Friday, 31 August 2012

Camelot - Colonial Antique Furniture

I am actually loathe to give details of this fabulous retail find....but it would be selfish not to.

I have spent weeks hunting high and low for a teak coffee table. Sick of the black laminate and glass atrocity provided by our landlord, I have looked everywhere. I've been to Oshiwara antiques market in Jogeshwari and I've been to Chor Bazaar in search of a bargain. We have been to Phillips Antiques, The Raj Company, and I have also tried Anemone in Raghuvanshi Mills, Colonial Collections in Fort and The Great Eastern Home (a veritable behemoth of antique furniture).  The latter are all the well known places to find antiques and reproduction colonial furniture in Mumbai but all, in my mind, charge ridiculously high prices.  So alas, we have had no luck finding exactly what we wanted.  Then I thought about doing what most Mumbaikars probably do in this situation - have something made. Carpentry is so cheap and lots of people get bespoke stuff done all the time.  However I was lacking a good recommendation and I knew that trying to communicate exactly what I wanted (and to my exacting standards!) to an Indian tradesman would end up being a farce.  So I gave up on that idea too.

Following a notice in my favourite online magazine Mumbai Boss that "Camelot is hosting a sale with up to 30 per cent off on colonial and Art Deco furniture in teak, rosewood and mahogany", I thought that my shallow life was about to be changed .  I literally started salivating at the mouth. What is this shop Camelot? Would I find that elusive coffee table?  Would it be a bargain? Oh how delighted Mr Jules would be!

Unable to go on the first day of the sale (due to my very important humanitarian work/day job), we popped down the following Saturday morning to the Camelot shop in Kemps Corner.  127 Kemps corner (to be exact) is a colonial house down a longish drive off the heaving main road.  Immediately I was taken - colonial antiques in a colonial setting!  (Amy, I hope you are reading this, you would have been beside yourself!).

The beautiful entrance to Camelot

Getting there a day after the sale had begun was a BIG mistake.  Virtually everything was sold out!  Even my dream coffee table (if there is such a thing as a dream coffee table) had been sold and I was devastated!  Oh well I thought to myself.... it just meant that I would have to look around and pick something else out to 'tide me over'.

Perhaps not to your taste, but this was the coffee table I coveted

The Camelot showroom consists of two large rooms and a terrace area displaying conservatory furniture.  There is a good range of high quality art-deco and colonial chair sets, campaign chests, dining sets, sofas, side tables, wardrobes, chests, desks, mirrors and art.  And much more.  It all looks hand-picked - I couldn't see anything poor quality and I don't think much was reproduction (which is the problem when you go antiques hunting in Chor Bazaar or Oshiwara).  Even better, the owners do not seek to rip you off like most other antique places.  The prices were very reasonable and even more reasonable during the sale. 

Indo-Portuguese rosewood dining set.  I would have bought this had it not been 'sold'

I told the lady that I was very upset that the coffee table had been sold but she told me not to worry as she would let me know as soon as a similar one came in.  Watch this space!!

In the meantime, and because I can't resist a sale, Mr Jules bought a teak art deco side table to go next to the sofa and for himself, a lovely teak medicine chest.  Well he thinks it's for him, but it so happens that it perfectly houses my lovely new collection of Chimanlal stationery....

UPDATE 15.03.13
Please see my latest blog on Moorthy's - a paradise for colonial antique furniture.  Find the blog here.

New teak medicine chest on top of new art deco side table.  The teak chest was 3,000 rupees in the sale (£35/$52)

Perfect for my new collection of beautiful Chimanlals stationery!

Side table.  Lamp from Pure Living, Phoenix Market City (Bandra Kurla).
"Bombay Art Deco" book by Navin Ramani from Crossword, Kemps Corner
More images of Camelot (with thanks to the Manager):

Art deco rocking chairs, chests and side tables in a terrace setting

The obligatory Ganesh

Colonial sofa set on the balcony

A good selection of affordable, art deco colonial furniture.  Stuff I love!

