Overheard: Mommy # 1asking Mommy #2.
“So where do you take your child? There’s nothing to do in Bombay with kids!”
Mommy #2 (very proudly): “Oh, there are so many malls near our place, so we just go and hang out.”
Mommy # 1: “Lucky you!”
Note: I hate malls. I am a corner-shop girl and I find malls sterile, synthetic and totally unnecessary. Plus they do not evoke my tactile senses. I don’t find them overwhelming, and they can’t seduce me into buying things I don’t need and I don’t go to one unless I have to. Like say going to a bookstore (sadly, there are not many stand-alone shops left) or a movie, or meeting the OPU for a quick date and drink at TGIF. Besides, I am not a big fan of air-conditioning. Thankfully, Re has taken after me, because even on our accidental cruises to malls, he has never been the kind of child who points to things and says, “I want!”
I am about to give the two mommies a lecture (as if I don’t have enough enemies already), but then my innate goodness takes over. I decide to make a list of things to do in the city with your child and post it on this blog.
Time passes. I forget. Then one day, I chance upon a post on things to do with kids in Delhi.
I am inspired all over again. And so I sit down. And write. I call a friend, Abodh Aras who I think knows the city well, and was a contributor to a few ideas. I call two others, but they are busy, so I get on with my list. All of them will involve some work. Some of them will involve more commute than the others. But most of them will put a smile on your child’s face.
I am sure I have missed out something. Many things. Feel free to add them in the comments section. If they are really nice, we can do a play-date someday.
So here goes, in no particular order of importance:
1. Take a nature walk in the Sanjay Gandhi National park. Sanctuary Asia organises regular tours which include bees, birds , animals, insects, trees, and plant-spotting and ends with a picnic by the Tulsi river. You carry your own hamper though.
2. Explore the Mahim Nature Park. Yes, tucked away behind Mumbai’s largest slum is also one of the city’s greenest lungs. Walk about, hug the trees, watch the Mithi river ( that notorious one you only read about during the 26th July flood in 2005) flow by, compare and contrast the serenity with the world outside, read a book, play hide-and seek with your kids.
3. Visit the Dolphin Irla aquarium There is a boating pond, a toy train and an aquarium in the middle of the pond. Also, a few ducks, rabbits, squirrels, parrots to complete the spectacle.
4. Ride a double-decker bus. There are still a few left in the city. Find out if your nearest bus depot has any, jump onto it in the off peak hours (afternoons or early mornings) with your tot, make your way upstairs and grab the seats right in front and experience the wind kissing your face. It’s a thriller of a ride, trust me.
5. Go to Dhobhighat. Yes, it is clichéd, but it’s an adrenaline rush. Watch your child’s eyes get rounder and rounder as acres and acres of fabric get pummelled, rinsed, shaken and dried in this open-air laundry in Mahalaxmi.
6. Take one of MTDC’s organised open-air bus tours. A friend of mine actually booked the entire bus for her son’s birthday and had a mobile birthday party. I would have done it too, except they are closed in the monsoons (June-September)
7. Convince your nearest bakery to allow you a peek into their kitchen and watch loaves of fresh bread , buns and biscuits pop out of their Amazonian ovens and carried out, laden in trays. I once did it at Crown Bakery in Mahim where the kitchen is pretty much visible to all. Re and I bought some fresh pav and poked into it, the steam still oozing out. The visual of trays and trays of nankhatais is still embedded in our collective minds and Re got some freebies too!
8. Hire a hand-cart (yes, you can) and if you are spirited enough, take your child for a merry ride on it in your neighbourhood, stopping by at your regular spots. If you can, throw in some of his friends too. Remember, you have to push the cart, so do a weight check.
9. Hit the beach. It is the one thing Bombay has few other Indian cities have, so make the most of it. Depending on where you stay, you can do Chowpatty, Shivaji Park, Juhu, Versova, Aksa, Madh, Marve, Uttan, Gorai, and many more. And don’t tell me the beaches are dirty. They could be better, but what better way to teach your child how not to litter? While you are there, do get your hands dirty (you can always sanitise them later), drink nariyal pani (may be from the same coconut) or have a kulfi (come on, do it). You can also summon a chana-jor garam wala and get the child to watch how he makes his little paper cones, and maybe get him to fill one up too.
