Recently, I took up the duty to show an acquaintance across my city and give them an idea of what Mumbai really is. I just had about 5-6 hours on hand and decided to make the most of it. The idea was to show them the raw energy the people of Mumbai possessed and it’s rich culture that included the iconic buildings the Britishers left us.
Our trip began with having lunch at the renowned ‘Kala Ghoda Cafe’. A cafe that is listed in the city’s “Must Go To” cafes as well as a recommendation on Trip Advisor. It is a small, quaint cafe hidden amidst the narrow streets of the city. It took us a few minutes to find it, but it was totally worth the effort. A cafe that has a menu with vegan and gluten free options, richly cooked food and some amazing beverages.
Since we’d decided to see Mumbai in its true light, we conferred it was best if we walked through the streets than drive around everywhere. The closest and our first destination was The Asiatic Library.
The Asiatic Society of Mumbai is a learned society in the field of Asian studies based in Mumbai, India. It can trace its origin to the Literary Society of Bombay which first met in Mumbai on 26 November 1804, and was founded by Sir James Mackintosh. It was formed with the intention of “promoting useful knowledge, particularly such as is now immediately connected with India”.
The library of the Society has over a hundred thousand books out of which 15,000 are classified as rare and valuable. It also has priceless artefacts and over 3,000 ancient manuscripts in Persian, Sanskrit and Prakrit, mostly on paper but some on palm leaf. The numismatic collection of 11,829 coins includes a gold coin of Kumaragupta I, a rare gold mohur of Akbar and coins issued by Shivaji. Its map collection comprises 1300 maps. This library holds 1 of the 2 copies of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Right besides the Asiatic Library are the old abandoned buildings which are now taken over by The Indian Navy. You’ll find a finely painted mural on its walls which tells you about what exists beyond those walls. From here, we walked through the streets towards the famous Colaba Causeway.
The Causeway has found it’s way into various books by some renowned writers who spent some time here in the city back in the 80’s and early 90’s. One of the most famous ones being in the book ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts.
On our way towards the causeway, we walked past the Bombay Natural History Society, Regal Cinemas and The Maharashtra Police Headquarters.
Since our guest had just recently seen “Hotel Mumbai” based on the terror attacks that took place on 26th November 2008, they also wanted to see the locations that were affected. Accordingly, the next location was The Gateway of India and The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
The Gateway of India is an arch-monument built in the early twentieth century in the city of Mumbai erected to commemorate the landing in December 1911 at Apollo Bunder, Mumbai (then Bombay) of King-Emperor George V and Queen-Empress Mary, the first British monarch to visit India.
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, is a heritage, five-star, luxury hotel built in the Saracenic Revival style in Colaba historically known as the “Taj Mahal Hotel” or the “Taj Palace Hotel” or simply “the Taj”.
Part of the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, this hotel with its 560 rooms and 44 suites is considered the flagship property of the group; it employs some 1,600 staff. The hotel is made up of two different buildings: the Taj Mahal Palace and the Tower, which are historically and architecturally distinct from each other (the Taj Mahal Palace was built at the start of the twentieth century; the Tower was opened in 1973). The hotel has a long and distinguished history, having received many notable guests, from presidents to captains of industry and stars of show business. The hotel is notorious as the most visible target of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
From here, we headed to Leopold Cafe nearby. The cafe has been mentioned extensively in the novel Shantaram and its sequel The Mountain Shadow. Cafe Mondegar is another cafe just a 2 minute walk away from Leopold Cafe.
It was founded in 1871 by Iranis. It first started out as a wholesale cooking oil store and over the years has variously been a restaurant, store and pharmacy (hence the name “Leopold Cafe & Stores”). Prior to the terrorist attack, it was particularly known as a popular hangout for foreign tourists. After the attack, it is also now also popular with many Indians to commemorate the spirit of defiance. The Leopold Cafe has preserved some of the signs of the attack as a memorial, whereas at the Taj and Trident, the damage from the attacks has been repaired.
We spent almost 2 hours heckling, negotiating and shopping at the street stalls right outside the cafe. One can score a huge bargain here and it’s quite fun. Moving further, we hit our last spot of the evening, which was The Trident Hotel and then spent time walking along Marine Lines and just sitting by the sea and listening to the water.
One notable spot that we missed out on was The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, which if you aren’t aware of too well, you’d mistake with the police headquarters.
This was our entire afternoon and evening spent in Mumbai. An ideal trip and bunch of locations to cover if you have just 1 day to sightsee or explore.