Mumbai, maska mar ke
A homage to the city's iconic veggie toast on World Sandwich Day through its thelawallahs
The speedy chopping of batata, kanda, kakri, and tamatar, generous amounts of butter being spread on soft and fresh slices of bread laden with green chutney, a flip and flop of the chimta on a coal burner, sometimes topped with sev, sometimes coated in another thick layer of butter and red chutney, a long knife is used to cut the sandwich into six bite-size cubes that are effortlessly slid on to a plate traced with a newspaper. This is not just a recipe — it's an imagery that is iconic to Bombay's ethos. The working-class sandwich that a time-strapped CEO relishes with as much joy as the cobbler near the ladies compartment in Andheri station on platform number one — we have seen them both devour it. And do you know why this 25-rupee snack holds such a dear place in everyone's heart? Because iconic things are never expensive, only priceless.
So, on World Sandwich Day, we spoke to some of Mumbai's favourite sandwich walas who have been looking at this city evolve and devolve with time, through the smoke screens before their serves-all "no magajmaari" thelas. Here's what they have to say.
Prita Bipin frequents Jehangir Art Gallery often. The chilly cheese toast is her go-to sandwich at Ganesh sandwich opposite the High Court. "Sometimes, it's my quick-lunch option. At that time this area is crowded because all the lawyers from the court come here to eat," she remarks.
Sanjay Upadhyay has been taking care of the stall for his owner since 2008, when they opened, and serves close to 1,000 customers each day. "Veg sandwich sab se chalu hai," Upadhyay reveals, adding that of those 1,000 customers, 600 opt for the simple vegetable sandwich despite having the option of choosing from 40-odd varieties.
Time: 7am to 10 pm
At: 113, Allana Centre, MG Road, Kala Ghoda.
Time is money
Mohammad Gulzar works from 7 am to 9 pm and tends to 80 to 90 customers. "Aatein hain, khaatein hai, acha hi bolte hai," the 17-year-old says when asked what's the feedback for his stall. How long has the stall been around? "Oi Tewari, yeh stall kitna purana hoga?" he asks his friend who is lurking around. The latter informs us that the stall has been around for 25 years, so Gulzar doesn't know. The stall is older than him. He doesn't really have time to speak with us either, since three customers are waiting, and all of them want a veg toast sandwich, the grilled version of the classic snack.
veg toast sandwich
Gulzar toasting sandwich
Time: 7 am to 9 pm
At: Opposite Air India Building, Nariman Point.
From times immemorial
Pradeep Ramkishan Jaiswal
"Madam pehle jaisa abhi dhanda nahi raha," says Pradeep Ramkishan Jaiswal as he recollects the golden days when his snack cost just Rs 2.50 and sold like hot cakes. In 1989, when Jaiswal's ancestors opened the stall, it was right in front of the Bombay Stock Exchange. "When the bomb was spotted in 1993, we had to move. We heard the blast and the police chased us away. It took us a month to reopen, and we had to relocate because they barricaded that area," Jaiswal laments. For him "sale nahi hota" is 500 such sandwiches sold each day, so go figure!
His version of the iconic dish
Time: 8 am to 9.30 pm
At: Near Bombay Stock Exchange, Mumbai Samachar Marg.
The first ones
Manish Bhalerao. Pics/Ashish Raje
When Manish Bhalerao's grandfather opened their sandwich stall in 1986, he was the first one to do so in the locality. Then, his friends and relatives followed suit. Then, IMC Marg turned into a khau galli. But slowly, it disappeared, succumbing to the excesses of urbanisation. Manish remembers coming to the stall to help his father after school. "I owe everything to this stall. I completed my MCom from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, this year. I am the first one in the family to get a degree," he shares.
Time: 10 am to 10 pm
At: Opposite Government Law College, Churchgate.
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