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Rediscovery Saturday

[Note to the reader:  this post has nothing to do with my work or technology or investing or other professional opinions, hopes and aspirations]

It has been a memorable weekend!  Saturday found our family spontaneously exploring Colaba and Fort, the oldest parts of the island city of Bombay.    It started out ordinary with lunch at Indigo Deli, but pastrami sandwiches and bagels loaded with fresh salmon, cream cheese and capers put us in a very New York state of mind.    We decided it was an ideal day to get  reacquainted with the narrow lanes behind Rampart Row.    A large number trading businesses housed in sturdy colonial stone buildings – we could be in the Ladder District!

This is where my wife introduced me to the coolest cafe in town – Kalaghoda Cafe would be hard to find unless someone told you it was right across from the seafood Mecca called Trishna.   The tiny 3 table joint with Scandinavian design sensibilities set in a hundred year old barn is otherwise on a non-descript stretch of Rope Walk Lane.  Skylit exposed-brick coziness houses exceptional coffees and teas and small portions of sandwiches, salads and hummus served with unique homemade multi-grain bread.    The loft that seats three is uber cool.    As we slumped into a very comfortable stupor over coffee and the tap-tap of a Macbook pro being worked at on the table next to ours, my wife and  I settled into a tender embrace against the back wall to savor the ambience.   This is when I  discovered how uncomfortable our five year old twin daughters are with public displays of affection.  We decided to drop them off at a workshop for kids!

We drove a couple of blocks to the foot of the Bombay Stock Exchange and clambered up a flight of beautiful hardwood steps to the unlikely location of a project called Bombay Paperie.  Housed in this beautiful old office building is a valiant effort to revive the ancient art of hand-made paper manufacturing in Daulatabad.  The extra strong paper made from fabric remnants is painstakingly crafted into sheets for specialty uses like packaging, artwork and vanity stationery.    The kids loved spending an hour with the fine ladies here who introduced them to card making with a subliminal message about the ecological implications of making and using paper.

While the girls kept busy, Monali and I stepped out to explore the back streets of Ballard Pier and Fort.    We walked around the unfortunately named Horniman Circle and towards Flora Fountain.    My eyes welled up momentarily when we passed street vendors hawking sturdy perma-press shirts manufactured in Bangkok alongside faux-suede shoes and cheap knock-offs of Nike sneakers.   The sight brought back memories of my humble beginnings in this megapolis when some of this fine but cheap street fare was an aspiration.    Memories of  riding a crowded train as a teenager and walking down to the back alleys of Fort to buy and proudly wear a 30 Rupee shirt ($1 back then) keep me grounded today and remind me of the effort my parents put in to provide me a launchpad that has taken me far.

Along DN Road, the main drag past the fountain, we walked under the stone-walled archways under old Georgian office buildings.   Every wall and pillar is festooned with smuggled electronic and optical goods (cellphones, cameras, binoculars) just as it was thirty years ago.   The only new additions to the fare on offer are aggressively peddled sex-toys which reflect the new liberated attitude to the old taboo among the middle class.   Just then,  the monsoon showers that have been evading the city lately decided to pour down upon us.    We made a spot purchase of an umbrella (just like the many times I have outside Grand Central Station and in the financial district in Boston when caught up in an unexpected shower).

It was wonderful to walk through the downpour with my wife: rediscovering both my soulmate and the soul of the city of my birth.   We walked past centuries old watchmakers and other curious businesses that somehow manage to pay the rent in one of the most expensive commercial districts in the world.    Heading back towards Dalal Street (our Wall Street), we stumbled across a small cafe called “The Tea Pot” that was a valiant attempt by an old-style Persian restaurant to masquerade as a gourmet tea stop.   But fried eggs on toast go down well in a torrential downpour; my wife was magically dry despite our wanderings in the rain but more than half of me was dripping wet.   The tea capped a lovely afternoon of reconnecting with my lovely family and my roots in Mumbai and getting nostalgic about our two decades of building a life together with Monali in Boston and New York.

Categories: India, Life
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