Here’s a story from my recent visit to India:
One afternoon in Mumbai, Sneaky wasn’t feeling so good. The friend whose house we were at picked up her phone and made a couple of calls. Ten minutes later, the doorbell rings & we have 3 coconuts (shell and all) delivered at our doorstep! While I took those to the kitchen to puncture tiny holes for straws, the doorbell rings again & the chemist’s delivery boy drops off a few off-the-counter remedies to help Sneaky back on her feet.
I’ve lived in India long enough to know that home delivery for a bunch of things is common, but the speed and ease with which you can do this in Bombay fascinates me! My buddy tells me and I quote, “This is Mumbai, darling! No matter what time of the day, you can get food, water, laundry, flowers, groceries, medicine, alcohol, drugs and even men & women delivered home!”
I have written many a love notes about Mumbai, or Bombay, as I still like to call it – the Indian version of the city that never sleeps. If you’ve met me in person too, you’ll know my awestruck expression when I talk about Bombay. I just spent 2 weeks there & now that I’m back in Philly, it only seems apt that I romanticize the city some more. Sneaky Ninja lives in Mumbai, but I am writing this post because distance makes the heart so much fonder! 😀
American novelist Hanya Y once quoted, “In Mumbai, the air is saltier. The sea is roilier. The traffic is snarlier. The pinks are pinker. The ostentation is crazier.” I agree with everything except for the ostentation. Ask any Mumbaikar and they will tell you, the city is sans pretense. No matter what part you live in, if you are in Mumbai, your heart beats for the hustle. Bombay is the city of dreams, you can make it here or you go totally broke here :P, either way, you don’t stop, you keep moving!
A few years ago, Havard Business Review published a case study on Bombay’s Tiffin Delivery Service. A couple of years later, Jeremy Clarkson did a ‘Meals on Wheels’ feature during Top Gear’s India tour. This got Bombay and its hustle some international eyeballs. A ‘Tiffin-Wala’ picks up home cooked meals & delivers them to men & women at work in offices across the city, in time for lunch. The whole system is pretty rad!
For our friends not acquainted with Hindi, a ‘wala’ is a suffix to indicate that the person is from a place, like ‘Mumbai-wala’, or in reference to a seller or a vendor of something, like ‘Coconut-Wala’. This simply means a guy who sells coconuts. The sheer number of street vendors in Bombay is overwhelming! There is a wala for everything. This post is dedicated to all the ‘walas’ who are the veins of Bombay, making life convenient for all of those living there.
Sneaky Ninja and I started out with our ‘Auto-Wala’, they guy who rides a motored three-wheeled vehicle. Imagine the offspring of a motorcycle & a car! When not using Bombay’s local trains, the auto-rickshaw is one of the most convenient ways to get around the city.
Stopped at ‘Phool-Wala’, a.k.a florist, to smell the roses. 😀
How could we not have stopped over at the fruit-wala to get some fresh tropical fruits?Went over to Bandstand Chowpatty for some ice golas from the ‘Gola-Wala’. Golas are an Indian street food, basically comprising of shaved ice & flavored syrup. Invented to quench your thirst & keep you cool as you make your way through this humid city!
Lastly, as we walked along the shore of the Arabian Sea, we stopped at the ‘Tapri-wala’ asking for paan. But he was a relatively small shop & sold only cigarettes. Technically, he was a ‘cigarette-wala’! He walks around and spends his nights on the sidewalk selling cigarettes to the young and old alike, as they make their way to and fro around Bombay’s vivid nightlife. If you live around his sidewalk and take his cell phone number, he’ll deliver them home! That’s how the ‘wala’s run the city!
Photography credit: Premal Raval