impression that you were revisiting a patchwork of old dreams. Being unable to remember one specific storyline, you have taken the highlights and put them together in a blend that defies any logic but somehow makes sense.