Mumbai Diary: Ashima Narain

Photo: Joel Sartore.

This instalment of our series of interviews with Mumbaikars on their experience of living in the city features Parel resident Ashima Narain, who was recently named in Time magazine as one of 34 notable female photographers from across the globe. The photographers were chosen by women photojournalists, curators and directors of photography the world over. The former photo editor at the Indian editions of Time Out and National Geographic Traveller magazines, Narain’s work spans the areas of journalism, advertising, fashion, wedding and wildlife photography and film, such as In The Pink, her 2007 documentary about the annual migration of flamingoes to the mudflats in Sewri. We got Narain to tell us about her favourite people, places and things in Mumbai.


Neighbourhood joints you frequent
Persian Darbar in Byculla.

Neighbourhood gems you show off to visitors
The botanical gardens. I prefer to call it this, rather than a zoo, because it was a botanical garden (first), and is a beautiful place to walk. And of course we also have the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in its complex.

Best place to get a meal in the city
I love the thali at Thackers in (Girgaum) Chowpatty.

Best place to get a drink in in the city
After having three kids, I have not visited many of the new places…but I do like the apple martini at Cafe Zoe.

Best place to take your kids in the city
I take them frequently to Girgaum Chowpatty; very, very often to the botanical gardens; Joggers Park in Bandra and to the Natural History section of the CSMVS (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) museum.

A place you wish had not shut down
Blue Frog.

Favourite place to photograph in the city
Chowpatty Beach and around.

Favourite Bombay food and where you go to get it
Pao bhaji at Sukh Sagar in Chowpatty. I started going there while I was in college, now it has become fancy, with vitrified tiles.

Favourite Bombay book
Murder in Mahim by Jerry Pinto. There is just such a nuanced understanding of how the city works, at multiple levels.

Favourite Bombay film
Probably Slumdog Millionaire (2008), because it showed a lot of people what they didn’t want to see, and they need to. People need to get more involved in understanding how many people live, and expand their empathy.

Favourite Bombay designer
I like the jewellery brand Maya Bazaar by Rosalind Pereira. They have revived the tradition of hand knotting thread with artisans from Uttar Pradesh who migrated to Mumbai, and worked with their skill and knowledge to create contemporary designs.

Favourite Bombay photographer
I love the work of Kaushal Parikh, who does a lot of street photography. I am a colour person, and his work is largely black and white but it is very good work. Also Hashim Badani because his images are endearing and always look effortless. And I really like the body of work ‘Love in Bombay‘ by Anurag Banerjee.

Favourite place to go for a drive
Marine Drive or Worli Sea Face.

Best view in the city
Used to be from Cafe Naaz (in Malabar Hill), but I also like the view of the sea from Breach Candy.

Most scenic spot for a wedding in the city
I got married at St. Bonaventure Church in Madh Island, so for me, that was pretty scenic, as it was a sixteenth-century church, on the beach.

Best place to people watch
In this city – anywhere and everywhere!!!

The word that best describes the city

The animal that best describes Bombay is..
Flamingo – opportunistic, delicate, noisy, resilient.

A local phrase you use frequently

You know somebody is from this city when
They say ‘magajmari’.

The city is unlike any other because… 
It is like a flamingo.

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