My exposure to Bandra began in the early 70’s when I registered at National College which was half full of Bandra Buggers. After that most of my waking and drinking hours were spent in Bandra, and then in the early 90’s I physically moved to Bandra – body, soul and spirit.
The Bandra I knew earlier, had some famous landmarks and haunts, like New Talkies where Mark & Spencers now stands. Opposite it was Casbah, our hangout and beer bar, where we watched the gals go by, shopping on Hill Road. What is today KFC, once stood an old Irani restaurant, beer was served after you climbed up a rickety staircase. Getting back down, also lowered your “nasha”. How can I forget the popular SeaRock Hotel, and the Bandra Fort, where lovers entwined? Somewhere between “Golden Door”and “Casbah” was “Navrang”, a south Indian restaurant serving crisp masala dosas at Re.1 or so.
If Hill Road is narrow today, it was much narrower earlier, but good enough for the motorcyclist and cyclist, providing plenty of space to leisurely stroll on the road. The signal opposite St.Peter’s church has replaced an old structure that jutted onto the road, housing “Gloria Optician”. Bandra was known for its quaint cottages, with huge walls encompassing the compounds. The principal of St.Xavier’s Technical Institute gave the Bandra guys desperately seeking admission to the much valued Radio Officers Course, a tough time, for sitting on the compound walls, strumming their guitars, instead of applying themselves to academics.
The typical Bandraite, was a jovial happy person, always looking for fun and parties, easy-going and happy-go-lucky! Not yearning for recognition nor rewards, as life passed by. Today, Bandra has become glamorous with a social status attached to the address. The peace and charm are missing. Patrons at pubs and drinking bars, have little respect for the local residents. Outsiders clamoring for “the address,” often don’t match the prevailing culture. The local politicians, whilst rendering some service at times, are more focused at self promotions. On a positive note, we had and have, people like Sir Oliver Andrade and Shabana Azmi who have contributed to Jogger’s Park and Bandra Bandstand promenade. The flourishing food outlets are hard to match anywhere else in Mumbai. But getting a cuppa chai or cutting chai is hard to come by. The drainage system is creaking with the overload. Newer structures can install solar panels, housing societies can resort to water harvesting. There is a lot that can be done to save the environment.
But the charm of the “Queen of the Suburbs” cannot be replicated. To twist a slogan created for Goa by my advertising friend, – “Bandra has no branches”