My friend Rodrigo, like many expats in another country, probably knows more about it than most people who were born here. He loves to explore Bombay, and can dig out for you the most obscure facts, if you’re the kind of person who likes to know things about a city apart from the trendy nightlife, that is.
Anyway, so Rodrigo (who has kindly allowed me to use his picture) (also, not his real name) has been going to Mohammed Ali Road for the end of Ramzan iftar for the last couple of years now. And since he’s been going on about it so much and because I love meat so much, I decided to go along this year to basically stuff my face and explore a part of the city that I had never seen before.
We began at 10.30 with those seekh kebabs you see above. I looooooooooooooove seekh kebabs. You can keep your chicken tikka or your reshmis. For me a kebab isn’t a kebab until it’s seekh.
Everyone there knew Rodrigo (I really don’t know why I’m persisting in using his pseudonym, but old habits, I guess), and they were all very friendly and stopped and chatted with us. This man started putting the seekhs on instantly. They came with this really nice green chutney, which I’m afraid I ate a little too much of, and consequently, paid the price this morning.
Then we went for a stroll and got a tangdi and botis with a deep fried paratha apiece. My rule on a big eating night out is to skimp on the carbs, so there’ll be more space. Rotis fill you up, so I ate only a little of mine, and attacked the tangdi with gusto.
The botis, were, err, a little off. I left mine after a couple, because they seemed a bit tough, but poor Rodrigo had one that tasted terrible, he told me. I offered him some Coke to wash it down with, but he’s abstaining from that particular beverage.
Then we went for a really long walk, to help our stomachs along. We were right next to Kamatipura, Bombay’s famous red light district and I was dying for a peek inside. Rodrigo told me normally women were turned away at the entrance by the (lucky) cop posted on duty there because “What will people say?” Now I don’t know about you, but whenever someone tells me I CAN’T do something, I instantly want to do it. Either very suffragette or very only child of me, take your pick. So we meandered through the lane, finding no cop, walked through a cloth market and allowed ourselves to get lost in the inner lanes of Kamatipura.
You may not know this (I didn’t till recently) but during Ramzan time any sort of of sexual activity is forbidden. I wonder if business goes down? Hmmm.
Also, I realise I’m too shy to ever be a good photographer. I passed the PERFECT picture, four men around a carrom board, lit up and everything, but I couldn’t bring myself to take it. I don’t know whether it’s an invasion of privacy thing or just a don’t want to interfere thing. I’m perfectly happy asking questions. As I did of the owner of this sign.
Do you see the sign for ‘American Paratha’? Rodrigo and I stared at it for a while and then I said, “Fuck this, I’m going to go find out what it is.” We went, the proprieter pointed to a soft fluffy nan. “That’s it?” I asked. He nodded. “Why American?” He shrugged. Well, at least we got a good photo out of it. “Maybe because it was soft,” chortled Rodrigo as we exited. I think we were a little food-drunk. Did you know that was possible? I didn’t.
We also saw this sign, but since it was in a burkha shop, we refrained from asking what exactly it was.
I imagine a ‘ninja’ to be a mask with holes in it. Damn, should’ve bought one!
We did pass through some of the red light district and some of the ladies of the night, but before we knew it, we were completely and thoroughly lost. We had walked and walked and walked till we finished an entire circle. The biryani was calling, so we hopped into a taxi (I know, I know, completely cheating) and got to Noor Mohammed. WHICH HAS AN ORIGINAL HUSSAIN SKETCH RIGHT BY THE STAIRS. In a dusty glass frame with no attention being drawn to it at all. I would’ve walked right by, if Rodrigo hadn’t pointed it out.
Here we had the famous white biryani (chicken in white rice, amazingly unoily and really good, not as bland as it sounds) and some nalli nihari (which is basically like, er, a hank of meat, and marrow in a sort of stew). Both were so good, I am kicking myself now for being too full to eat much. The wall also had a recipe by Sanjay Dutt called ‘Chicken Sanju Baba’. It didn’t look very good though.
And then we half walked half staggered to get some phirni. By this time it was one in the morning (I totally broke my no-food-after-ten rule) and we had been eating and walking for about three hours. Well, I thought, if I can dance till two, I can definitely walk till one. The market was still pretty crowded for that time, people everywhere, shopping and eating, and Rodrigo and I shared a phirni and looked at the world around us.
Here is a link to a map drawn by a *ahem* certain someone which details all the places you can stop and eat. I’d do it if I were you, NOW, and not wait till next year. Your stomach will thank you.