18 April, 2015
Chikoos, Aamras and Parsi foodPosted in : News, Restaurants, Travel Guide on by : Rita
‘Chikoos’, ‘aamras’, Parsi food and empty beaches—Bordi offers a restful break from the city rush
Weekend Vacations: In search of serenity
The gate of an old Parsi house in Bordi
When you’re driving in Mumbai, you never get to speed, or even feel the wind in your hair. Road trips can change that. They may begin with a slow crawl out of the city but then, at some point, like a door swinging wide open, you leave everything—worries, work and traffic—behind. The Mumbai to Bordi route provides one such escape.
The husband and I set out early on a Friday, caught the Western Express Highway, which slowly morphs into National Highway (NH) 8 and runs to New Delhi via Ahmedabad. Once on the highway, I rolled down the windows and let the roar of the wind drown out the music. Hills flowed into each other on either side, the air felt crisp.
Just about 25km after the Virar toll booth, we turned into a parking lot crowded with other ravenous travellers and joined the queue at Vithal Kamats. Their chai could give kheer a complex, the sambhar tasted like sweetened dal, but the misal pav had steam coming out of my ears. Satiated, we headed back to the highway. At Kasa junction, we took the left turn on to Dahanu Road, taking the coastal highway till Bordi. The sea, with tall trees lined up on the beachfront, gleamed to our left. On the right, chikoo orchards zipped by.
A small town about 150km north of Mumbai, Bordi lies along the Maharashtrian coast. Most of the hotels there used to be Parsi homes. They may not give the feel of true home-stays—but Parsi food is on the menu.
There aren’t many attractions—barring the 16th century Vasai Fort, also called Bassein Fort—so we planned our trip around the sea and sand. On the beach, dark, mildly sticky sand welcomed us. A signboard proclaimed that locals weren’t allowed to use the beach for daily ablutions, yet I walked cautiously till the gentle warm waters of the Arabian Sea swept me up, inviting me to venture further.
The next day, after an unhealthy helping of akuri, Parsi-style masala scrambled eggs, we set out to explore Bordi. The Saturday village haat had taken over the main street, an assortment of stalls selling everything from vessels and groceries to lingerie. Down the road, a Parsi bawa, standing at a window of his bungalow in white pyjamas and short kurta, invited us in. The chance to see an old Parsi home should never be passed up. It was like a walk down memory lane—poster beds, old tiled mosaic flooring and wooden window shutters. “We are all cousins, between 60-70 years, who live here,” he told us. His breath was laced with alcohol, but we were all ears thanks to his stories and his generosity.
Bidding him adieu, we headed to Aswali Dam, a 15-minute drive away, to watch the day dissolve into dusk. The dam wall divides the two sides—the large lake hemmed in by hills, and endless stretches of green fields.
A wall with a Warli drawing
We didn’t want to leave Bordi without visiting a Warli artist’s home. The tribals of this area traditionally decorate the walls of their homes with an art form unique to coastal Maharashtra-Gujarat, a style dominated by squares, triangles and circles—and now, expressed on paper, popular in homes across the country. We chatted with the artist, Suresh, and his family, and bought a few pieces before making our way to one of Bordi’s chikooorchards, most of which welcome tourists. The chikoo trees, with their dense canopies and low-hanging fruit, stood in rows, engulfed by the earthy smell of decomposing leaves, ripe fruit and wet soil. We boxed up that smell in a box of chikoos layered with leaves, raw at the bottom, ripe at the top, an edible souvenir. If you would like to experience the peak chikoo season, visit towards the end of May.
Back in Mumbai, as I gulp down yet another cold chikoo shake, my mind wanders back to Bordi. I dream about running a heritage home-stay in an old bungalow, walking down the quaint lanes and letting life unravel by the water…
Note: You must go to the town next door – Dahanu and the Pearline Hotel sometime ! A train will take you to Dahanu station in two hours from Bombay. And from the station, the hotel is a short auto-rickshaw ride. We had our taxi and toured around the fish market where the local catch of the day is as fresh as you can get! Promfrets, Boomla, Lobster, Shondh, Prawns and other seafood is a must to have.
Parivaz manages the place and is a very bubbly, generous and gracious manager. Parivaz has a special day for the local kids, who come to spend the day and eat at the hotel. I was impressed by here energy and enthusiasm. As a parting gift, she presented us with a specialty – Chickoo Chocolates.