Sassoon Docks

The Sassoon Docks is one of the few docks open to the public in Mumbai, India. It was built by David Sassoon, a Baghdadi Jew. The docks is the main fish loading and trading centre in South Mumbai. The Sassoon Docks was featured in one of the episodes of the reality series: The Amazing Race.

It is located in south of the Colaba area.

For busy Mumbaikars

Want a sandwich, The Kite Runneror a window seat for your Volvo ride to Goa? Now you get it all online. Malay Desai goes site-seeing to test whether you should sign up or simply press Alt+F4

   
Order food    

www.mealtree.com
Taking a cue from their daily food-ordering habits, citybased professionals Ashish Agarwal and his brothers conceptualised Mealtree. Albeit not a novel idea (many western cities, for example Durban, have centralised helplines and ‘menu directories’), Mealtree attempts to bring in all major restaurants and fast-food chains under one roof. UPSIDE: We placed an online order (rolls from Wraps and Rolls), and promptly got a call for confirmation. The delivery took the usual time it would have had we ordered directly. What impressed us was the user-friendly menus, where you can easily order from multiple places. There was also the option of mentioning exactly how spicy we wanted our chicken roll.

DOWNSIDE: We didn’t find McDonalds on the site and all items under Garcia’s were dysfunctional.
   
Look up a book    

www.librarywala.com
Our ‘time-less’ city life coupled with the love for books prompted IT professional Hiten Turakhia and his buddies to kickstart India’s first online circulating library last year. It is ideal for professionals with five-day weeks who tremble at the prospect of visiting a library or buying expensive books. UPSIDE: We shelled out Rs 2,398 (out of which Rs 500 was refunded because of a new special offer) to opt for a plan which gives three books per month, for a year. After ‘queuing up’ for The Kite Runner online late one night, we received it the next afternoon.

DOWNSIDE: Its collection is all-English. It won’t have Stephen King’s On Writing — which your nearby raddiwala may have. Nor will it have recently-published books (like Binoo John’s Entry from Backside Only) which your bookshops will have. Also, some popular books like Maximum City, which are always in circulation, may take longer to arrive.
   
Book movie, play or    concert tickets    

www.bookmyshow.com
Unlike some ventures of the Network18 stable, this one doesn’t seem like a strategic investment. In fact it is promoted by Bigtree Entertainment, an info-solutions provider. Good for us, we thought, since almost all the multiplex websites require boring registrations and bug you with emails forever.

UPSIDE: The portal also offers play and concert tickets. It is really simple now to make it to a play at Prithvi or Anoushka Shankar live. And we don’t even mind the extra charge. DOWNSIDE: We decided to test-drive Jodhaa Akbar and found that there were hardly any Fame cinemas on the list. Also, the site only accepted payments through credit card and not direct net-banking. However, it hurt most when they levied a Rs 15 ‘con’venience charge on each ticket. Why on earth should we pay that if the multiplex helplines were ready to book tickets via a phone call?
   
Book bus tickets    

www.redbus.in
This one, too, has an interesting history: it was born out of the frustration of a bunch of Bangalore-based IT professionals who always suffered before travelling due to overbooking and unpredictable schedules. Today, they’ve quit their well-paying jobs and their portal boasts of a tie-up with over 250 operators across India’s smallest towns.

UPSIDE: We pretended we wanted to head to Goa overnight, logged on and printed an e-ticket in no time. We also tried the delivery, which lived up to promise and was cheaper than it’s competitor. As for cancellations, they can be done online, 24 hours before departure. What’s most impressive? You can select the boarding point nearest to you after looking up the route online.
DOWNSIDE: If only they would let us select the movie to be shown en route! We won’t have to watch films like Partner.

No good!

www.ticketvala.com
We checked out another site – which lets you rents cars and book hotel rooms too, but found it’s not half as good.Ticketvala’s site promises more and delivers less (we’re still waiting for a call for a request we made last week). It charges more for delivery and cancels tickets only 36 hours before departure.

   
Grab a DVD    

www.clixflix.com
Mumbai’s cinema lovers have never had it better. Today, we have many international fests, a classic movie club and a just-launched world cinema channel. This portal is among many side-effects of a booming entertainment industry in India. It says its powered by ‘hardcore couch potatoes’, but we found it does little to encourage the movieviewing habit.

UPSIDE: Still looking…
DOWNSIDE: On registration, we found out that its online store stocks only DVDs. We regret this sorely, since Moser Baer sells VCDs at a throwaway 28 bucks! Secondly, they didn’t deliver on a Sunday and shockingly showed up zero results when we searched for common retro movies like Anand and Guide. All this, after a security deposit of Rs 2,000! Not worth your while, we say.

Better options

www.seventymm.com
It’s one of the better-known DVD rentals and deservedly so. It offers a million things for the film buff. It has an impressive regional-language stock and lets customers keep their DVDs as long as they want.Another DVD rental site, www.cinesprite.com, is as good and cheaper.

