Mumbai

Mango Season!

Mangowallahs.jpg All I have ever heard about the great Indian mango is true ? it is the ripest, freshest, and one of the most enjoyable fruits ever. Forget the scrawny, stringy tasteless Mexican mangoes that we have to settle for in the U.S. Mangoes are the real deal here ? and there?s more than one kind.

Eight long months we have been waiting for mango season. In the meantime, we have had plenty of fruits to make us happy: papaya, oranges, sweet limes, pineapple, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, tender coconut, and guava. I like papaya in doses (not dosas!), but it can go gelatinous fairly quickly if you cut it and put it in the fridge. Fresh pineapple has been a godsend, and I still try to have it every day if not every week. It was a joy to discover that watermelons were at their peak here in November and December; cantaloupes have also been quite good for some months now. Around Christmas, a Goan co-worker introduced me to Guava cheese, a traditional yuletide snack that?s basically just equal amounts of guava and sugar boiled and blended together, then hardened and shaped (sometimes into triangle wedges so as to attain a cheesy resemblance). And limes and sweet limes are around all the time for making fresh/sweet lime soda, a local specialty that?s so much more light and refreshing than a lassi.

Unless, of course, you?re talking about a mango lassi.

Bombay Regresses

Just when I start to think that Bombay is a world-class city, ridiculousness ensues. The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) ? the org responsible for overseeing city planning ? has recently gone on a rash of demolitions against illegal structures. The demolitions have included not only slums ? something like 60,000 have been destroyed so far ? but also local restaurants or businesses that have, say, an unlawful mezzanine or an unauthorized wall.

The destruction of the slums is horrible, and people have expressed outrage that only poor people were being targeted. So, in order to seem fair, the BMC decided to go after big money places, too. That includes restaurants, such as Colaba’s Koyla, destroyed on Tuesday, and Seijo and the Soul Dish, a very high-style, month-old restaurant in Bandra (owned by friends of friends of mine), which was destroyed yesterday.

La Traviata

Sometimes I have very good NCPA entryway 2.jpgluck, such as I did this weekend when I scored two, last-minute, free tickets to see ‘La Traviata’ at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA). The event was part of the whole ‘Festa Italiana,’ a two-week event featuring Italian art, culture, and business.

The NCPA, located at the southernmost end of Marine Drive called Nariman Point, has four different venues, including a real first-class auditorium. I was also happy to find that at intermission the snack bar sold some of the best chilled coffee I’ve ever tasted.

Aesthetics and tastebuds aside, the opera itself was quite good, and, as it was in town for only two nights, it was also well-attended. The mostly Italian cast did quite an incredible job, though consensus was that the singer who played Alfredo was having an off-night. Another nice touch to the opera came during the second act dance sequence, when a local dance troupe added a bit of Indian flavor to the matador/salon sequence. I dare say it was Bollywoodesque – see, I do like Bollywood! The womens’ colorful Cannes-Cannes-meets-desi-design costumes were exquisite, though I was a bit put off by the shirtless male dancers. I couldn’t quite figure out where they fit in, other than to lift and fling the ladies. At any rate, it perked up a second act that had, up to that point, left a lot of people scratching their heads (or answering their cell phones, as it were).

Actually, I was quite impressed that only about five cells went off during the whole production, though I could hear vibrations coming out of peoples’ pockets al around me. Man, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world – there are always going to be people that have no manners when it comes to cell phones.

It may seem kind of strange to be going to see opera in Bombay. But, in fact, there once was a Royal Opera House in the city that has long since fallen into disrepair. I’d love to find out more about it, but a quick search on the net yielded just a few mentions on an students’ architecture chat room. Guess I’ll have to ask around.