Mumbai, earlier named as Bombay by the British but renamed in the recent decades, has been popular as the financial capital of India. Every day, one will find people migrating into this city from all over the country with the hope of bettering their lives. There are lots of tourists as well. For many, it is the city of dreams and for all the city that never sleeps. I was born and brought up in the heart of this city, very close to the locality of Dadar and it would definitely be my favourite city in the whole world. It is where the two of the lifelines of Mumbai meet, the western and central railway lines. During the peak hours, the station is bustling with people trying to get by the busy life of Mumbai. Dadar is just about in the border of the city and the suburbs. But since it is located in the city, the rickshaws aren't available. The public transportation to get here would be trains, buses and taxis. I love how this area is old and new at the same time, how there are greenery and high rises at the same time and how there are open spaces in the centre as well as by the sea. This area is flocked with Maharashtrians, the original people of Maharashtra yet people from all walks of life live here. Dadar is rarely visited by tourists but in my opinion, a traveller can really experience the local culture of the city here and it can be best done over a walk.
Just next to the station is the local vegetable market as well as the flower market. Early in the morning, the sellers stock up from the local farmers and the variety is up for sale. It is full of locals carrying shopping bags and filling them up with the freshest of the lot.
Dadar is a perfect place to sample most of the Maharashtrian food.
Prakash Shakahari Upas Kendra
My favourite includes breakfast at Prakash because they have small sized servings and everything is very reasonably priced. I usually order the Kothimbir wadi (Coriander Patty), Sabudana Vada (Sago Patty), Sabudana Khichdi, (Sago stir fried with spices), Piyush (sweet and thick drink), Kharwas (Sweet dish), Poha (Flattened rice flakes) and Thalipeeth (Similar to a pancake). The servers are dressed in local clothing, friendly and accommodative to some customizations. I have brought in a number of couch surfers to this one as the food goes well on the stomach and the food is only slightly spicy.
Another favourite would be Gomantak where they serve single person servings though its best known for seafood in the local style and can definitely be spicy. The bombil (type of fish) fry, Prawns fry and crab curry with Chapati are absolutely delicious which I would recommend. They have thali options as well. Both of these are sit down places and have a table sharing system. They could be one of the best places to interact with locals.
Shivaji Park and Around
The Shivaji Park, about five to ten minutes of walk away is a massive open space with a circumference of about one kilometre where one of India's best cricketers Sachin Tendulkar grew up playing. In the mornings and evenings, its the busiest with people catching up with friends or keeping fit. Though there are people of all ages practising a variety of sports here. I believe visiting here is one of the most local things to do and would definitely be missed by locals who move away. While you stroll around the park, you may find the statue of Shivaji Maharaj, the ruler of Maharashtra whose stories have given me jitters. There is also a small temple which one can visit right next to it.
Apart from all the hawkers selling shaved ice to peanuts and so on, a small street shop that sells Vada Pav (Patty in Bread) and Bhaji pav (Batter fried potato in Bread) just around there is my go-to place for a light local snack. You can munch on it while sitting on the seats around the park.
Museum on Maharashtra
Right opposite is the Sanyukta Maharashtra Smruti Dalan which is the museum on Maharashtra which has free entry. Although most of the text is written in the local language of Marathi, one can definitely have a glimpse of it and head up to the upper floor which exhibits aerial shots of various forts and places in the state. It should take about half an hour to see all of it.
Light and sound show
Next to it is where the light and sound show is held in the evenings during the dry season. It narrates the life of the freedom fighter Mr Veer Sawarkar who also has a road named after him.
At either signal at the end of Shivaji Park, one can get out by the sea and have a look at the Bandra Worli Sea Link which has reduced traffic and travelling time by a commendable amount. On one side you will find a park where local break dancers often practice. On the other side, there are cyclists and skaters trying to practice stunts. The sunset usually looks amazing from both the places. But both areas have youngsters hanging out with friends and others taking a stroll in the fresh air you get.
I hope Dadar stands out in your mind for a typical local experience compared to the other areas of this city and keeps you wanting to come back for more whether it is the food, the people or the culture.
PS: If you are in Mumbai during the monsoons, make sure to carry your rain gear and don't be surprised if trains are delayed, there are slight floods and waves are strong. Just take good care and enjoy the lush green beauty and the little cold along with the wind you can feel on your skin.