Mumbai, India's commercial capital, often referred to as "Amchi Mumbai (our Mumbai)" as a concession to the original language (Marathi) of the inhabitants, currently teems with about 21 million folks. It's as if the whole of India keeps streaming into the city, looking for the promised job in the promised land, except no one knows who has been doing the promising.
One of the "benefits" of being such a melting pot of all things Indian , is that one is able to sample a large variety of cuisines in Mumbai .
And I am not even including Italian, Mexican, Lebanese, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Arabic or even Mcdonalds.
Within India itself, we have Maharashtrian, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malwani, Udipi, Marwari, Kerala, Chettinad, Hyderabadi, Awadhi, Banarsi, Mughlai, Punjabi, Bengali, and several unique cuisines that that one cannot categorize, but are greatly delicious.
The suburb of Vile Parle (east) may have a name that sounds a bit French, but isn't that way at all. Don't know about the "Vile" part but "Parle" comes from the original village of Palda that existed in the old days. This is where my husband's ancestors stayed when the place was sparsely populated and dotted with old bungalows with wells and stuff on the premises. There were a lot of fields , like tomato fields , in the area, and westwards , one had to traverse through barren swampy area to reach the ocean. For some reason, middle class Maharashtrians , specifically in the "Pune mould" gravitated to this suburb of Mumbai over the years, as the island city became pricey. (I often suspect that the Scots are the Pune types of Britain; that should make things clear :-)....or maybe think of how you can always recognize a New England Ivy League type in , say, Texas.).
And so amidst all the cuisines existing cheek by chewing jowl, one also started noticing places serving pucca Maharashtrian cuisine , more so in Vile Parle. One such, that we visited today, was called "Me Marathi".
The food is very traditional, comfort food style, served simply, quickly, and many old favourites of my childhood were there on the menu. I was totally delighted to notice something there , called "Mow Bhat and Metkut" ( soft, semi liquidy cooked plain rice with a spoonful of golden ghee and a mixture of roasted spiced pulses powder), which was something that we simply enjoyed as kids, and often had when we were sick.
We had just ordered , and were wondering whether we were a bit early for a Sunday lunch, when I noticed a lady in a sari walk in with her kids, and just when I was about to look away, I suddenly realized, that someone I knew had walked in. Surprised grins, wide eyes, and both families trying to figure out why two folks were so delighted to meet .
It was Harekrishnaji, one of the founder members of our blogger lunches, and an authority on all the eating places in Mumbai and Pune . 21 million inhabitants, probably 6000 restaurants , 24 hours of the day, 7 days in the week, and we both end up , at the same place in Mumbai, with family, within 5 minutes of each other, on a Sunday before Divali !
I must hasten to add that his family was in Mumbai for the Divali holidays, he has often arrived at our blogger lunches, complete with luggage and bus tickets en route to his home, 200 kilometres away, and once even called us from his residence ,at the lunch when he was unable to come. I think in most families of older bloggers, blogging is tolerated as a kind of harmless evil. Nobody in the family really reads the blogs. And everyone pretends to act indulgent, and gets back to the interesting cricket match on TV.
But this was different ! Everyone was so friendly, and I was naturally thrilled to know that one of his kids was attending my alma mater, and my parent's alma mater in Pune ! His missus has been the subject of his blog many times, whenever it had to do with mouthwatering stuff cooked at home, saree exhibitions, and the family going on a drive somewhere. It was as if I had already met her.
Naturally, I had to have photos of this amazing and sudden meeting. Both of us staying almost 20 kilometres and more from this place, but in opposite directions, with totally different traffic densities, and here we walk in, unplanned , 5 minutes of each other, and occupy adjoining tables.
A few pictures were taken dodging waiters attending the now filling restaurant, though one carrying masala buttermilk did manage to walk across at the wrong moment.
We had to leave a bit early, and so we got up to go. Wished his family, and Harekrishnaji came out , to see us off. I took a photograph of him, just outside the board advertising the specialities of the place.....
I just remembered something.
The last time someone from our blog-lunch group suddenly sighted Harekrishnaji like this, as a complete surprise, the person in question succeeded in completing a half marathon, with renewed vigor, within the next few kilometres.......
While I am not planning on running (don't want to create additional potholes on roads), I don't mind letting on, that my return journey , which actually takes anywhere up to 45 minutes actually got done in 25 minutes today......