Mumbai’s historic laundry pulls crowd

Like hundreds of foreign tourists who visit Mumbai, Bill Clinton made sure he saw the 150-year-old Dhobhi Ghat next to the Mahalaxmi railway station in the heart of the city during one of his visits in Mumbai. Clinton, once the world’s most powerful man, stood atop a busy flyover to catch a glimpse of the Dhobhi Ghat.

Like many other foreigners, he was intrigued by the fascinating spectacle of rows of open air concrete wash pens, enclosed in a cubicle, with men doing the work of flogging machines at the vast expanse of the hutment-like colony.

“We were asked to move away when he (Clinton) arrived. And he stood up on the bridge for a considerable length of time to look at our colony below,” says Rajendra Bhandari (40) who runs a canteen nearby and also owns one of the wash tanks which he rents out to others.

Bhandari has been living in the area for 20 years and says what draws tourists to the ghat is “its unique charm, steeped in history”. He adds: “This place was constructed by the British in 1857. In those days only the clothes of Viceroys and senior British officials were allowed to be washed. The patthar (large chunk of concrete set inside the washing pen) which you see being used to beat the clothes to wash away soap and dirt) was built by the British. More than 150 years later, it remains intact. There is no sign of damage. We have not done any maintenance or repair work on them. The foreign tourists find such things very interesting,” says Bhandari.

Around 1928, the British leased the ghat to an industrial house, who in turn passed it to the city’s municipal corporation post-independence after the lease expired. Bhandari says initially there were around 532 washing pens but the numbers increased to 731.

Foreign tourists visiting Mumbai often ask cab drivers to take them to the dhobi ghat instead of the usual landmarks like the Gateway of India or Marine Drive. Even before they land in Mumbai, they are armed with information about the world’s largest laundry and are curious to see how in the age of washing machines, a modern city still has an old world operating system of disposing off dirty linen.

At any time of the day one can see the odd tourist standing up on the flyover and clicking pictures of the Dhobi Ghat. Sometimes he is accompanied by a tourist guide who extols the virtues of the Dhobhi Ghat and the dhobis. The visitor from overseas is forever surrounded by curious onlookers (mostly locals and children) who cannot fathom what makes the foreigners flock to the place when there are world famous monuments like the Gateway of India situated not too far away.

“I guess like the Gateway fascinates us because we don’t get to see it very often, this place charms the tourists as they do not have something like this in their country,” says Raj, a teenager who lives in one of the few rooms adjoining the washer men’s colony.

When a sought after location is situated in their midst can Bollywood be far away? Actor Sunny Deol’s film Salaakhen was shot at this location. And, recently, singer Daler Mehndi shot here for one of his music album. The Sanjay Dutt starrer Munnabhai MBBS also showcased a dhobhi ghat scene. “When film and ad shootings take place they pay us a fee and take about half a day. It does not really affect our work because we organise ourselves accordingly,” says Raj.

The 200-odd dhobi families diligently collect dirty laundry, wash and return it, neatly ironed, to swank homes of elites living in south Mumbai. Drying takes place on long, brightly coloured lines and heavy wood-burning irons are used for ironing.

Pyarelal who has taken one of the washing pens on a monthly rent of Rs 300, recalls his conversations with tourists. “They ask us how we manage to organise with the mountains of clothes that we deal with. We use markings on clothes so that none are misplaced or lost. In a day, one person can wash as much as 200 clothes. There are three people involved. One is engaged in the collection and deliveries of clothes while the other two wash and iron them. Women too work but there are more men doing this work. It provides a very good opportunity of a photo op for an eager foreigner; he takes back memories to his country,” he says.

Barring a few individuals, the city’s municipal corporation largely owns the pens and rents them out. The G – south ward, health department of the municipal corporation deals with the renting formalities. Pyarelal came from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh five years ago and started his work. He says that hotels, dry cleaners, hospitals send their laundry and people from even the far flung suburb of Virar send their clothes to be washed. There are people mainly from Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh who work at the colony. While a few live in shanties inside the colony, most come from the adjoining localities of the inner city in Mumbai.

Bhandari rues that the land sharks have not spared the ghat which is located in a prime area. “Initially the Dhobhi Ghat was spread out over 22 acres but now it has shrunk to 10 acres because quite a few original owners sold off their portions and left the place,” he says.
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Cathedral of the Holy Name, Mumbai

The Cathedral of the Holy Name is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) and the seat of the Archbishop of Bombay and headquarters of the Archdiocese of Bombay (http://www.archbom.com). The cathedral is located in the Colaba area in South Mumbai. The residence of the Archbishop is located adjacent to the Cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral

This Cathedral was built to replace the older Cathedral which was located in the Bhuleshwar area of the city, where there are few resident Christians. That site was sold off, and the former parochial church of the Holy Name in Colaba was elevated as the Pro-Cathedral.

