My name is Sana Javeri Kadri, a photographer, maker, and all round wide-eyed young person. I grew up in Mumbai, India and took it entirely for granted. When I first moved away in 2010 I couldn’t wait to get as far from the monotonous drill of the city and the well-worn confines of my childhood as humanly possible. So I tiramisu-ed my way through Italy and ate my way to the glorious state of California. Sure enough, once the heady rush of the outside world had died down and all that pasta started to digest, I could feel a steady ache for my motherland begin to grow.
On her temporary move back to Mumbai:
Though I’ve been blessed to be able to explore several pockets of this big, bad, beautiful world, there’s just something different about my motherland. With its constant hum of life and chaos, there is an overwhelming intensity to everything in Mumbai - an inexplicable familiarity and heart wrenching happiness that I’ve never been able to put my finger on.
After four years of life in the western world, I’d had just about enough. It could have been a quarter life crisis or me just being a homesick kid, but I decided to take a leave of absence from my dinky liberal arts college in Southern California and just go home. I wanted to travel, meet new people, cuddle with my mamma, and most importantly feel, with every strand of frizzy hair and pore of brown skin, what it means to be Indian. It was absolutely mind-bogglingly and ridiculously fantastic.
On what to expect when visiting Mumbai
In all honesty, there are many things you will not find in Mumbai: crisp salad greens, socio-economic equality, basic feminism, and good infrastructure being the most elementary absences. However, if you're looking for sari-clad grandmas who will teach you how to pick the best fish at the morning market, a shoe repairmen who will also recite you Sufi poetry, the yummiest street food of your entire life, an ancient temple complex hidden in the heart of the city, a casual game of cricket in the hallway of an old British apartment building, a mosque in the middle of the sea, an open air Laundromat, or the twisted beautiful bylanes of the Bhuleshwar flower market, then you should come to Mumbai.
Yes it is flawed, changing, and in the process of becoming, but it is also pretty mind blowing.
On the realities of life in Mumbai
Despite my vigorous promotion of India, the reality is that traveling throughout the country as a solo woman is tough stuff. It takes a few days to get your steely face of rejection well polished and then a few more to stop clenching your fists in self defense every few minutes; allowing yourself to just breathe through the chaos.
There is a popular hashtag on Instagram called #motherfuckingom and whist I’d normally rant about cultural appropriation and western neocolonialism as a result of something like this, in this case it pretty accurately describes the ideal state of any tourist traveling India. Diarrhea, patriarchy and con artists be damned; just breathe into your motherfucking om and enjoy a mango lassi.
On her recommendations for future travelers
Buy a hand drawn map from Filter; an ultra-trendy and slightly ridiculous design store in Kala Ghoda. Walk everywhere. Stop frequently for roadside coconut water breaks. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to get lost. Mumbai is the most walkable city and you’d miss out on its best parts if you didn’t.
Where to eat:
- Soam and Swati for traditional Indian food
- Apoorva for fresh fried fish
- Kyani and Co. for the best Iranian café experience
- Sukh Sagar for amazing street food
- Kofuku for high end sushi cravings and the best pork belly in the entire country
- Indigo Deli for all continental cravings
- Kala Ghoda Café for some seriously good coffee and almond cake
Where to stay:
- Abode Bombay is a great, affordable and beautifully designed new hotel in the heart of the city. This is for sure the best place to stay after my mamma’s place.
On what’s next for her:
I just moved back stateside and am currently driving from Los Angeles through Seattle to New York with my boyfriend. I’ll be documenting what's become of the great American highway experience, deciding which state does beef jerky best, and trying not to eat each other's heads off along the way. I plan on apprenticing at an urban farm in Brooklyn all summer and copiously ingesting as much Brooklyn artisanal organic fair trade hipster goofiness as possible before heading back to college in SoCal in the fall.
To see more of Sana's adventures, follow her @Sanajaverikadri on Instagram.
Images Courtesy of Sana Javeri Kadri
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