Colonial & Antique Furniture
127 Kemps Corner
Next to Om Chambers
Tel: 91 (22) 2364 4594

(Beautiful hand crafted stationery)
Wallace Street,
Fort, Mumbai 400 001.
Close to New Excelsior Cinema

Update 31/03/13 - Please read my (almost) complete guide to buying colonial antique furniture in Mumbai here: 

Update 05/04/2014 - Please read my post about returning to Camelot for its April 2014 sale.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Chai - The Art of Indian Tea

Being British, tea is something that is very close to my heart.   The day kicks off with a nice brew brought to me in bed by Mr Jules, my very own Chai Wallah. (Indian readers will NOT understand this - for tea-making first thing in the morning is a woman's duty!).  I will probably have at least another three cups of Yorkshire Tea or PG tips during the course of the day (gosh I usually have to make this myself). And the day always ends with a delicate mug of de-caff Early Grey - thanks again to my personal Chai Wallah.

When we first got to India, making a really nice cup of British tea proved very difficult due to the non-availability of pasteurised milk.  We were using the UHT stuff out of cartons that tastes a bit funny.  But thankfully we have recently found 'Govinda' brand of pasteurised milk that you can get in Nature's Basket and this has changed our tea drinking life. (Although I believe that Amul pasteurised milk is actually readily available in a lot of places.  We just never found it).

So what about Indian Chai?  I stupidly thought that 'chai' was just a term used for 'tea' in India.  I had seen Chai on the supermarket shelves in the UK and assumed it was a fancy middle class name for tea leaf combinations. And I also saw that you could buy 'Chai Lattes' in Starbucks.  How pretentious I thought (especially for those who have it with half fat soya milk..what's the point?).

Well Chai proper is completely different to and far better than any of those things.  It is an Indian artform in itself. And now I drink it as much as possible when I am in the office.  'Chai' is basically black tea brewed with selected spices, milk and sweetener. Sometimes no spice is used.  Each ingredient adds subtle flavour changes and brewing methods vary widely.  That is why a cup (or actually normally a glass) of chai can vary in flavour from place to place.  One thing is for certain though, Chai is always milky, sweet and delicious!


You see Chai stands everywhere on the street, usually surrounded by groups of people.  Everyone has a favourite Chai brewer.  At the office, no one uses a kettle to make tea - they call the Chai Wallah or the Chai Wallah comes around to take an order.  Everyone in my office loves Chai and always stick their hands up to the cry of "who wants Chai??!!".  Then the Chai Wallah returns within two minutes holding a tray of the piping hot drink for everyone (remember the protagonist in 'Slumdog'?).  The Chai Wallah is always fastidious about putting down a place-mat on the table before giving you your Chai. Then fifteen minutes later, he will be back to collect his glass and payment of 10 rupees.  Usually if you are working in an office there is a special 'Chai Ledger' where the number of Chais will be totted up during the course of the day for employees and then the company will pay the total weekly.  I am sure that most big offices will have their very own Chai Wallah on the staff.

Proper Chai, always served in a glass and always put on a place-mat

The only problem with Chai is that's it's over in three sips!

Here is a recipe for simple Indian Chai (with no spices) if you want to give it a go at home.  Enjoy!

For EACH person you will serve chai to, do the following:
  1. Place 1 teacup of water into a saucepan.
  2. Add 1 heaped teaspoon of loose black tea leaves into the cold water. (Some Indians like to mix Lipton Red Label tea and Lipton Green Label tea. The mixture does provide a nice blend of flavour.)
  3. Bring the water to a boil, and add in 1 teaspoon of sugar, and boil for 1 minute.
  4. Add in one teacup of milk, and heat until boiling. Continue to boil for another 30 seconds, stirring so it doesn't boil over.
  5. Strain and serve.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Interviewing you ...interviewing me

Mr Jules and I were recently interviewed by Swaraj Dhanjal, writer of the informative blog Discovering Mumbai . Having studied his blog in detail, I had then seen that Swaraj was interested in getting an Expat's view of Mumbai. So I contacted him through a Bombay Expat site on Facebook with a link to my blog. He immediately came back to me - seemingly we fitted the bill for his purpose. 