The site of this church is very close to the site of the former Portuguese Church of Our Lady of Hope, or Nossa Senhora da Esperanca, that was confiscated by the English from the Padroado party and handed over to the Propaganda party’s Vicar Apostolic Athanasius Hartmann. The Esperanca Church was demolished by the Propagandists soon after, and in its place the present Esperanca Building, also called the Eucharistic Congress Building, behind the Holy Name Cathedral, was built to house the delegates to the 38th International Eucharistic Congress in the 1960s.

It is known for its frescoes, pipe organ, a large gold embroidered stole gifted by John XXIII, and another by Pope Pius XII containing the red hat given to Cardinal Valerian Gracias, and a bell gifted by Pope Paul VI during the 38th International Eucharistic Congress held in Mumbai in 1964.

It is one of the two more known cathedrals in the city, the other being the older, Anglican, Cathedral of St. Thomas the Apostle. Other Cathedrals in the city include those of the Jacobites and the Syro-Malankara Rite,

In addition, there were at least two other buildings which, while not strictly Cathedrals, were popularly styled as being Pro-Cathedrals of the Padroado party Bishop of Daman, who resided normally at the Portuguese government-owned Blessed Sacrament Chapel in Middle Colaba — St. Francis Xavier Church in Dabul and the Church of Our Lady of Glory (Nossa Senhora da Gloria) or Gloria Church in Byculla.

Aarey Milk Colony

Aarey Milk Colony (established in 1949) is situated in Goregaon East, a suburb of Mumbai. It has gardens, a nursery, lakes, observation pavillion, picnic facilities and Milk plants. On average 16,000 cattle are reared on 1287 hectors of land, and 32 cattle farms.

Night safari in Byculla zoo

One more attraction is set to be added to the city’s night life with plans underway to start a night safari in the Byculla zoo.

A Thailand-based consultant has submitted a Rs 433 crore masterplan for the revamp of the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, which includes starting a night safari. “Mumbaikars can relax after work by enjoying the facility till midnight and see the nocturnal big cats in specially created facilities,” Additional Municipal Commissioner R A Rajiv said.

Watson’s Hotel

Watson’s Hotel, currently known as the Esplanade Mansions, is India‘s oldest surviving cast iron building, located in the Kala Ghoda district of Mumbai (Bombay). It was named after its original owner, John Watson. The building was fabricated in England and constructed onsite between 1867 and 1869. It was designed by civil engineer Rowland Mason Ordish (1824–1886), who was also associated with the St Pancras Station in London. Its external cast-iron frame closely resembles other high-profile 19th century buildings such as London’s Crystal Palace. The main façade of the hotel is distinguished by building-wide open balconies on each floor that connected the guest rooms. The rooms in Watson’s Hotel were built around the atrium in a courtyard arrangement.

John Watson opened the hotel as an exclusive whites-only hotel, and it was the swankiest hotel in the city in those days. The five storied structure housed 130 guest rooms, as well as a lobby, restaurant and a bar at the ground level. The hotel also had a 30 metre by 9 metre atrium which had a glass skylight. The atrium was originally used as a ballroom. The common joke at that time was: “If only Watson had imported the English weather as well”. At its peak, Watson’s hotel employed English waitresses in its restaurant and ballroom.

Among the hotel’s notable guests was Mark Twain who wrote about the city’s crows he saw outside his balcony in Following the Equator. It was also the first place in India to screen the Lumière BrothersCinematographe invention in 1896. However this was witnessed only by Europeans.

According to rumours, Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata was denied access to the hotel. In retaliation he opened the Taj Mahal Palace, a hotel that stands near what is now the Gateway of India in 1903.

After Watson’s death, the hotel lost its popularity to the Taj Mahal Hotel. In the 1960s the hotel was closed and sold to a private owner. It was subdivided and partitioned into small cubicles with independent access and let out on rent. Over the years apathy toward the building by the residents has resulted in it being in a dilapidated condition. The atrium was subsequently used as a dumping ground and has several illegal constructions. The building currently has 53 families and 97 commercial establishments. Most of the commercial establishments are chambers of lawyers catering to the adjacent Bombay Civil & Session Courts and to the nearby Bombay High Court.

The building’s poor state of affairs has been remarked time and again, and efforts by Heritage activists to persuade its present owner to invest in restoration have been stymied by his refusal to spend from his own pocket, and without tenants’ contributing. The condition of the building was publicized by Italian architect Renzo Piano, as a result of whose efforts, the building was listed June 2005 on the “100 World Endangered Monuments” by the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based NGO. Just a few days after its nomination, part of the building’s western facade (not seen in the picture) – originally balconies developed into tiny offices, collapsed, killing one person and crushing several cars and motorcycles parked in the street below. The building is currently listed as a Grade II-A heritage structure.

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