Mumbai

Hidden Neighborhood on the Hill

banganga

Bombay can be extremely noisy, crowded, and inhospitable at times. But, at other times, you stumble across these tranquil little neighborhoods. One such place is Walkeshwar. Adjacent to glitzy high-rise apartments and old-money bungalows, Walkeshwar is a fisherman’s village on the top of tony Malabar Hill. There, the stone houses are incredibly modest, the alleys are shoulder-width, and the families are probably packed two to three to a home. But there’s also this serenity that, to me, evoked a bit of dead-end lanes in Venice during medieval days. There was a meditative stillness.

The central focus of Walkeshwar is Banganga Tank, a large pool that is said to have evolved when Ram, searching for water, shot an arrow into the earth. The resulting trickle created this “tank,” which is considered holy to Hindus. It is used for funereal rites and, during the sweltering Bombay days, also makes a great swimming hole for the locals.

I didn’t so much stumble upon Walkeshwar/Banganga as seek it out. Anthony had visited there some months before when I was down with jaundice. And, a few friends had also told me about it. As the monsoon was quickly approaching – and another out-of-towner was looking to do some sightseeing – we went there last Saturday.

Look Out, Galliano: Part 2

As I mentioned before, it’s a little difficult finding your way around Mangaldas Market. But, now after two buying visits and a pit stop to show friends, I have mostly figured out where some of the best vendors are located.

The 6th Lane is the best place to start, specifically at Rangeela. The shop specializes in “Fancy Dress Materials” and for me that meant a shimmering, crinkled crepe in mango orange. Across from Rangeela is another shop whose name escapes me, but from which I bought some light, woven pastel fabric to make a spring jacket. I also picked up some irridescent purple fabric with block-printed silver, gold, and black flowers. That probably sounds hideous, but the sheath dress that I got made with it turned out fabulously.

It’s about two weeks since my last posting and about a week since I got my new clothes back from Master Tailor. I was reluctant to post anything until I saw whether the fabric experiment was successful or not. I am more than just a little excited about my new loot.

Look Out, Galliano: Part 1

Rangeela Fabric Salesman Looking online at the spring and summer offerings from the likes of The Gap, Banana Republic, Zara, H&M, etc., I’ve noticed that just about every store has something inspired by India. Embroidered or sequinned tops, cotton kurtas, long, full skirts, and paisley prints, appear to be – from this vantage point – all the rage in the U.S. and Europe, so much so that these designs have trickled down to the mass market. I don’t know if I like this, as this whole India fashion explosion was supposed to happen next year, when I return with an enviable stash of fashion forward Indo-garb. Okay, so I won’t be so special. But I will have a nice array of custom-designed, custom-fit clothing.

Over the past two weekends, I have discovered the extremely addictive world of fabric shopping in Mumbai’s Mangaldas Market. Walk past the chaos of placemat and plastic sellers opposite and slightly caddy-corner from Crawford Market and therein lies the covered bazaar where many Bombay tailors and designers buy their silks, chiffons, and printed cottons. This being India, the vendors are crammed side-by-side along bustling lanes – not aisles, because that connotes wide, empty paths – but numbered lanes, which are as narrow and congested as Churchgate rail cars at rush hour.

According to a recent issue of Wallpaper Magazine, John Galliano has been spotted in past years strolling through Mangaldas Market, snatching up bolts of fabric for his ready-to-wear collections. Keeping his motto of the month in mind, I decided it was time for me to jump into the designer game, if only for myself.