10. Parks. Bombay has some great ones too. There’s BPT, Colaba Woods and Horniman Circle gardens in South Bombay, Diamond Gardens in Chembur, Johnson and Johnson gardens and Kalidas Park in Mulund, Airport Garden in Santacruz (which has some cute model planes), Kaifi Azmi Park in Juhu (where all the trees and plants have a little placard in front of them which has their botanical name, a little bit of history and info. Cute. Then there’s Rajesh Khanna garden (yes!) in Santacruz that has a toy train. Patwardhan Park in Bandra (which has a musical fountain) and the more fancy Carter Road promenade (where, sometimes, you can catch a performance) or the Jogger’s Park (which incidentally also has a Juhu variant), and of course the Sanjay Gandhi National park in Borivli which also has boating and a toy train that works once a year.
11. View from the top: Get your child to see Bombay from a different perspective. The view from Malabar Hill. Or the St Baptista garden-on-a-hill in Mazgaon. Or the Sion fort hill. May be even Gilbert Hill in Andheri (incidentally the only monolithic rock in Bombay). None of them is Mt Everest, and can be easily navigated with steps. You can even sum it up, five-star style by taking the elevator all the way up to Aer (the rooftop at Four Seasons in Worli) and watch the city from the 35th floor (I am guessing it is as high as it gets so far.
12. It’s Ganesh Chaturthi time. Find a Ganesh idol making workshop near your house and go there with your child.
13. Take a bus or auto through Aarey Milk colony. It is where we used to go for picnics as children, remember? Mini-Kashmir still exists, and yes, you can still take a boat ride. Post that, you could wander into the Aarey Garden restaurant, nestled in the wilderness. The service is not great, but you can hear birdsong. What else is there?
14. I know this is clichéd, but the Nehru Planetarium is still a must do for those fascinated by galaxies and things that glow in the dark. And children usually are. Why, even I am.
15. Take a ferry. Okay wait till the monsoon is over, but do take a ferry from Versova to Madh Island or Ferry Wharf to Uran or Gateway to Mandwa or Elephanta. Remember to stop and smell the roses. Okay, fish.
16. Watch a kids play at Prithvi theatre. There are regular plays for children over three years and yes, they do enjoy the whole experience, the real-life performers, the costumes, the sets, the lights, the concept of the stage. Check the schedule on and plan your play date soon. Re and I watched Once Upon a Tiger (though he was technically under-age) and he actually touched a tiger who was lurking up on stage and was thrilled to find it had a human voice.
17. Visit the monetary museum at Ballard Estate. There is something about money and coins and stuff that is riveting to children.
18. Watch a cricket match in Azad Maidan or Oval Maidan or Shivaji Park. I am not big on cricket, but watching a real match can be fun. Most of the time, your child’s eyes will be busy tracing the ball though.
19. Visit the Natural History section in the Prince of Wales Museum (the rest of the museum can be overwhelming). The animals are not real, but there are more of them here than in the zoo.
20. Check out the sea-link from Worli sea-face. Or the Bandra fort on the other side. It’s a fabulous view, and yes, the fort also has an amphitheatre which plays hosts to concerts and plays. I took Re to a Raghu Dixit concert there when he was five months old, and he rocked it.
21. Walk from the southernmost tip of Marine Drive till Chowpatty. Or as far as you can make it. Stop to have bhutta, nariyal pani, sit on the wall and watch the waves lash against the windbreakers. It’s breathtaking in the monsoon. If you make it all the way, celebrate with strawberries and cream or mangoes and cream at Bachelors opposite Chowpatty beach.
22. Spend an afternoon at the Welfare of Stray Dogs kennel in Mahalaxmi and you can walk or pet a dog. They are all loving and need to be loved and will lap you up.
23. Do your bit towards recycling. Attend a garage sale /flea market. The Welfare of Stray Dogs has one every few months and you can take your child around and buy books for him/her. And the proceeds go towards first-aid and medical help for strays in Bombay. There are other flea markets too, at Olive and Zenzi, quite regularly. Re went to one and loved it. Why, he even improved sales by browsing around in the book section, almost masquerading as a stall-keeper.
