Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

A city I once knew

Hotel Grand Maratha Mumbai: It has been nearly a decade and a half since I lived in Mumbai for about 18 months in the mid nineties. At that time, I had stayed at a Nariman Point guest house for about one year and another six months at a Napean Sea Road apartment. I have many fond memories of this city of that time.
I have travelled extensively but Mumbai, somehow, has never been on my travel itinerary for a long time except for few hours at the airport during transit for catching international flights. I had spent a night when the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas was held in the city. I did not get time to venture out of the airport, hotel or conference venue.
Normally I don't like attending weddings. But this time I am in Mumbai to attend the wedding of Prerna Sarda and Abhinav Jhunjhunwala. The wedding functions would take place at The Taj properties. I, however, chose to stay at the Grand Maratha as many of my yester-year friends and acquaintances from ITC Sonar Bangla and Rajputana like Kuldeep Dhawan, Rajesh Nath, Gurpreet and Neelam Sethi now attached with this property.
This Hotel has a classical structure and the interiors is a tribute to the legacy of Maratha culture. There is a glass wall that divides the coffee shop and the lobby on which is scripted a letter that Shivaji had written to his mother Jija Bai. I am on the 16th floor of this Hotel. The walls on this particular  floor are adorned by murals and sculptures depicting the artwork of Ajanta and Ellora caves.
Yesterday I was there at the ball room of the famous Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba for Sangeet function. The ballroom, it seemed, had more people than it could accommodate comfortably. Leading industrialists of the country turned up in full strength. After spending about half-an-hour greeting all friends who had come down from Kolkata, I decided to take a walk towards the Regal Cinema Hall. 
Regal Cinema, Jehangir Art Gallery, St Anne's High School, Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) are some of the iconic buildings and institutions located on this stretch – old memory lane – that I used to walk almost every day during my stay in Mumbai.
I reached Chetna Restaurant which used to be my favorite food joint that served home-type thali food. I asked the bearer about Subhash Gandhi who used to take care of this restaurant belonging to the Arya family. The bearer was visibly surprised and asked me after how many years I was in the city.
The interiors of the restaurant had an altogether new look and the menu list had added, besides the Gujarati and Rajasthani thali, Maharasthrian thali along with snacks. I had a masala kedgeree (kitchari) and kadhi - the restaurant's special dishes. This veggie restaurant started in 1946. The bearer also told me that the Maharaj (main cook) of this restaurant is still the same person who has been working here for the past 35 years.
While having dinner at Chetna I wondered that the city has made a long journey from Bombay to Mumbai. I have a feeling that Mumbai has lost its pulse since the days of mid-nineties when I last lived here. I had plans to stay here this time for about 10 to 12 days but have decided to cut short my trip and return to my city Kolkata. I don't know this Mumbai and nor Mumbai knows me.
ess bee

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