Wake up, Ballard Estate
The pretty business district in SoBo ought to be revived as an ideal venue in a city that is starved of space and ideas when it comes to the arts and culture. Our favourite sutradhaars think so, too
So, how was that weekend bash at Mulji’s, Pheroze — the 'limited seating' affair that only a privileged few like you were invited to, to celebrate the UNESCO honour? [She wasn’t going to make him forget that snub] It sure seemed like you had a fabulous time, considering you didn’t show up for three days for our night walks post that party,” exclaimed Lady Flora to her friend who seemed a bit startled. Then again she was pretty darn good with her hawkish eye in most matters that concerned her walking companion.
"Oh no, my Lady," he began, “You have it all wrong. The party was alright. A quiet gathering was more like it. Most invitees didn’t even show up, going by the number of empty seats. Maybe it was the location, the traffic…” he went on, trying his best to underplay the occasion, and more importantly, that she didn’t really miss a big night in SoBo that involved the top brass from their ilk.
"And, what about your absence for three days? All that wining and dining got the better of you, is it, Pheroze?" Lady Flora wasn’t going to let go that easily. "Oh, it was the food. Er…I don’t think that went down well, Lady," said Sir PM, sounding a tad embarrassed as his voice went soft. “I… I… am not used to eating all that vegetarian food. It didn’t agree with me — the tubers, gourd, and brinjal. In fact, I was looking hard to find an Irani cafe or restaurant around Ballard Estate where I could sneak in to for a quick bite at that hour but none were. Boman uncle shutters his place much earlier, so does Café Universal." Lady Flora was all ears; her annoyance had worn off, and she began to feel a bit sad that her friend had been unwell. "You are hopelessly addicted to non-vegetarian food! All well now, Pheroze, I hope?" she enquired. "Oh, yes. Thank you. You see, I was just missing my dhansak and bhonu," he grinned.
"But on a serious note, Lady, I must inform you that it did come as a surprise to see Ballard Estate looking like a ghost town after dark. It was never like this back in the day, if you might recall?" said Sir PM. "You're right, Pheroze. After the port offices and business establishments would shut for the day, the place came to life. I recall attending many a dinner and annual ballroom night in those parts…”she reminisced. "Has it all gone, Pheroze? I remember how the Royal Naval band would play the latest tunes; we’d all catch up on the latest happenings around Fort, and keep track of the newest fashions at Whiteway & Laidlaw and Watsons. Ah! It was such fun,” she remarked, hitting a nostalgic note. "Don't tell me it’s all gone. That’s a shame, really."
"I am afraid, Lady, but it is true. I was quite disappointed to notice it myself. Our lawyers’ drunk… er… drafting sessions would be such entertaining affairs,” he corrected himself in a flash lest she caught on to the real deal. “Well, the authorities should really do something to liven up this beautiful part of town. It can be like a no-traffic zone on weekends, with cultural performances like street theatre and live bands; photography walks would be such a delight, and imagine if children were able to explore and run around tree-lined pathways, as they learn little bits and anecdotes about this great city?"
"See, Pheroze. Now you’ve got me all nostalgic. How about taking me on a guided walk to rediscover those good ole days? And we can then sit back and tuck into those delicious chicken sandwiches at Universal, if it's still on the menu. It is, right?" Lady Flora asked. "Of course, my Lady," he smiled, glad that a few good things were still around in his beloved Bombay.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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