A tale of two cities.


Anisha Sharma

Who doesn’t know about Colaba Causeway, the one stop street for any kind of jewellery,bags,silver and various other knick knacks, from the extravagant to the hippie ,from the gothic to the elegant, where you can get some enviable bargains?
But what most of us didn’t know until recently was that Colaba has a whole other side to itself, one where young boys are exploited.Behind that cheerful façade lies a sinister underbelly.


By 11 o’clock, hawkers are busy setting up stalls and displaying their various goods. The ‘first customer’ of every day is a very special one and more often than not gets the best bargain of the day!
As the day progresses, the streets fill with a variety of people, from groups of college students wondering what deal they will get, to curious foreigners, eager to discover the magic of Colaba Causeway, from the usual regulars who know just where to go and how to get exactly what they want at the best price possible, to the novices, who are the hawkers’ favourites, as they can easily be taken for a ride!
The air resounds with voices of people bargaining and persuasive sellers, and one is accosted by the sights of the grumpy relenting shopkeeper, and the satisfied customer, and the wailing beggars. From Arab sheikhs to foreign air hostesses, from hippies and backpackers to wannabes searching for that “Louis Vuitton” bag and “Chanel” perfume, Colaba is a kaleidoscope!
What don’t you get in Colaba? Antique telescopes, clocks and gramophones, hookah pipes, do-it-yourself embroidery kits, dholaks, semi precious stones, Discmans, cds… the list is endless!
The entire stretch is peppered with various eateries- Barista, Café Mondegar, Piccadilly, Leopold’s, Ming’s Palace, McDonald’s, Café Churchill, Theobroma, Delhi Darbar- there is something for every palate and every pocket!
This is Colaba- sunny side up.


Nowadays, Colaba is in the news for all the wrong reasons.
One hears of the various boys’ shelters scattered along the length of Colaba. And until a whlile ago, one would not have thought much of them. Except maybe that thw people who started these shelters are doing a good deed for the street children they rescue. But today, after newspapers have exposed what really goes on behind the closed doors of these shelters, one looks at these ‘shelters’ very differently.
In a shocking revelation, Mumbaikars got to know of the plight of the young boys in these ‘shelters’, shocking tales of sexual abuse, exploitation, prostitution, drug peddling, and alcohol consumption have revealed a darker side of Colaba. The elderly pot-bellied tourist is on the lookout for a bargain of a different nature. The young urchins, who were trying to sell you balloons, now sell themselves.
With the arrest of the founder and staff of a boy’s shelter, a whole new side of Colaba has been exposed, at least, to me, and many like me.
It scares me to think that, the same Colaba that I visit with my friends, where we laugh, joke, shop and bargain, is a different reality to other people. I guess that it has always been like this, but to me it is new and shocking. Now, I can’t help thinking that the table that I am sitting at in a café, where I am enjoying myself with friends, is probably used to finalize a transaction, one which involves violation of young children, and other indecent proposals.
My life, as that of most college students, is cheerful and carefree. I have a future ahead of me. These young children have reached the end of their road. They live in a shelter, the very place where they expected to find a sanctuary, an ‘Anchorage’ to help them stay afloat, has now left them marooned.
Today, when I walk down Colaba as evening approaches, I may be doing the same thing that I always do- shopping, looking around, bargaining, but I can’t escape the feeling that same hawker who had an eager air in the morning now has a different look altogether in his eyes.

~ by cranialrumblings on February 3, 2009.

8 Responses to “A tale of two cities.”

  1. very much thought provoking! though i dont frequent Colaba, its indeed an ugly shock to know about all this.

  2. its an interesting article… oddly enough i didnt know about this… colaba will always look different nw…

  3. well…dis has surely changed my opinion about colaba nw!!! thnx a lot Anisha 4 dis shocking piece of info!!!

  4. Fuck..

  5. im veryy shocked.. i dint know about this before..
    il b really scared to even go there the next time thinking of this!

  6. Like the song LDN by Lilly Allen…

  7. never been to colaba causeway. but yeah. dayum. shit. horror. i’ll remember this when i go there.
    india can’t face bold.
    how’d you know about this?

  8. its been 30 years i grew up around colaba, most sought after place !going to gateway take a boat ride stop at a irani for snacks and tea, then shop for materils and clothes and fav. kholapuri chappels from roadside and metro or lords were signature footwear. it was a high street to be in, it was thein thing to be in colaba. it is very sad that colaba reads so different today.

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