Photographs by Sudhir Diwan
Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is an area made up of pluralities which we see in the city's culture, color, cuisine, various lifestyles, vocations, pursuits, entertainment, and fashion. This pulsating, fast-paced city consists of small bits of India that are all meshed into a spread-out, 445 square kilometer metropolis. India has twenty eight states and seven union territories, which each contribute to the city's richness and variety.
Above: The plural side of Indian existence in Mumbai.
Above top: The promenade in Apollo Bunder, with the Gateway of India that was built to commemorate the British King George’s visit to India during the days of the British colonial rule in the background, and the Taj hotel in the vicinity. Above middle: The Gateway of India, on Mumbai’s Eastern coastline that was built in the Indo-Saracenic style (a blend of Western and Indian styles of architecture of the day). Above bottom: The Taj Hotel, behind the Gateway of India.
Above top: A development in the central Mumbai Parel area.
Above middle and bottom: A development in Andheri, a suburb in Mumbai.
Entrepreneurs, executives, artisans, traders, industrialists, rural folks, students, models, musicians, and aspiring movie stars (or anyone with a dream of making it big) are drawn into the Mumbai fold, much like to the continent of Circe.
Above top and bottom: Details of Art Deco style friezes (prevalent around in the 1920's and 1930's) on an insurance building in downtown Mumbai, near the Flora fountain.
Above top: A Mumbai slum in a fishing village overlooking Cuffe Parade. Above middle: A view of Mumbai from the Hanging Gardens in Malabar Hill. Above bottom: A temple in Mahalaxmi near Pedder Road.
Home to almost fourteen million people, the city of Mumbai survives on contrasts. Upmarket shop fronts are positioned in close proximity to pavement stalls, the rich are often next to poverty-ridden slum dwellers, high-end limousines rattle past double decker buses and three wheeled autorickshaws in the street, glitzy high-rise buildings can be found next door to squalid jhopadpattis (shacks), and glamorous film stars, pavement dwellers, heritage structures, and gaudy neon-lit hoardings all scream for attention at every corner. This city is ever expanding and still the financial capital of the country.
Above top: The Prince of Wales Museum (now renamed the Chatrpati Shivaji Museum) in downtown Mumbai. Above middle and bottom: Details of colonial-style residential buildings near the Gateway of India in the Apollo Bunder district.
Mumbai, Bombay, or Bom Bahia (meaning the Good Bay, as termed in early sixteenth century by Francis Almeida), consisted of seven islands, which in the later part of the century, were brought by Catherine of Braganza to Charles II of England as part of her marriage dowry. The British East India Company received it from the crown thereafter, and thus founded the modern city.
Above top: The Jehangir Art Gallery in the downtown heritage district (90% of the art galleries in town are within a few kilometers from this spot). Above bottom: Victoria Terminus, in the Indo-Saracenic style, is part of one of Mumbai's two rail corridors (Western and Eastern), in the Eastern corridor’s main station, and is now part of UNESCO’s world heritage list.
From the end of the eighteenth century until the middle of the nineteenth century, the islands were merged under the colonial British rule during the span of over sixty years. Two famous landmarks of Mumbai, the Flora Fountain and the Victoria Terminus, date from around this time. The Gateway of India, the General Post Office, the Town Hall (now the Asiatic Library) and the Prince of Wales Museum, followed soon thereafter.
Above top: The Mumbai High Court in Gothic style, built around the early 20th century. Above middle: The Mumbai Municipal Corporation building. Above bottom: The Elphinstine College building in downtown Mumbai.
Mumbai, India's main port and commercial centre, is also the core of the country’s glamour industry, tinsel town, and the much-touted Bollywood, which produces and distributes an astonishing amount of films on a worldwide basis. Sometime in the later part of the twentieth century, Mumbai was renamed with it's new moniker (from the original name of Bombay), a name that was based on Mumbadevi, the patron Goddess of the local inhabitants. Despite the name change, the city itself remains the same.
Above top: The Asiatic Library (formerly Town Hall). Above bottom: Flora Fountain junction, in the core of Mumbai's downtown business district.
Above top, middle, and bottom: Art Deco style buildings on the Oval Garden strip, that can be found opposite the Mumbai High Court.
Above top, middle, and bottom: More Art Deco buildings in the area, including the Regal Cinema, Eros Cinema, and some Art Deco buildings along the Marine Drive promenade.
Above top: A building with an ethnic façade on Chowpatty beach. Above middle: The National Centre of Performing Arts, designed by Philip Johnson at Nariman Point, in the commercial district at the Southern tip of Mumbai. Above bottom: Marine Drive promenade starting at Nariman Point and finishing at Chowpatty beach on the western side of Mumbai.
Above top: A view of the Malabar Hill residential area from Marine Drive. Above middle: A view of Nariman Point from a fishing village in Colaba. Above bottom: A view of the Cuffe Parade residential and commercial area from a promontory at Nariman Point, looking southwards.
The cuisine of Mumbai also reflects the city’s plural character. The food map below will help to give you a brief idea of what to expect when dining in India.
Above: Food map image of local Indian fare courtesy of the Hindustan Times.
