Here's how newcomers in Mumbai can experience the city like locals

Aug 31, 2017, 08:38 IST | Krutika Behrawala

From hosting farali lunches to rugby sessions and house parties, two expats are making sure newcomers to Mumbai experience the city like locals, with a real chance to bond with the community

Home chef Shital Kakad (second from left) serves farali lunch at a pop-up presented by Gwenda Glocalista
Home chef Shital Kakad (second from left) serves farali lunch at a pop-up presented by Gwenda Glocalista

"There were three types of chutneys. I've tried the coconut variety that you get with the dosa, but these included dates, mango and coriander. They were so flavourful. I also loved the falafel-like balls," reminisces Tatjana Chen. The 'falafel-like balls' that the German expatriate, living in Mumbai for four years, is referring to are crisp Sabudana Vadas that she relished with Kand (yam) Fry, Aloo Sabzi, Rajgira Thepla, Samo Rice and Doodhi Kheer at a farali lunch pop-up with home chef Shital Kakad last week. "I've never eaten traditional Indian fare before, that too at a local's home. Usually, expats gather at larger, social networking events. This dining experience was more intimate. And since we were only six, we felt more comfortable," shares Chen.

Jesh Wilson (in black T-shirt) at a party
Jesh Wilson (in black T-shirt) at a party

This marked the first expats-only event presented by fellow German Gwenda Schobert under the platform, gwendaglocalista.com, which is an extension of a blog that she started two years ago. This Saturday, she will host a table of 10 members at SodaBottleOpenerWala, where expats can meet up over a scrumptious Parsi brekkie of Kheema Pao and Eggs Kejriwal.

Jesh Wilson playing rugby
Jesh Wilson playing rugby

We are family
Meanwhile, as Lower Parel submerged under the rains this week, Jesh Wilson posted a text welcoming expats in the vicinity to crash at an apartment he has rented in a five-star. The message was posted on the WhatsApp group, Never Alone, and the eponymous website, which he launched a couple of months ago.

Comprising 54 members, the group buzzes with messages - an expat inviting the community over for some Japanese nosh, a request for finding company when one wishes to grab a drink, and deets on the weekend football and rugby sessions that Wilson organises on the grounds of American School of Bombay in BKC. "As a foreigner, the city can be intimidating. When I came in, I would often visit bars and restaurants alone. That prompted me to start the group. The idea is to help other lost souls, and to assure them that we are family too," says Wilson, who holds Brazilian and Singaporean passports, and works as a financial consultant.

Individual efforts
Like Wilson's, Schobert's platform was also launched with the idea of supporting new expats in a personalised manner. The 28-year-old, who is married to an Indian and made Mumbai her home four years ago, recollects, "Back then, there were several Facebook groups for the expat community. With the growth of social media, they are only increasing. However, many are impersonal, and becoming just another marketplace for brokers and other people to sell us stuff. Through my platform, I want to help expats see and experience Mumbai. For many newcomers, the city can be overwhelming and frustrating. But I believe that if you love Mumbai, the city loves you back."

From her favourite eateries to enjoy vada pav to a guide to witness the largest Ganpati immersions, the blog offers recommendations, tips and tricks that 'not only help an expat survive in the city but also fall in love with it'.

Members only
Keeping this in mind, Schobert recently launched a one-year membership card called the Gwenda Glocalista Card, priced at `6,000, which allows expats to get up to 25 per cent discounts at select restaurants, pubs, five-stars and stores. The list includes Indigo Deli, Mirchi and Mime, The Sassy Spoon and Mia Cucina.

"Often, they want to explore the city but don't know where to get started and which places are safe. The places I have partnered with offer a true Mumbai experience. I've tried and tested all of them and they are on my personal favourites list," she sums up.

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