I had written a piece on Mohammad Ali Road – that appeared in this edition of Taste & Travel magazine along with another article on Shekhawati. Here is the iftaar piece…
Don’t worry, you will smell it much before you see it, said my cabbie when I asked him to drop me close to the Minara Masjid at Mohammad Ali Road. It was the night before Eid and we were headed to where much of Mumbai heads during the month of Ramzan. For when the sun has set for the day and the muezzin’s call for the evening prayer has been answered and it is officially time to break the fast, the feast begins at Mohammad Ali Road.
At Mohammad Ali Road, the colors of the food and the clothes worn by the women clash with the dazzle of the spotless white kurtas worn by most of the men. The fragrance of ittar on a few thousand wrists competes with the smell of the meat roasting and all the sugar and malai floating around. The noise is overwhelming, but just in front of the Minara Masjid, under its twinkling green lights, where the old men sporting white beards and solemn looks sit on benches collecting money from the devout, it is strangely quiet. Even peaceful.
There are make-shift shops selling prayer caps with intricate embroidery from Maharashtra, chikan-work kurtas from Lucknow, perfumes and ittar from Hyderabad. If the men are there to socialize and eat, the women are there for the shopping – the heena, the glass bangles, even sewaiyan for the kheer and dates for the prayers – all the way from Saudi Arabia. Traders from all over India set up shop here for the month, vanishing with the last rays of the sun on Eid.
But during Ramzan, Mohammad Ali Road is primarily about food. It is possible for the foodie to have a full course meal here on this road, amidst the noise and the crowd. Starting with bread and soup and ending with sinful desert, all the way through meat and more bread. You enter the road at Suleiman Usman’s sweet shop, and if you are anything like me, begin your meal with a phirni. As I scrape the last bits of phirni from the cup, watching the crowds wolf down cup after delicious cup of their favorite Indian sweets, it is easy to see why Suleiman’s said to be popular with even the glitterati of Bombay. Down the road are golawalas (ice-candy with all sorts of fruity flavors from raw mango to strawberry and black grape) and halwais every few hundred meters, quick pit-stops for those cursed with a sweet tooth. And the meat – roasting on grills, the shawarma, baida parathas, fresh naan, bheja, kaleja, biryani, and how did I forget the kababs… even plain roti and dal for those curious vegetarians there just for the experience. And to end, those sinful malpuas at Suleiman’s – topped with malai just for added impact.
I remember reading that Suleiman’s had introduced low calorie sweets during Ramzan for diabetics – but personally, I think low-cal sweets rank somewhere at the bottom, just near Bisleri pani-puri. So I say – forget those calories, just follow you nose and you will not be disappointed.