Given that India consisted of numerous princely states prior to it’s independence and subsequent division into it's current 28 states and 7 union territories, the cultural mores, lifestyles, food habits, climate, and clothing all help to dictate the variety of cuisines that are available in India.
The Northern states, which include Punjab, UP, and Bihar, rely on a large array of vegetables, milk products, and wheat flour. The desert states of Gujarat and Rajasthan use many varieties of lentils and pickles in their dishes. The central South state of Andhra Pradesh uses excessive chillies, whereas Hyderabad in AP is renown for it’s Nawabi (royal) cuisine, Hyderabad being an earlier stronghold of Nawabs. The coastal regions are known for their use of many types of rice, fish, and coconut products as their main ingredients.
Above top and middle: Vegetable and fruit vendors in a downtown local market. Indian food generally utilizes fresh produce rather than packaged goods, and such markets can be found all over the city. Above bottom: Tambe, in Girgaum area represents local flavor; there are only a few Maharashtrian restaurants in Mumbai.
Above top: Anand Ashram is typical of the South Indian or Udipi (a district in South India) restaurants that are found in every part of Mumbai. They are generally vegetarian, and often serve economical South Indian fare that caters to the large middle class office workers in Mumbai. The best South Indian restaurant, true to it’s cuisine, is Madras Café in Matunga, in Central Mumbai. Above bottom: This grubby looking café and bakery called Yazdani is a leftover from the city's once popular Irani restaurants (now taken over by the Udipi restaurants). At one time, the only economical restaurants that were catering to the office workers were these Irani eateries that are famous for their simple meals, tea, and baked goods.
The food in India, unlike Western meals which are often served in courses, strive to simultaneously engage all of the senses that are comprised in the human palate (salty, sweet, sour, pungent) in one big meal, which often consists of several dishes and accompaniments that include breads and desserts. Indian food essentially relies on spices that are endemic to a particular region, where the food style originates.
Being that the inhabitants of Mumbai are a mix of people from all of the Indian states, a wide variety of cuisine is always readily available. There is also a growing fusion cuisine in the city that caters to the well-heeled and globalised Mumbaikar. The most prominent types of restaurants in Mumbai are:
North Indian or Mughlai food
Rajasthan and Gujarati thali restaurants
The Indian version of Chinese cuisine
Local and costal cuisine restaurants
The quintessential South Indian and Udipi restaurants
Above top: Golden Star, in the Girgaum area, is a thali restaurant which serves Rajasthani and Gujarati food that originates from Indian states by the same name. A thali is a large serving dish that is filled with smaller bowls that contain a number of dishes, deserts, and sides. Bread in the form of chapatis, puris, and rotis are served alongside these dishes. Above middle and bottom: Rajdhani, near the Metro cinema in downtown Mumbai, displays another traditional thali restaurant which has turned upmarket to cater to an urbanized crowd.
Above top: Govindas, is a vegetarian restaurant in South Mumbai run by the ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) movement, and serves delectable Mughlai and North Indian food. They have a much larger setup in the Juhu area in North Mumbai.
Above top: To cater to the upmarket corporate executives, page 3, and the expatriate crowd, a number of restaurants and lounges have cropped up in the city. Basilico is a small eatery in the Colaba area in South Mumbai. Above bottom: Indigo is a bar and restaurant that is also nearby.
A smattering of other lesser known cuisines like Andhra and Kerala also find their way into the nooks and crannies of the metropolis, as well as the ever-increasing fast food joints like MacDonalds, Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Mr. Submarine.
Like all metropolitan cities, Mumbai also has it’s share of brand name shops like Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton, but for Western visitors, these will not hold as much charm as jostling with the crowds in the byelanes of Colaba or on Fashion Street.
Above top and bottom: Fashion Street near High Court.
Above top and bottom: Vendors in Colaba's arcaded Lanes.
Above top, middle, and bottom: Branded stores in the Apollo Bunder area.
Above top and bottom: A few examples of some cottage Industry
(government sponsored outlets for the Indian craft industy) showrooms in Apollo Bunder.
Above top: A box office in a multiplex in Nariman Point area.
Above bottom: Cinema Hall in South Mumbai.
Mumbai also has it’s fair share of watering holes, bars, and lounges. The majority of them are now in the Bandra and Andheri areas, as the city has spread North.
As with any place, photos and written descriptions will help to give an idea of a destination, but to truly experience what is our vibrant city, it is best to do it in person. There is no doubt that you will develop a tender spot in your heart for 'Amchi Mumbai' (our Bombay).
Written by Sudhir Diwan
Sudhir Diwan Architects is a studio for architectural and corporate interior design that is led by the principal architect, Sudhir Diwan and a senior associate, both of whom are involved in all of the projects that are handled by the office.
Their practice is spread out nationally with projects that have been designed in over 12 cities in India. The company’s work ranges from the design of individual buildings, large corporate interiors, hotels, residences, and heritage projects.
Sudhir Diwan Architects focuses on design excellence in a collaborative environment, and are known for their reliability in delivering projects on time, and on budget.
To contact Sudhir Diwan:
3 Karim Manor, 8 Krishna Sanghai Marg
Mumbai, Maharashtra 400 007
Office Phone: 91 22 23805861
Mobile Phone: 09892093473