Mumbai Diary: Harish Iyer
For this instalment of our series of interviews with Mumbaikars on their experience of living in the city, we spoke to Harish Iyer, a prominent LGBT and animal rights activist and columnist for The Quint. Last year, Iyer, who is gay, made headlines when his mother placed a matrimonial ad for him in Mid-Day. Iyer, 37, grew up in Matunga and moved to Navi Mumbai seven years ago. He tells us about his favourite spots in the city.
Childhood in Matunga East, which was once upon a time the land of idli-sambar before being invaded by the dhokla and kachori. Now I live in New Bombay. Here buildings are so far and roads are so wide, it is kind of boring. In Bombay, we used to buy one newspaper and pass it on to Savita Bhabhi in the next building through our balcony. Really!
I hate to call myself a New Bombayite. Essentially, I believe New Bombay is Bombay with bragging rights.
Neighbourhood gems you show off to visitors
In New Bombay, we have a beach, wide roads, less people, beautiful stations… and yaa, on the flip side, no beautiful sights of thousand men doing sussu and shee shee along the tracks.
Neighbourhood haunts you frequent
I go to Rude Lounge for daaru. I go to InOrbit mall, Vashi to just do some window shopping, and for nayan sukh (all hot men land up in InOrbit Mall).
Best place to get a meal in the city
Nothing beats Mysore Cafe in Matunga. The bestest place with bestest memories is Classic restaurant, which is opposite Don Bosco School in Matunga. They make the world’s best pao bhaji.
Best place to get a drink in in the city
I have to say The Barking Deer in Lower Parel. I love the ambiance. They are LGBTIQ friendly.
Best place to spot flora and fauna in the city
I think, your home, in your TV. National Geographic and Animal Planet are the best. Sarcasm apart, I think every street dog of Bombay has a story to tell. Bombay has a thriving animal loving culture. Yes there are instances of animal abuse, but I pride myself with the fact that by and large there we Bombayites are animal lovers. Ever visited hutments alongside Azad Maidan? You will see humans sleeping in half the cot while [on] the [other] half would be a dog. Well, wild animals are depleting fast. Thanks to all the builders. Mountains in New Bombay are getting quarried. And flora in Bombay? Well, you are kidding right?
A Mumbai animal rights group you support
I got my cats from World For All, so I am naturally very fond of them. They are in Andheri. I know Sudnya Patkar from In Defence of Animals; they work really really hard. They have a centre in New Bombay. They are super-quick to respond. And even the humans over there are lovable. In the Thane area, we have Shakuntala Majumdar who is with the Thane SPCA Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In Central and South Bombay, there is Welfare Of Stray Dogs or WSD.
Favourite street food and where you go to get it
Lakhan’s pao bhaji wala (in a thela) at Five Gardens, Matunga/Dadar (he makes it vegan for me); chammach gola at Juhu Beach; pani puri at Kalki Building, Milaap Corner, opposite Asthika Samaaj (Ram Mandir) in Matunga.
Favourite Bombay book/film/play/musician
I take pride in being a Maharashtrian. I think no film like Natrang, Mitra and Jogwa has ever been made. Even the ones who made these films can’t recreate the same film again.
Favourite place to go for a drive
Marine Drive if in the city. If you wish to drive outside, we could go to Kashmir. I mean, Lonavala, is the closest Bombayites get to Kashmir.
Best LGBT performance you’ve seen in the city
Gaysi’s Dirty Talk. There is nothing better than a group of homos and heteros having a good laugh and intellectual stimulation.
Best view in the city
The view of the city from Malabar Hill. It is like a visual orgasm.
Best place to people watch
Depends on your type. If you like videshi type, then Phoenix Mills. If you like desi type Marathi maanus, then Dadar Circle. If you fancy some almost film star (or look-alike) then Infiniti mall, Andheri. If you like to watch straight people doing chumma-chaati then Five Gardens or Bandstand. If you don’t believe in seeing but believe in doing, then any public loo.
The word that best describes the city
“Everything”. Truly what’s not in Bombay, is not yet made in the world.
A local phrase you use frequently
I end my invitations with “Aaneka toh welcome, naahi tar bheed kam”.
You know somebody is from this city when
They say, ‘Aaila’ or ‘Boss’!
The city is unlike any other because…
It is a city that doesn’t care about caste, class, religion, economic status, gender or sexuality and is a city that truly doesn’t sleep. You live in gay abandon here. You would be lonely in this city, only if you truly choose to be lonely.
Who is a son of the soil?
I am going to be selfish here and take names of people I know. Sushant Divgikar and his super sexy folks (Pradeep and Bharati Divgikar) for being a support to the LGBTIQ community. Pallav Patankar, ex director (of the LGBT rights organisation) Humsafar Trust, for the same reasons. Why just son? I’d say, Sonal Giani, bisexual woman and the strongest bisexual activist on planet earth. Sapna Bhavnani, for being my favourite sexy person and friend, not just in external looks but also internally.