Mumbai is Mumbai Yaar

This past weekend included quite the diverse set of activities, which I will now attempt to concisely recap below:

Friday – I ended up staying at work late with three of my colleagues to attend a Krav Maga women’s workshop being hosted at the office (a workshop that was organized in response to recent news stories involving women being violated in India). It worked out to be 45 minutes of presentation about self defense and where Krav Maga fits into that – hint: violence should always be the last resort; 90% of self defense is all about prevention – followed by an hour of hands on Krav Maga practice. Krav Maga is an Israeli form of martial arts that preaches “Your body is your weapon.” In the hands-on segment of the workshop, we were shown moves to fend off an attacker and had to repeat them with partners. We were also called upon as volunteers and shown what not to do and why. I was expecting the workshop to be a mix of slow and cheesy but the instructor was surprisingly engaging and funny so I was happy I stayed.

On to Friday night. Neither Katie nor I had any plans so we thought we’d look up some recommendations online and go out to dinner in our neighborhood. Katie used Zomato’s list of the top 25 restaurants trending in Mumbai (Starbucks is number 1) to find this restaurant/lounge, Smaaash, nearby that was serving up some international cuisine. We got out our LBDs and heels and hit the town for our Friday night out. The taxi driver had to make a stop to ask for directions (This is pretty common – it turns out no one uses GPS or Google Maps out here except for me. Most people will get to the general vicinity of their destination and then just ask around). Well the man we ask for directions looks at me and asks, “Oh Sachin Tendulkar ki, restaurant?” This seems to make sense. Top trending restaurant owned by the Mumbai Indians’ star player. So, we get dropped off in front of the restaurant, which is seemingly in a huge warehouse, the outside walls of which are covered in posters of Mumbai Indian players. Interesting choice for a fancy restaurant…

Turns out Smaaash is a two story arcade-cum-sports bar complete with cricket batting cages definitely targeting families and 13-year-old boys. To say that Katie and I looked out of place in our ‘Ladies Night’ outfits would be an understatement – naturally hilarity ensued and we couldn’t stop laughing at ourselves. We decided to wear our most convincing “yes, we did intend to come here” faces and explore anyway. Honestly, Smaaash is rad. If we weren’t wearing the heels you better believe we would have hit those batting cages (maybe next Friday?). Instead we opted for life-size arcade Connect 4 and some dinner (the food was average).

arcade

[Side story: Yesterday, after work, six of us went to Hard Rock Cafe (affectionately known as HRC – Everything is an acronym) to watch the cricket match – apparently HRC is a cool place to go to in Mumbai. Well there were maybe twenty or so big strong looking white dudes next to our table and one of them comes up to us and asks me if I know where Smaaash is. This is literally the one restaurant in Worli that I could actually give them directions to. It turns out they were in the British Royal Navy/Marines and they were looking to go dancing. I graciously let them know that Smaaash is not the right choice and my coworker Praneetha gave them a better recommendation. Katie and I are clearly not the only people misinterpreting Zomato rankings!]

Post-Smaaash we went to Shiro’s to go dancing – this was a recommendation from a future classmate so we knew we would fit in a little better here. Fridays are retro nights so we were rocking out to music that included numerous Abba songs, Staying Alive, and the Grease soundtrack. It was best. We ended up running into people I had met at Olive. Small city I guess? So, you know how when you’re out, there is usually a photographer going around and taking promotional pictures for that club’s website? Same thing seemed to be happening here – guy with camera comes up to our group and asks us to pose. We smile for a picture with the Olive guys. Two minutes and one hundred rupees later we end up with a hard copy photo + card frame; theme-park-ride style.

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The guys had just been telling us why Mumbai was their favorite place in the world. When the photo arrived, one of them simply says, Mumbai is Mumbai yaar. Friday was a special night.

Saturday – Mangoes! My family in India has an annual big homemade feast in honor of mango season (which is now). Indian mangoes win. They are perfection. (I think in California we usually get mangoes from Mexico, but don’t quote me on this).

I got to my faiba’s flat in South Mumbai in the morning and we spent the day cooking and lounging. Oh, look at how functional this is; little cutting board attached to a container to hold your chopped veggies – genius:

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My aunt made a mango ras with at least twenty mangos (ras is basically pureed mango pulp). She used Alphonso (AKA Hapoos) mangoes and Pairi mangoes to get the right taste and texture. In grade school in India, the kids had to learn about the different types of mangoes (there are a lot). Then the teacher would ask them – “Mango ki raja kaun hai?” and the kids would reply, “HAPOOS!” So now you know. Hapoos mangoes are the king of all mangoes.

Mangoes

Family started arriving in the afternoon. The day was great fun. The food was plentiful, fresh and just so so scrumptious!

Sunday – Katie and I enjoyed an afternoon snack at the Tea Center near Churchgate station. This place may be a bit of a tourist trap but the teas were delightful nonetheless. My favorite was a Blooming Darjeeling tea where the tea leaves were attached to each other in such a way that it looked like there was a flower in our teapot.

We had bought tickets to watch an Indian musical that evening. Tickets to basically any show or live event (sports, plays, stand-up, movies, etc.) can be purchased on Book My Show. Like any normal person, I love to be entertained, so as soon as I discovered this site, I started scoping out shows and featured events.  The rating system on this site is my favorite. Forget five stars – this is where it’s at:

Ratings

We had decided to watch “Blame it on Yashraj,” a play about how bollywood has influenced Indian weddings. When we attempted to purchase these tickets last week they wouldn’t accept credit cards that weren’t issued from an Indian Bank. We had to opt for the Cash on Delivery payment option. This actually ended up being shockingly easy, and the convenience fee was only 78 rupees, which we would have had to pay anyway if our online payment was successful. Katie left the theater folks our work address/work phone and two days later someone came directly to Katie’s desk with our tickets. She handed them cash and that was that.

The play was at the famed NCPA Theater at Nariman Point – lovely building and location.

theater

Highlights: The acting was great – the dialogue was mostly in English with some Hindi jokes mixed in. Some political context was required to understand a few of the jokes but without that background I still thought the show was funny. There were some musical/song-and-dance numbers that were entertaining but didn’t quite fit into the story line. Also, there was huge flat screen on the stage that was used to complement the set and aid the audience in determining where the actors were at any point in time (i.e. if they were at home, the picture on the flat screen was of a living room) – the use of this flat screen categorized the production as high-tech. During intermission that same flat screen was used to show commercials from the show sponsors. Random…

Intermission involved a mad rush for chutney sandwiches, samosas and chai – perfect mid-show snacks.

The second half of the play consisted entirely of wedding planning scenes. In one of the scenes the couple attempts to hire a “Modern Pandit.”

Groom: “During the wedding, can you explain the meaning of the Mantras in English?”
Pandit: “Actually I don’t know any mantras, I just want to show off my body”
Groom: “Well how have you convinced people that you’re a Pandit?”
Pandit: “No one has any idea what a Pandit is actually saying. As long as I sound official, no one questions me” [Pandit proceeds to sing Jack and Jill sounding EXACTLY as if he were chanting a mantra]

I clearly can’t do this scene justice so you’ll have to trust that it was comical. (As it turns out, the Pandit was played by the director. I love when directors make cameos in their own shows.)

Finally, the play ends with a wedding. Well, the final dance performance at this wedding had the bride, groom and their families dancing to ‘Gangnam Style’ a la Puja + Manan’s wedding. Felt just like home.

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