NYC’s Lower East Side … in India?

Street Art along Chapel Road, Bandra, Mumbai.

Source Wong Chee Huey/Flickr CC

Why you should care

India is in flux. And Bandra is a hub of international creativity.

India is changing. Its creative heart is beating fast. And one small, cosmopolitan neighborhood perfectly captures this transformation: Bandra West, a suburb of Mumbai, India’s most populous city. Sitting on the edge of the Arabian Sea, with outdoor cafes and restaurants dotting its narrow roads, Bandra West is home to residents who hail from all over India and the world. It’s a place where musicians, dancers, actors, artists and writers are carving out space for themselves.

“You get a sense of community here that is lacking in other places,” says restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani, who owns 42 restaurants in India, including the popular Salt Water Café in Bandra, and lives in the neighborhood with his family. A community where Range Rovers and rickshaws jostle for space, and the local vegetable seller stocks kale and arugula, alongside eggplant and okra. You can eat a butter chicken roll for lunch one day and have cold-pressed juices delivered to your door to detox the next. But you can still find bungalows with flowers spilling out of the balconies onto quiet, sleepy lanes.

Bandra, like [NYC’s] Lower East Side, is laid-back.

Jas Charanjiva, Indian-American street artist 

 

It is that same sense of community that drew Indian-American street artist Jas Charanjiva from New York City. She runs a store called Kulture Shop across the street from Mehboob Studios, famous Bollywood studios now used for art exhibitions, literary festivals and film shoots. Up a dark staircase, the shop’s bright space bustles with energy and showcases work from global artists as well as Charanjiva’s own artwork, including a “Don’t Mess With Me” T-shirt ($22) featuring a traditional Indian woman with her head covered, wearing a knuckle-duster with “BOOM” on it. Charanjiva talks animatedly about those who find their way to her studio, including a model/painter from South Africa and a writer from New York working on a biography of Freddie Mercury. How does this neighborhood compare to New York City? “Bandra, like the Lower East Side, is laid-back,” she says.

Bandra

Bandra is a thriving neighborhood.

Source Eric Pesik/CC

But, as often happens in such neighborhoods, artists are starting to get priced out. “The bohemians and creative artist types move here because it is affordable and then come the bankers,” Amlani explains. And when the bankers come, the rent goes up. For example, a one-bedroom in Bandra West costs about $720 a month, very high compared with the rest of India. Many original residents are selling their beautiful bungalows to builders to transform into high-rises, and the skyline is changing rapidly.

Not everyone is happy with this changing neighborhood, this India in flux. While I was taking photographs, an old woman from across the street yelled at me to stop, saying, “You people can’t keep taking pictures in Bandra without permission.” She means people like me who are not originally from Bandra but are drawn to Bandra. And it isn’t just the old auntie who’s upset. The people who moved here 20 years ago are annoyed by the people who moved here 10 years ago who in turn are annoyed by the people who moved here two years ago. You can’t blame them — Bandra is so lovely that nobody wants to share.

 
Comment

OZYGood Sh*t

If you’d want to drink it, eat it, wear it, ride it, drive it; if it’d be cool to see, listen to or do, we’re writing about it.

  • 12 Books You Need To Read
    12 Books You Need To Read
    Good Sh*t

    12 Books You Need To Read

    Summer is coming to a close in the Northern Hemisphere. But as the evenings draw in and temperatures fall, there’s never been a better time to curl up with a book and enter a world not of your own making. The international literary world has never been as diverse — or downright interesting — as it is today. That’s why we’ve collated for you, dearest OZY reader, some of the best new reads from Argentina to Zimbabwe and many fascinating places in between. Read on because we guarantee you this: There’s no list as interesting as ours.

  • The Hidden Wonders of Latin America
    The Hidden Wonders of Latin America
    Good Sh*t

    The Hidden Wonders of Latin America

    When it comes to popular depictions of Latin America and its culture, shallow stereotypes of what is a profoundly diverse region abound. Which is why, to truly get Latino culture, you need to tune out of popular — and often sadly inaccurate — tropes and tune in to today’s Daily Dose.  Indigenous rappers, quinoa sushi and cannabis-infused teas are transforming Latin America’s cultural and gastronomic landscape even as brave activists work to preserve the region’s astonishing natural beauty. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by diving deeper than just salsa rhythms, Caribbean beaches and pisco sours for a sensory journey to a stunning part of the world that’s in flux. I should know: I’m from Argentina.

  • Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?
    Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?
    Good Sh*t

    Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?

    From soft sand and wild rivers to long trekking trails, Tarkine in Tasmania has you covered.

  • If We Ever Go On Vacations Again
    If We Ever Go On Vacations Again
    Good Sh*t

    If We Ever Go On Vacations Again

    If this COVID crap ever ends, you'll want to get away. We mean REALLY get away. From Wi-Fi and all that entails.

  • Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You
    Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You
    Good Sh*t

    Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You

    This week on Wherever You Get Your Podcasts, we showcase some of the best scripted fiction podcasts, many of which are heading to the small screen.