The 'Discovering Mumbai' Blog by Swaraj Dhanjal
I was impressed by Swaraj's patience when he interviewed us.  We met at Suzette in Bandra and chatted over a couple of cappuccinos for two whole hours!  I was convinced that he could barely hear us over the noise as we droned on and on about ourselves.  Anyway, I was proven wrong, as you will see from the piece that the write up is quite extensive. Read the interview here.

Since becoming a blogger myself, I have come to realise that the 'interweb' is awash with bloggy trash.  So many blogs are just so self indulgent - people writing about their feelings and filling space with crappy poetry and amateur photography (hmmm no comment about BombayJules please!). None of it is of use to anyone. But what I love about Swaraj's blog, is that it actually tells you some very interesting information about people, sites and businesses in Mumbai that you may not otherwise get to hear about.  He goes out of his way to find a slant on things and writes about 'out of the ordinary' subjects (not that we are either interesting or extraordinary but I was flattered to be asked for an interview anyway!)

Swaraj is a highly intelligent young chap who is actually in the IT business during the day but from what I can tell, spends a lot of his spare time, searching out new subject matter, interviewing them in depth and then taking time out to write up a decent bit of prose. A serious journalist in the making if ever I saw one.

Expats and Bombay residents/visitors, please visit his site, you will find it very interesting. Plus if you are a Mumbaikar with a story to tell or an interesting business or pastime, you should get in contact with him.  Thank you Swaraj for writing about stop Bollywood!!!

Swaraj Dhanjal.  Lovely Fella.


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Crocs : A Mumbaikar's Worst Best Friend

This post is dedicated to my old school friend Susie.  Susie, I know you're watching.

Susie and her beloved Crocs up a rocky crag in Greece

I have been experiencing - in my line of work - many problems keeping my feet clean and my shoes intact. Anybody who knows me well, knows that I am really funny about my feet (or feet in general). And really paranoid about getting about 'ick' on my feet.  So, what I really needed was a pair of plastic shoes that you can throw around, walk through mud (aka shit), wade through monsoon rainwater and not have to worry about whether you will catch hepatitis via blisters on your toes.

This problem has only one, dreadfully inexcusable and unfashionable solution: CROCS.  For years I have criticised Crocs and the wearer of Crocs - I have always declared "call the Fashion Police!!" when I have seen them being worn.  To me the biggest fashion crime are those Crocs which are bejewelled by their owners with diamante studs and cartoon characters.  Why would you treat your shoes like a Barbie Doll?  Perhaps because Crocs are OK for children but NOT for adults? Oh and don't even get me on to the fact that Crocs are an Australian invention...think Kylie Minogue in the 80s and the fact that Australian fashion sense has not  progressed since then and you will know what I mean. (Apologies dear Oz readers).  Oh yeah, and I won't mention Uggs either (dreadful). (Post Script: I stand corrected, Crocs are in fact a North American invention.  This kinds of makes me even more disappointed!!...and I still hate Uggs by the way)

Classic Crocs (left to centre)...Good for children, NOT good for adults!
I was trying to ignore the fact that many of my colleagues wear them, and even sometimes boast about their Crocs.  It's like they become a pet kitten to their owner - something to be adored and cooed at.  I was also trying to ignore Susie's taunts of "Buy Crocs, Buy Crocs, You Know You Want To!" every time I remarked in my blog about getting crap on my feet.

Anyway, after totally ruining my beloved leather silver ballet pumps last week in a slum situation (purchased at ballet pump heaven -  Blue Velvet on the Kings Road, London), I decided the time had come.  I told Mr Jules "it" had to be done.  We would have to face up to the fact that I would be visiting the Crocs store in Phoenix Mills and that I would no longer be a style princess.  Mr Jules remarked that divorce may be on the cards.

Inside the Crocs store, Phoenix Mills

So...I've been and done it. But ONLY, can I add, because they do non-Croc shaped crocs now. I just can't stand those clog shaped objects that only belong on the feet of social sector workers (oops that's me) and Guardian readers. Crocs have really branched out - they do ones shaped like my princess-ly ballet pumps and ones that look like deck shoes and a whole array of other designs. No excuse you say?  Am I now even trying to promote Crocs or something..have I totally lost my mind?

