When I have friends in town… I start with a train ride to any anywhere, perhaps Churchgate or the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus) station in South Mumbai – a quintessential Mumbai experience. Next might be a stop for bun maska (buttered buns) and a glass of ‘cutting chai’ (Mumbai’s popular half-measure of tea, ideal for travellers on the move) served by one of the vendors outside the station. Then a few hours of bargaining for trendy skirts and bohemian shirts at Fashion Street or funky coasters and artsy souvenirs at Good Earth followed by an evening spent at one of the sea-facing promenades.
When I’m up for a big night out… I start with a round of beer and pizza at Woodside Inn, Mumbai’s most exciting craft beer destination, before heading on a midnight pub crawl, with my first stop being Bonobo, followed by a game of pool and buzzing contemporary rock at Ghetto. To end, I like to retire to Marine Drive, where locals – youngsters, couples, families – gather day and night to enjoy the Arabian Sea reflecting the sparkling city skyline.
For cheap eats... I like to indulge at one of the famous khau gallis or ‘food lanes’ that dish out delectable traditional and modern street food snacks such as pav bhaji (bread with spiced vegetables), kachori (fried balls stuffed with spiced pulses) and papri chaat (Mumbai-style salad with crisp wheat wafers). My personal favourite is the Carter Road Khau Galli, lined with stalls dishing out mouth-watering salads for the health-conscious.
A typical weekend involves… Vada pavs (and lots of them). Every street has at least a couple of street vendors serving this spicy local treat, made from fried potato and chutney stuffed into a fluffy bun. Visitors like to call it the ‘Indian veggie burger’, to the annoyance of locals, but it’s one snack you can’t miss if you are in Mumbai.
For an offbeat Mumbai experience… I like to awaken my inner Columbus and set sail for a two-hour long sailing-boat trip from the Gateway of India or go kayaking around Girgaum Chowpatty. These are just two of many outdoorsy experiences possible around Mumbai. I love to hike and it isn’t far to the Western Ghats, one of the eight hottest hotspots for biological diversity in the world. For history, I love to go fort-hunting, my favourite being the 500-year-old Bassein Fort, built by the Portuguese on the outskirts of Mumbai. And when I get bored of the city’s fine-dining, I head to a local cooking studio, learn to make something new and eat the food I cook – it’s a major trend sweeping the city.
What I hate most about Mumbai… The city has an infuriating overdependence on plastic packaging and fragile infrastructure! Every time the rain washes over the city, this rubbish clogs the drains and floods the streets. And did I mention the insatiable way motorists honk their horns? Everybody on the road is in a rush to go somewhere!
But then, here’s what I love the most about Mumbai… Its people. No matter what the situation, whatever the challenge, or the calamity, the resilient nature of Mumbai’s people always shines through. More dreams are realized in Mumbai than any other place in the country – this is a city where you always have another chance to succeed if you have the ‘Mumbai Spirit’.
I know I am a Mumbaikar because... I can never stop dreaming, despite challenges and periodic failures. There is something in the city air that teaches you to get ahead and always give 100 percent. I’m always inspired by the men and women of Mumbai, from Bollywood stars to politicians to entrepreneurs, who dared to make their dreams come true.
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