Last Sunday was my birthday. …and I am happy to receive gifts even if they are a wee bit late. So… go on… send them!
Ankur knows it way too well that I value experiences more than materialistic gifts. Actually, Ankur and I both prefer to add to our ‘memory chest’ than the ‘goodies chest’. Thus, my birthday gift was a walking in tour in my favourite part of town, the Fort area, interspersed with cups of tea… called ‘Chai pe Charcha with Raconteur Walks.
What’s the ‘walk’ all about?
Do you know anything about Mumbai. …or Bombay?
This was the first question that our Raconteur Dwayne asked up. Pop came out answers….
– It is composed of seven islands !
– It was a key port to allow the East India company to trade
However, none of us knew how the East India Company managed to get Mumbai. Dwayne enlightened us with the following story…
Way back in history, in 1534, the islands of present day Mumbai were given by Sultan Bahadur Shah to the Portuguese via the Treaty of Bassein. Bombay continued to be a Portuguese colony until 1662. It was in May 1662 that King Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza, whose family gave a huge dowry to the groom. A part of this gift was the Portuguese territory of Bombay.
However, Charles did not want the trouble of ruling these islands. At that time, the East India Company was running a business in India and its headquarters was in Surat. Charles rented out the whole of Mumbai to the East India Company for just £10 in gold a year! And the rest – as we say it – is history!
Buildings… Architecture… and Stories…
Walking through buildings in the Fort area of Mumbai was like reliving history. …every building had a history behind it…and Dwayne knew it all well!
This building, was the Watson hotel – the most astounding hotel in its glorious days. Everything here was imported from England. Apparently, it’s entrance carried the signboard ‘Dogs and Indians not allowed’, which irked Sir Jamshedji Tata enough to construct the grand Taj Palace hotel, which continues to grace the city till date. The Watson hotel paled when compared to the Taj Palace and died it’s own death.
I really don’t want to spill too many stories that were share with us… you really need to walk with the Raconteur to get your facts right!
Our first ‘tea stop’ was at quaint, but fancy tea boutique called San Cha at Kala Ghoda. The place was filled with fancy teas and even fancier tea sets. I just wanted to turn into a little girl and host an English tea party for my friends.
I could have even called Alice and the Mad Hatter and put his ever so famous ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ to shame! However, my taste buds did not let my crazy ideas take shape as I sipped merrily on some fragrant rose tea.
Did you know that tea was introduced in India by the British in the 1920’s and now we sip away almost 75% of our own produce.! Sohail, the promoter of San Cha share the ‘History of Teas in India’ with us in great detail. One hour and San Cha, and we knew the difference between white, green and CTC tea! And off course, we knew how to brew each of these to perfection!
Our second stop was for ‘Cutting Chai’ at one of the ‘tapris’. If you haven’t had a masala cutting chai till date, you truly have deprived yourself of a very authentic Mumbai experience. This is my opinion… Ankur chooses to disagree with me on this!
Our third stop was at Yazdani for some Irani chai and ‘Brun Maska’.
Now, ‘brun’, is different from ‘bun’; the former is crisp on the outside and sponge like on the inside. Its a delight to bite into a ‘brun’ that has straight come out of the oven… warm and crisp! Let’s not miss out the butter…yum yum yum!
Two cents from us… some tips…
- If you enjoy history and architecture, this walk surely is meant for you; tea is just incidental!
- We had a 12 year old girl in the group who seemed to throughly enjoy the walk, as did the gentle man who was 50 years.
- Wear comfortable shoes and dress comfortably. You will walk for a couple of kilo meters in the Mumbai heat and humidity.
- Ask plenty of questions… and the Raconteurs will surely have answers to most of them! They are really well read and do know a lot about the Fort area in Mumbai.
- The walk costs INR 1500 per person and we believe, it is worth the money. Click here to go to their website.
- The entire experience lasts for 2.5 to 3 hours. Book a table for dinner in the Fort area after your walk and make a ‘Good Evening’ out of it.