Crocs "walk in comfort, wear in style"...errr the first part of that statement may be true but I am not sure about the second!

Please be assured that "my name is Jules and I am a Crocoholic" is never something that will be uttered within these four walls, but, I have to say that I am secretly impressed by my new Crocs.  They are extremely comfortable (as Susie promised they would be) and they don't look so bad on. They even have bouncy soles so you feel like you are walking on air, even on the razor edges of Mumbai pavements.  Unfortunately the only design I really liked, was only available in white in my size...not a great colour for hiding brown water... but they do go nicely with my white Anya Hindmarch handbag.  So all is not lost.

Perhaps I should say, "Thanks Susie, you were right???".  Hmmmmm I will let Mr Jules answer that one!

Crocs Flip Flops....The Dreaded Toe Post on the Dreaded Croc. What a combination!

Crocs available (if you're desperate enough) at:
Skyzone part of High Street Phoenix
462, Senapati Bapat Marg,
Lower Parel (West),
Mumbai - 400 013

Mumbai by Night

Last Thursday night,  we went on a tour of the city by night.  We did this with the marvellous Reality Tours & Travel, a charitable organisation that reinvests 80% of its post-tax profits back into marginalised communities. (Read my post about visiting Dharavi, also with Reality Tours here).

New York may be the city that never sleeps but Mumbai is the definitely the city that never stops. It really comes alive after dark.  As night falls, families come out to take in the milder evening air, dogs roam the streets and huge fruit bats start to fill the sky.  The dark veil hides the hideous aspects of the city and as the lights begin to glow, prayers are said and the smells of street food fills the air.

We visited six landmarks on the tour plus a Jain temple: Chowpatty Beach, Banganga Tank, Kamala Nehru Park (the hanging gardens of Malabar Hill) and Victoria Terminus Station. We also visited Kamathipura, the red light district where photos were not allowed. Kamathipura is in fact the largest red light district in the world with 8,000 sex workers - at one time this figure was 60,000!  For me, to see the sad, red-lipsticked and drugged up faces of the women lining the street was incredibly sad. We drove from one end of the street to other without stopping, it is a very dangerous area, especially for men and so you should not go there unless you are with a someone who knows what they are doing.

Here are a selection of pictures of the other places on the tour (I had a malfunction with the night time settings on my camera so apologies for the quality!)

Chowpatty Beach - one of the many hawkers selling useless items

Couples canoodle, families play, and singed corn-on-the-cob is sold

What I was trying to capture here, but not very well is the absolute filth coming up the beach. This made us want to cry - it could be such a beautiful place to come if only they would clear up the mess! Look closely to the left hand side of the photo, where the water comes in. And there are people standing in this. You are advised NOT to go in the water due to the raw sewage being pumped from the city. Gross.

Is it a Las Vegas hotel or casino?  No it's a muslim hospital!  This is a view of Saifee hospital off Marine Drive from Chowpatty Beach, built by/for Muslim citizens.

A busy junction.

These are the ducks that come out to line Banganga Tank at night.  The water from this famous tank, originally built in 1127 and surrounded by Hindu temples, is believed to have special healing powers. Although you won't catch me putting my foot in there, as I am sure it has better 'infecting' powers these days!  I need to come back and visit this place during the day. 

A group of Hindus praying and singing by the side of the tank (in the centre of the picture)

I thought this script would be translated into something deep and meaningful but all it says is "DO NOT SWIM IN THE WATER".  Apparently a child recently tragically drowned in the tank.

I have noticed this is a common evening past-time - having a haircut and shave

A view of Marine Drive (otherwise known as the "Queen's Necklace" - you can see why) and the Arabian Sea from Kamala Nehru Park.  See how Saifee Hospital stands out above all.

Our trusty, knowledgeable and sometimes cheeky guides.

