When a Delhi Girl Falls for Bandra’s Charms

There is a terrace in Bandra West, where just before midnight, you will find three girls sipping green tea as they wind down for the day. Nearby, somewhere on Carter road, a group of friends is eating fat-free, dairy-free yoghurt by the sea (we don’t eat ice cream here, this is not India Gate). Meanwhile, the guard is trying to tell them that eating is not allowed on Carter road.

In a posh flat somewhere in Pali Hill, someone has just made the first call of the night to Deepak Wines for Old Monk and aloo bhujiya. The next-door salad bar is bringing down its shutters for the day. It’s 2018, we don’t eat bread in Bandra anymore.

Hill Road. Credit: Jayanti Jha

I was very lucky to live in Bandra for the three years that I did, I didn’t know how much when I first signed the lease for my house, which stood across the road from the casualty ward of a hospital, but it was right next to the sea link and the highway. At the time I thought it was convenient, and the rooms were bigger than match boxes.

That house opened up a charming, whimsical world to me. The streets were covered in Bollywood graffiti, and nearby, an old bungalow was in the process of transforming into a tea house.

Graffiti in Bandra. Credit: Jayanti Jha

I got used to Christian aunties shoving me out of the way, fresh bread in hand, as they returned from the bakeries.

There was a time when I didn’t know that you had to queue up for an auto at Bandra station. Back then all I really knew was that Shah Rukh Khan lived five minutes away, and that gave me the mental comfort I needed to find my footing in this new city.

Waroda. Credit: Jayanti Jha

As I discovered my new neighbourhood, I realised that the pace at which traffic moved in Bandra was inversely proportional to the rate at which new restaurants came up. It’s been five months since I moved to Delhi, and already six restaurants have shut down and another four have sprung up in the lane where I lived. And this is just one lane that we are talking about.

What doesn’t change though, is King’s Hairdresser in Reclamation – around for 20 years and counting – and the man selling US Vogue and bananas across the road from King’s.

I don’t think I would have fallen in love with Mumbai, or been as comfortable as I was, if it wasn’t for Bandra and its quirks.

Doolally. Credit: Jayanti Jha

Bandra’s charm lies as much in its obsession with avocado, as it does in its proximity to the free, unpretentious sea or the fact that Patel Stores delivers gourmet groceries to your doorstep within 30 minutes.

It’s often called the hipster part of the city, but the crowds for keema pav at Good Luck, or for mutton cutlets at AI (a literal hole in the wall bakery) easily rival those at the newest brewery in town. 

I miss it every day, and I know I’ll miss it even more in December. One of my favourite times to be in Bandra, or Mumbai in general, is December. In north India, where I grew up, cities light up during Diwali, but those don’t handle a candle to Bandra during Christmas season. Every corner lights up, everyone seems to be out on the streets celebrating and the lines for Mount Mary compete with those for autos at Bandra station. It produces a great urge in me to walk around the neighbourhood while eating Christmas cake.

Just thinking about it makes me miss it. But, even though I don’t live there anymore, Bandra has a way of staying with me. Just the other day, a Delhi friend and I were discussing a café we frequent and he said that the only healthy thing on the menu is a sandwich. I immediately, and exasperatedly responded, “No, what is wrong with you, it has bread in it.”

I guess you can take a girl out of Bandra, but not the Bandra out of her….

Jayanti Jha, 23, is a former TV producer, who is currently trying to navigate life in the capital with her cat, all the while reminiscing about Bandra. She tweets @JayantiJha7.

Featured image credit: Jayanti Jha