Do u remember that TV campaign with a renowned actor telling a city cabbie, to stop fleecing 2 firang girls, coz guests are God!?? An attempt to remind us of the age old (I mean mythical times old) Indian saying in Hindi “Athithi Devo Bhava.” (As I said earlier, Guests ARE God!!)
So by guests, I guess the actor refers to tourists, or anyone who is visiting the country or your city from another.
Well, that seems to be long forgotten…some of us Mumbaikars have become so self involved, that we sometime even treat our fellow city mates as strangers! Having said that, I was just thinking the other day (yes…I do that sometimes for a change!! Hahah! ) that when the same “guests” do visit us in aamchi Mumbai, where do they go? You know sightseeing, vagera?
Why am I asking that? ‘Coz, recently I encountered such a problem.
What do you do when you have to entertain a bunch of students visiting us from Stanford University, USA and have to take them around Bombay. Although, they did come with a pre-planned itinerary, which included a an educational visit to Dharavi…(Yuhuh!! We have official tour guides who can take you around there without getting lost) And of course, they had other usual stuff lined up but had heard so much about the nightlife of our city that when they got a break from their study sessions all they wanted was to party…Well, with the constant opening and shutting of places to let your hair down, I moved the gang to all the buzzing ones (in budget mind u) and they left hugging me at the airport, constantly letting me know that they really liked Mumbai and will never forget their trip here. Although, very proud of meself I suddenly sighed out loud and whimpered, Abhi asli Bombay dekha kaha hai?? They haven’t seen the real Bombay yet!!
Is that what our city is known as, a place to party? Anyways, even if it was, that’s past tense my dear friends. Speaking more clearly in the famous words of my gang last weekend, complaining that “Bombay night life is dead yaar, due to the stiff deadlines, the hockey stick beating cops, and of cos, how expensive things have become in this city to have a decent time out!
But after giving it a thought, I am gonna list down a few places where you can get the Bombay feel FOC- Free of Cost. Let’s see together, if you can feel it too!
First, let’s list down the top few places that are on your list where you can take outta towners.
Say Gateway of India, Colaba street shopping, queens necklace, and come on…I know by now you are thinking…for more spots aren’t you?!! Ok Ok and the beaches, chowpatty and juhu!! And a few places to party I guess…And what else?? Hahah…bet you are googling the Mumbai Darshan route now. Ok may be I am…Wohhhh… I see a list of 51 places!! Really? How many did we miss?? Gosh, do we really know all and are they worth going to. The funny part it was that there are two parts of the list that indicate “stops and passing only.” Now that’s …that’s …that’s….I dunno what to say!
Once you have jotted down your list, sit on your favourite chair and take a big sip of your chai, coffee, beer, wine and enjoy the moment…Ok… and now come back to reading this. Hahahah!
Honestly, tell me how many would you personally recommend??? Socho socho!!
Meanwhile, I made it easy for myself by categorising my list into 4-5 categories, ideally what every city has such as,
• Heritage and Infrastructural wonders
• Places of worship
• Entertainment
• Food & Nightlife
• Shopping
Easier na!! Now you do the homework! I would love to hear from you with your version of an itinerary.
Psst.. special request to add our zoo – Rani Baug, I am very sensitive about this issue.

Anyways of course …Yes, yes you can haul yourself around all these places, take pictures at Gateway, Taj and Nariman point, shop your butt off at Palladium, grab a few drinks, in a local bar like Gokul or Janata or a fancy lounge in SOBO and pause for a minute of silence to check out the bullet marks (and a beer) at Leo’s, but… is this what Mumbai is all about? Maybe or Maybe not?!!

Mumbai MonkeysThe Bombay I see (I prefer to call it Bombay not Mumbai, I feel closer to it)
Now close your eyes and tell me if you see this. (Duh, after reading this silly)
BEST bus driver and conductor lighting an agarbatti before he starts his day, the corner paan wala pouring his bucket water after cleaning his stall on the road, laughter club’s loud laughs echoing into your ears from the garden nearby, dabba walas lining up their deliveries at the station, the smell of fresh fish from the ladies luggage compartment emptied at churchgate station, the early morning chaos at dadar market vegetable and flower market, a man running behind a jam packed bus with a laptop bag on his shoulder, a guy on a cycle removing his comb from his back pocket and adjusting his already perfectly combed hair at the signal, couples snuggling into each other at bandstand, your office colleagues’ constant request for Eid special biryani and sheerkhurma, the flashy white jaguar pulling into the 5 star hotel driveway and all the passersby admiring it enviably, young boys playing football in the rain in the local ground nearby, the crowd that gathers outside the Big B residence just to get a glimpse of him, the graffiti and messages hand painted on walls of tulsi pipe road and marine lines made by one of us, the sing chana vala selling nuts with a handkerchief on his head to beat the heat, the peace you feel when you finish walking into the sea to the holy Haji Ali dargah, that bunch of students bunking college and loitering in the rain, that parsi aunty looking out of her balcony…all day, the loud Diwali celebrations, an office crowd gathered outside the local sandwich/dosa wala during their lunch break, newlyweds posing for pics at juhu beach, the Porsche couple in a long sedan with a uniform vala driver, locals distributing glucose biscuits to those stuck in monsoon traffic jams, candle light marches for a cause, the sound of manjeeras from the bhajan coach of a local train, the mawa suckling stock broker speaking loudly on his mobile in the AC bus, the loud bollywood music blaring out of ganpati pandals, boys standing at the door of a general compartment and hooting at ladies special passing by, couples cosying up in the back seat of an auto or cab,  the 5 am newspaper distribution at andheri station, people walking barefooted to Siddhivinayk from Monday night, truck load of govindas hooting loudly at all passersby walking on the footpath, that boy selling books and mid-day at the signal, kids playing cricket in near the railway tracks, the queens necklace from that one spot outside hanging garden, that huge crowd outside the electronic store to watch a cricket match, that well to do lady haggling with the local vegetable vendor, that same ladies driver picking up the huge bags of veggies and fruits as she walks ahead talking on her phone, the huge no. devotees outside Mahim church on Wednesdays, mommies taking children for a horse ride at the local garden, the over friendly eunuchs at signals, loud giggles and screeches of excitement from a group of teen girls coz they just spotted their favourite filmstar, a marathi conversation between two ladies in the first class compartment about their new boss at Mantralaya while others look on, the proud feeling you get when you cross the sea link even if it is for the 1000th time, a young student leading a visually challenged man to his bus stop, petrol pump workers enjoying a cutting chai during their mid afternoon break, city’s eerie silence on bandhs, rickshawalahs checking out teenage girls clad in “really short” shorts from the rear view mirror, crowd gathered near some film shoot on the road and they don’t even know what and who? the banana vendors all across the city trying to make a living and everyone’s favourite sitting on marine drive in the monsoons as the monster waves lash against my face, and smelling the sea, followed by a hot cutting chai at my usual chai wala.
Yeh hai asli Bombay, my friends!! Now how do we get the tourists to experience this?

I say, the next time you leave home, dont look down on to your phone or tablet screens, look up and open your eyes wider and see the real Bombay…ok baba, asli Mumbai!! (Call it whatever) I love this city!!

- OCOW Diarist