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Friday, Dec 24, 2004

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Mumbai's Culture Square

Sarika Mehta

Mumbai's Colaba Causeway has it all... great food, a theatre, art galleries and lots to shop for.

Undoubtedly one of the most charming places in Mumbai, Colaba Causeway could proudly be termed the `Culture Square' of Mumbai. The look and mood are reflective of its cosmopolitan feel; a classic example of the clichéd `East meets West' — or rather Mumbai-meets-Bombay.

The charm emanates from the surrounding Old Bombay architecture like the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Regal Cinema and Khushrow Baug, which sets it apart from the `high rise and glass front' look that essentially dominates the skyline of Mumbai.

Shopping or simply browsing through the Causeway in the evening is a pleasure since the area is a delightful mosaic of colours at play under bright yellow lights. An assorted mix of people throngs the Causeway footpaths, exploring the possibility of a good deal.

Fashion accessories

The pavements are lined with stalls that display the trendiest of trinkets and fashion accessories at good prices. Scarves and stoles are strewn resplendently all over and are available in a variety of fabrics and styles.

The chic look can cost as less as Rs 50 (one-third of the shop prices). Aditi M., a college student, swears by the Causeway accessories. "The variety on offer is great. The best part is that you can bargain and get the most unusual as well as trendy stuff at unbelievable prices."

Another favourite among the young crowd are the shops that sell semi-precious stones along with wooden, glass and porcelain beads. The variety of shapes, sizes and designs ismind-blowing. What makes it better is that you can combine them the way you want and get accessories personalised on the spot, thus making it popular amongpeople who want to make their own fashion statement. Says A. Shetty, a media professional adds, " I go crazy when I visit this place. I can get exactly what I want from these bead shops. That is the most exciting part".

A visit to Colaba would be incomplete without a quick deal at the bag stalls. Scattered all over, they are available in rare ethnic patterns and styles. Some of them are overwhelmingly intricate with sequins and mirror work.

You can also find an unusual collection of purses made of jute, cane and even wood here. A great piece of work would cost you anywhere between Rs 60 and Rs 100 here. Trupti Patil, a frequent visitor, highlights that when you need bags and purses to match your outfits, you cannot afford to shop at big stores. "That's why I pick up a lot of stuff from here. The quality is not bad at all."

One cannot afford to neglect the vibrant mojri stalls round the corner. You can buy the most delicate and fine handwork for your footwear for a steal! These can be made to order too and would not cost more than Rs 300.

It is also one of the few places in Mumbai to offer Kolhapuri chappals in varied hues and shades. "I have not seen such good work in other shops. And I don't think these chappals are easily available elsewhere in Mumbai," says Aditi.

Antiques and artefacts

Apart from being a fashion haven for the locals, the Causeway is a must-see for tourists too. In the evenings you can see people of different nationalities meandering through to pick up a souvenir or two. And to cater to this crowd, there are vendors who display authentic Indian ware. So, there is woodwork inlaid with ivory, miniature Taj Mahals, decent imitations of South Indian temple paintings, Kashmiri carpets and shawls that apparently come from Shimla! Further down the Causeway, a mehndiwalla woos foreigners. If oddity excites you, then don't miss out on the stalls that display a motley combination of antique pieces such as gramophones, porcelain door knobs, bugles, coloured glass lanterns, nautical sextants, miniature telescopes, compasses and, most importantly, the hookahs. These hookahs, available in several sizes, are generally made of wood or ivory. These aesthetic pieces appeal to users as well as the non-users. The biggest hookah would cost Rs 500. Trupti says, "These things make great sense as living room or study décor."

For the foodie

But what would a `culture square' be without food? Colaba displays a truly global culture when it comes to cuisine. One can enjoy an authentic Lebanese meal at the Piccadilly restaurant, which is also famous forits breakfast menu. For those who want Italian, there's Café Churchill. Mings Palace is a place for some great Chinese. Across the road, Kailash Parbat allures passers-by with the aroma of of traditional Sindhi food. Café Mondegar and Café Leopold provide the ideal setting for a beer with friends, or a quick bite or just a cup of coffee over a book.

One really does not need a reason to visit Colaba Causeway. "It is an entertaining place. There is great food all around, a theatre, art galleries and lots to shop for," says a regular. `Causeway' literally means a land bridge. The crowd generally comprises people of various nationalities, background and purchasing power. Colaba Causeway really manages to bridge gaps, though only for a small period of time, as everyone haggles for a better deal.

Picture by Paul Noronha

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