The path to the Haji Ali mosque lies upon the surface of the sea and at high tide, it becomes submerged, leaving a stranded islet in the middle of the bay. Towards the entrance of this path, noisy merchants and street-food vendors brave the aggressive waves to hawk paste jewels and quick lunches – smoky tandoori chicken, boiling oily pakora and a giant slab piled high with Kerala parotta.
Who knew that a flatbread could be special? Similar to normal paratha, the Kerala parotta does not have a single, dry, texture like its sister bread. Instead, the outside is crisp and as you tear into the elastic middle, it reveals moist, buttery ribbons similar to the inside of a croissant. While it is just as good as any old chapatti for soaking up a curry, I could eat about 10 of these alone in one sitting, they are so delicious. I wasn’t expecting to find this Southern delicacy in the middle of bustling Mumbai.
The tide is steadily rising and I am now walking ahead on wet stone, sea spray occasionally dampening my face. Boisterous ribby young boys splash around either side in the murky water, forgetting all about the gnawing hunger at the pits of their bellies. I pass a desolate sobbing woman dressed in a tarnished green sari, crouching to the ground. She has probably suffered one too many blows from an abusive husband and like so many in this city, has nowhere else to go. Then, in front of me, balanced on uncomfortable crutches, is a one legged beggar who gives me a smile that treads on my heart like the palm of a hand, kneading a ball of dough.