Victoria Terminus, a World Heritage Site - now known as Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus - is Bombay's great railway station (a stunning building that is British designed and built of course!).  Photo credit to Coceng as I forgot to take a picture of the outside of the station - I was actually busy trying to avoid a homeless woman who decided to pee in my vicinity.
The station was one of the sites of the November 2008 terrorist attacks where 60 people were killed.  I wasn't really supposed to take photos as apparently the terrorist who scoped the station, took photos posing as a tourist.

Inside the station - its 9.20pm and thousands of people are still leaving work to get home - some of them may still have upwards of 2.5 hr journeys ahead of them.

These platforms are where the closing scenes of Slumdog Millionaire were filmed - at 3am in the morning when the station is finally devoid of people.

Find details of Reality Tours and Travel and their tour options here:

The tour cost a very reasonable 850 rupees/£10/$15 each (including a soft drink) and lasted from 7pm to 9.30pm.  The three of us on the tour were transported from site to site by car/people carrier and separate driver.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Another day in the life of a volunteer

Today was an exciting day for the Foundation as we opened another site from which to do more great work. (New readers: I volunteer for a charity that will remain nameless for now but educates and treats women and children suffering from malnutrition, read more here... This new 'clinic' is close to the two existing clinics, in the drying area ("Sukhawni") of Dhobi Ghat - the largest outdoor laundry in the world.

Dhobi Ghat drying area - "Sukhawni"

So this morning, I traipsed with my colleagues through muddy groundwater and down a few alleyways to get where we were going (note to self, buy some plastic shoes, do not wear your shiny silver ballet pumps when you visit sites).  When we got there, there were already loads of staff, volunteers, friends and members of the community awaiting the grand opening.  Everybody was cramped into a small area with local people trying to go about their daily business, squeezing past us the whole time with bundles of laundry.  I am sure most of those around us must have wondered what on earth was going on, especially as half the crew had 'white' faces and were carrying huge cameras.

Some of us may have had designer handbags, but someone living here has a designer dog!

The new "site" - where people from the community will be able to visit the Foundation's doctors, nurses, nutritionists and social workers - is actually just one room that is about 12 square feet.  So therefore probably about a third of the size of your sitting room (for most of you back home reading this).  In fact they were lucky to get this room at all - in a city where space is at a premium and people are living on the pavements with no cover over their heads, this 12 ft square box could be a home for a family of eight.  But instead the community has turned it over to the Foundation (for a small rent) because they have heard of the work it does in improving the lives of so many and helping children to reach their full potential.  Seriously...lives will be vastly improved, if not saved, from this box. 

After managing to cram the whole crew into the alleyway, the ribbon across the door was snipped, the coconut was smashed and everybody attempted to get into the tiny room, leaving their shoes at the doorway (20 Indians, 2 Brits, 1 Canadian and 2 Americans). Mithai (sweets) were handed around and there was a lot of a laughter. (There always is in India, no matter what).  A great day for the Foundation.

I ended up taking so many photos of the amazing kids that came to see what was going on, so there are loads of pictures here.  Thanks for looking.

Waiting for the main event - this little girl has got her Sunday best on

I just thought this girl was so beautiful!  probably 14 or 15, sitting on the floor sorting out laundry

Everything has a use - this old rice sack used as a roof covering

The scissors that would be later used for cutting the ribbon for the opening ceremony.  Beautiful "Mehendi" hands

There's that beautiful girl again.  So photogenic...

A very grumpy looking community activist.  She's the one responsible for helping to get the third site open.

The cocunut that would later be smashed at the opening ceremony

Two proud schoolgirls enlisted to hold the ribbon for the opening ceremony

Love this cheeky looking fella!

The crowd trying to squeeze into the alley outside the new site just before the cutting of the ribbon

The ribbon cut! (didn't manage to get a good photo of that).  Everyone is smiling.

So funny - this little girl wearing shades - she looks like a Bollywood star being papped!

Everyone inside, everyone's shoes outside

How many people can you squeeze into a 12 sq ft room?  Oh, about 25!

One smashed coconut

Handing out of mithai (sweets) to celebrate (where's the champagne darling?)

These are the people living above the room.

A view of the street on the walk back - see all the ladders leading to the homes above homes (also note the satellite dishes!)

They wanted me to take their photo...little rascals!