Since 1979, I’ve juggled lives as a quintessential South Mumbai brat and a Bandra boy. On weekdays, we’d live in South Mumbai because that’s where school was. But we spent our weekends and vacations at our Bandra apartment. (Yes, we bought it as a weekend home. Imagine!)
In the ’80s, Bandra was a charming suburb steeped in an almost Goan culture, a place where our two-storeyed building could be the tallest structure in the neighbourhood and where time seemed to move a little slower than in the rest of the city.
Christmas was always the most special period. The streets would be awash in festive lighting, and trays full of cookies and sweets would arrive with clockwork regularity from the neighbours’ homes. The bazaars would bustle a little more and groups of carol singers would drop by, their voices resonating through the winter nights.
Despite experiencing a housing and commercial boom that has changed its face forever, Bandra retains much of its charm. And Christmas still manages to sprinkle a little magic in the air.
(Click on the pictures to see them in full size. Also, sorry for the quality; they were shot on my phone.)
Chimbai Village, one of the few remaining bastions of Mumbai’s original residents – the Koli community. This statue of Mother Mary always intrigued me because of the saree draped around it. I often walk through this village and usually stop at this statue to pay my respects. This festive season, the casing has acquired a fresh coat of paint and the statue a brand new saree. It’s one of my favourite spots in Bandra.
This cross is just a few steps away from Mother Mary’s statue. Incidentally, Chimbai is beautiful in the late evenings. The Koli fisherwomen set up shop, their gas lamps casting a dull glow across the tiny lane. Their non-stop chatter makes the village a happy place.
This is the Serpis Cafe at the St Andrew’s Church end of Chimbai. It’s a family-run eatery in the compound of what I think is their home. Superb food. I’ve had many meals here and I can just imagine the family bustling around the kitchen trying to make Christmas special for their patrons.
St Andrew’s Church. Built by Portuguese Jesuits in 1575, it’s one of Mumbai’s oldest churches. Till the first quarter of the 17th century, it was the only church in Bandra. Also, it’s seen war! It was virtually destroyed during a Maratha invasion. Incidentally, an aperture in the front facade, just above the statue of St Andrew, allows the rising sun to shine straight into the church.
That’s Waroda Road in another of Bandra’s villages, Ranwar. The homes here remind me a lot of old Goa. Waroda Road has, in the past few years, become home to some interesting cafes – tiny, but good food. Imbiss, Birdsong and the Kombava Art Loft have made Waroda Road quite the foodie haven.
Pound cakes, ‘kal kal’ and marzipan – just some of the goodies available at these pop-up stores that spring up all over Bandra at Christmas time. It’s all very good, usually made by families at home.
Stores selling decorations and Santa masks have sprung up all along Hill Road. They’re a traffic nightmare but I don’t grudge them. You can’t have Christmas in Bandra without them.
If your pockets are deeper, you could drop by some of the more premium stores that have sprung up around Bandra. Imported chocolates, wine, premium coffee… You name it, you get it at these stores.
In the end, Christmas in Bandra is all about the people you love – friends, family and neighbours. Virtually every building in Bandra has decked itself up.