24. Treat your child to a flower or vegetable market. A real big one. Like the Dadar flower market. Crawford fruit market. Or the Bhaji Galli in Nana Chowk. Let your child feel the textures, the shapes, the sizes. You can even do a trip to your local vegetable/fruit/fish market with the child in tow. Give him a basket to fill up his own vegetables. It’s a trip.
25. Walk around Kala Ghoda. Stop by and get a student/artist to make you a portrait of you and your child. Check out the art on the pavement. Re was fixated when I took him last year. During the Kala Ghoda festival in February every year, they have a designated children’s area and lots of art and craft activity, clay-modelling, story time, dancing, walks and other fun things.
26. Go to the David Sassoon library garden. It is members only, but the watchman is nice to children and will not stop you. Unless you open a packet of chips and start chomping. Plus there are some great trees and some adorable cats to hug.
27. The BNHS does some interesting tree walks round the year. Go for one with your child, hug a tree, sit in its shade, tell them stories around trees. It’s a great experience.
28. Of course you will want to visit the flamingoes in the Sewri mud flats during November to March. How about a view from theSewri fort of the flamingoes?
29. I am not religious, neither am I an atheist. But there is something about visiting a temple, a dargah, a church. My picks would be the St Thomas Cathedral or Afghan church in South Bombay, the Babulnath temple in Malabar Hill, the Haji Ali Dargah, the Iskon temple in Juhu (the children love the dancing and the eats after). If you have a Gurudwara close by, do go for a langar. It’s a must do.
30. Sit on the Asiatic library steps and watch the world go by.
31. Sit on a bench in a relatively chilled-out railway platform, like Matunga Road or Khar station and watch the trains go by.
32. Take a train ride. It’s not so bad if you choose the right time. There will also be a whole market in the train, with people selling accessories, clothes, stationery, bindis, earrings, books, magazines, and various colourful household odds and ends. It’s a visual buffet. There will also be some singing and chanting, but it’s all part of the ride.
33. Go to a railway terminus, like Churchgate or VT, catch a seat on a bench and watch the hustle and bustle of the dabbawalas, office crowd, teeny boppers, stock brokers, shoe-shine boys, tea vendors, newspaper boys, vadapav and samosa boys, the world and its mother.
34. Visit the nearest post office. Yes, I know our children may not write letters, but there is something about the smells and noises, the thump thump thump of the postmaster stamping envelopes, parcels, the people queuing for gum, the big red letter boxes, the things of you childhood that are great fun to share with your child.
35. Go to the Mahalaxmi race course during the racing season (November to March). You can request a member to take you around to the stables, where the horses lounge around. You can feed them apples, and pet their shining bodies. You could even see the horses practise.
36. The Byculla zoo isn’t as bad as they make it out to be. Plan a picnic in the zoo, (they let you take your own hampers), spread a blanket and eat on the grass. It’s fun and quiet.
37. Visit a plant nursery close by. Show your child a variety of plants, talk to them, touch them. In fact, let him choose a potted plant. Take it home, help him look after it, and watch it grow. It’s a great feeling.
38. Go carol-singing to the nearest church during Christmas. You don’t have to know the carols, they give you a printout of the words anyway, and you can fake it. Or perhaps not. I tried and Re told me to stop.
39. Find a friend with a sea-facing terrace on a high-rise during Ganpati and watch the immersions with your child. It’s a bit loud, but the energy is great. Also, since Gokulashtami is close by, you can find a friend facing a quadrangle and watch the dahi-handi human pyramids take shape. And collapse. Take shape again. And collapse. Play cheerleader with your child. It’s fun.
40. Just prior to Makar Sankranti, find a kite-making workshop close to your house and show your child how those things that bob in the sky are actually made. I wouldn’t advise you to step out on the actual day, because the twine is really sharp and dangerous, and besides, it’s sad to watch so many birds get entangled in them ad drop dead.
41. Some of the National Expos and exhibitions like Dastkar have live demos of weaving, pottery, bangle-making, basket-making, beaded-jewellery-making. Spend an afternoon in one during the season. You can even try out various mukhwas, pickles, dried fruit, squashes, jams,and other goodies.
Phew! That was long. But I love my city and I can’t stand it when someone says there’s nothing to do. So, forget the mall. Celebrate your city with your children.