Rediscovering Matunga...a Food and Mythology Walk
In the city of Mumbai,walks serve as a great way to stay outdoors.Saw an announcement for a Matunga walk and jumped at the idea.Having been there several times,I thought it would be fascinating to learn about its history and culture.Turns out one more person thought that way and that's how Neville too joined the Travel-Logs walk.We both agreed that this is a great way to learn history and wished we had been taught this way in schools.Nitika Khanna who has done her graduation in History and conducted walks in Delhi.She became our teacher for the day along with Dhiresh Sharma,an MBA from IIM now pursuing his passion...travel
We started at 4pm at the first Udipi restaurant in Mumbai...Mysore Cafe that was opened by A Rama Nayak in 1934.Several such restaurants came up in the area so as to provide nutritious,balanced and cheap meals for people from the South that had migrated there.Reminded me of the Khanawals made for millworkers in the Lalbaug-Byculla area
We had filter coffee or kaapi which is made from roasted dark coffee beans and chicory.In fact you can buy these beans easily in Matunga.The coffee is had in a tumbler and container (davara) and the coffee poured back and forth between the two to mix it and cool it down.There may be new International coffee shops opening in the city but the love for kappa will always remain in Indian hearts!
Idlis and dosas are both made of rice and fermented urad dal.An unusual idli you find here is the Khotu Idli which is steamed in jackfruit leaves.We tried idlis and Podi dosa at the Ayyapan Idli stall near Sankaramattam.Podi or Gunpowder is made of dried chillies,dal,hing and salt.There were a host of other flavors to appeal to all kinds of people who come there.Nitika asked us to guess people of which community that came there often, after looking at the menu! Neville is an idli-dosa connoisseur.He is also into organic food.We talked of ragi (millet) and red rice dosas,the healthier options
Much as you may feel that people from the South are vegetarian,it is not so.There are many non vegetarian dishes in each state.Rice is a staple and is eaten in three courses...with sambhar,rasam and curds.
The walk was as much about mythology as it was about food.We went to the Asthika Samaj which is a Malayalee temple.Nitika pointed out that the dome was very elaborate and each level had a different God and story.So many times I had been to the temple but never noticed this.Each God was accompanied by an animal to show harmony in the universe.Inside the temple,each God was housed in a separate house and the place was lit up by many gorgeous,glittering lamps
Matunga has people from Kerala,Tamil Nadu,Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.Temples from each community exist there along with Jain temples.There is also a Bhajan Samaj where hymns are chanted,people meet and marriages are fixed up.
Sankaramattam I had heard about from my teacher Mrs Rukmini Ramani.Years ago,I had joined a class where we were taught about the Bhagwad Geeta.It had Tamilian,Andhra women and me (half Maharashtrian-half Bengali).When we visited the Shankaramattam at the Matunga walk,we saw Brahmins chanting on the first floor and I was reminded of our classes where we did the same.
We saw old buildings on the way and shops that sold traditional fare..commodities for poojas,books on temple architecture and shops with ingredients from the South.
There were a whole lot of flower stalls with huge garlands for sale.South Indian women wear flowers in their hair and these were in abundance.
Finally we went to the market and saw jackfruit,breadfruit and bananas.These find a place as a vegetable in South Indian cuisine.
There was this stall which sold all parts of the banana tree...the stem,the leaves,the flower and the fruit.
We ended near the station,the very one at which several migrants would have got down to enter the city and start a new life.There were several boarding and lodging places in the vicinity for the same
Nitika told us about the history of Mumbai and Dhiresh of how Matunga was named...legend has it that Raja Bhimdev would ride his elephant cavalry here and Matanga in Sanskrit means elephant.This might be the etymological root of this locality
Wonderful way of getting to know your city and getting your dose of sunshine :)