It is that time of the year when every household is lit up with lamps and laughter and everyone seems to be in high spirits. The festival of ‘Diwali’ binds the entire nation in resplendent celebrations. The city of Mumbai is no different. It turns into a land of vibrant colors, shopping, fireworks and a variety of gastronomical delights. With over a fortnight of celebrations, the excitement is irresistible. Diets and food restrictions tossed out of the window, one cannot escape the sweets beckoning and it’s not before long you realise you are recovering from a sweet tooth hangover!
This Diwali, we cruised around the city and managed to explore interesting sweet shops, restaurants serving special Diwali menus, shops selling an array of colourful diyas (earthen lamps) and decorations. And Diwali cannot be Diwali without the spectacular display of fireworks in the evening which was visual treat. Shopping experiences during Diwali are unique and mine were no different. Mumbai streets have something to offer everyone and I returned with some great buys.
Delightful diyas and decorations: It was worth cruising through the crowded, noisy lanes of Crawford market to see a delightful exhibition of diyas. Available in packs of four or six costing around Rs50 – Rs60 per pack, these were a sure buy. There were larger ones as well, studded with colourful stones which were individually packed. The vibrant Indian decorations to adorn the entrance door frames, popularly called Torans were available with pretty motifs and designs. Tiny mirrors and appliqué work made these items of décor hard to choose from. These are priced at around Rs1000 – Rs1500
Sugary tales: No festival is complete without the sweet flavour that graces the occasion. In a land where almost everyone has a sweet tooth, one tends to think he has consumed a few hundred calories just passing by these shops! Suleman Mithaiwala, on Mohammed Ali road is one such sweet shop who did immense justice to the festivities with their good eye for variety and creativity. The richness was unmistakable as we tasted sampled several sweets.
Some of the specialties which won are hearts here were aflatoon, kaju burfi, mango burfi, dry fruit halwa amongst others. Attractive packing added that extra edge to these already exotic preparations. The prices ranged from Rs300 – Rs700 per kilo. With all the delicacies in this dessert haven almost melting on your palate, the assorted boxes also made a sensible choice. I say delicious things come in small packages, because these boxes of assorted sweets had a great mix of all the choicest traditional Indian sweets and made great gifting options. These are reasonably priced between Rs320 – Rs380 per box.
Going nuts: Dry fruit hampers which are in great demand and packaged in fancy boxes also made a useful gifting idea. Approximately Rs1600 per box with a mix of cashews, pistachios, walnuts, raisins and almonds in baskets, hand painted boxes or carved jewelry boxes were a sure hit. We found two places that were popular for the same, namely Chedda Dry fruit shop at Walkeshwar and Manish Dry fruits in Colaba.
A feast to remember: Few restaurants offered a special Diwali menu, catering to the taste buds of food lovers in the City. Kebab Korner at the Intercontinental on Marine Drive was offering a sumptuous Diwali spread, with a different menu each day all through Diwali. Here a meal could cost around Rs2500 per person.
Another restaurant called The Village is worth mentioning for their unique variations like chocolate samosas, pizzas on chilla and exotic dessert varieties. Tucked away in the World Trade centre, in Cuffe Parade, this Indian theme based restaurant indulges in exclusive decor to accompany their delicious menu. Neel on the Turf in Mahalaxmi and Aafrein at the Sahara Star, near the airport serve special festive menus during Diwali. These restaurants are packed all through the Diwali week with people not wanting to miss out on this opportunity. The price depending on your choice would range between Rs500 – Rs800 per person. Make sure you have reservations in advance itself to avoid disappointment.
Fireworks and a fairy tale ending: Shops selling all the latest varieties in crackers, are found in plenty in the by lanes of Crawford market, Essabhai being the most popular one. The fireworks display denoted a fairy tale ending to the lovely day. Marine Drive and Carter road are two such places that exhibit the grandeur of these colourful lights in all their splendour. Streaks of blue, green, red and orange adorned the skies for hours together making it a night to remember. With so many gathering to watch this grand show in awe and delight, the day seemed just perfect!
Getting there: Crawford market: Located in South Mumbai, one can take a local train to VT (Victoria Terminus) station followed by ten minute cab ride
Suleman Mithaiwala: Situated right next to Minara Masjid in Mohammed Ali Road. From VT station, a cab drive will take about ten to fifteen minutes.
Chheda dry fruits: One can take a local train to Marine lines and then a 15 minute drive via cab to Walkeshwar.
Manish Dry fruits: Situated in Colaba, next to Strand cinema, one can take a train to Church gate and then a cab which is a 15-20 minute drive.
Kebab Korner, Intercontinental: This is on Marine drive. One can get down at Marine lines and take a 5 minute drive via a cab.
The Village: Situated in the World trade centre in Cuffe Parade, this is easily accessible to South Mumbai residents. For others a cab drive from Church gate or VT station would take around 20 minutes.
Neel on the turf: Located in Mahalaxmi area, it is about a 5 minute walk from Mahalaxmi station.
Aafrein, Sahara Star: This is situated right next to the domestic airport. Hence it’s just a ten minute walk away for those arriving by air. The nearest station would be the Santa Cruz station and a cab drive of about 15 minutes.
Here, would just like add a quick observation about Crawford market and Mohammed Ali road, which are considered relatively conservative areas, get quite crowded around the festive season and so, one is advised to dress appropriately. Also make sure to be safe while bursting or watching fireworks to avoid any injuries.
While every city enhances its own charm in celebrating Diwali, the much talked about spirit of Mumbai proudly exhibits itself on this day. Irrespective of caste, creed or community, the cosmopolitan city lives up to its name, by gathering under one roof and embracing the festive fervour with great gusto.