Mumbai Ki Aan, Mishra Ke Paan

Now, I love my food. After a hearty meal, what I most enjoy is a Banarasi or Saada Paan. Juhu is the best place for this. Just at the Juhu Tara Road, you have Mishra Paans straight from Bhadohi. Now, these paans are the original made from the freshest paans. The concoction this paan bhandaar churns up is amazing. With all sorts of kattha, supari and ilaichi, the paan at Mishra’s have a real zing to it. Not to mention, it is the perfect thing to have if one has to digest a meal. Mishra Sahib sat and rolled the paans with grace and precision. He was an old gentleman wearing kurta pyjama with a long moustache, a typical “Munchein hun tho natthu lal jesi hun.” There is a wooden cubicle stacked with suparis and pots of kattha and chuna that go into preparing the paan. On the shelves are kept a variety of sweets, gulkands, suunff and many such herbs that add to the flavour of Mishra Ji ke Paans.

“Kya bhaiya actor ho? Dekha tumhara face hoarding pe, ek dum mast, wo jhabroo jesey baal thee tumharey.” Mishra Ji proclaimed as he started making the best Banarasi Paan money could buy in Mumbai. “Ji, kaka, hum wo hei actor hein. Seedha Prithvi theatre se aye yanha tumhara paan khaneey.” I replied and was happy that I was recognised. “Bachhan Sahib, Govinda, Jackie aur Salman Bhai, saab humarrey wanhan khatein hein paan, ek dum pure quality.” He laughed with pride as he handed the paan to me. “Waah! Hum ko bhi Amit Ji ki category mein daal diya ka tumnney Mishra Ji.” I asked with a sheepish smile. “Arrey ab nahi tho humra paan kha ke zaroor ban jaaao ge tum.” He said raising his hand as if he had blessed me. “Mishra Ji wo nahi legate paan mein. Array wohi jisey khatiyaa thodh power athe hein.” I winked and whispered into the Pandawdi’s ear. “Arrey top ka chutney gala hein tum sara floor todh do ge aaj raat.” he rubbed his belly as he said this.

This side of Juhu Beach really comes alive at night. This is the best place to stroll around after dinner. With the breeze of the sea, it is very cool at night, although the place is very crowded especially in the evenings. With Kulfi Falooda, Ban Maska, Tikki Chaat and all sorts of food items on display, this is where the masses of Mumbai have their fun at night. The common folks of Mumbai congregate here to while away time. Families taking walks, kids playing with balloons, hawkers selling face masks, bright yoyo and plastic toys, all gather around to see their wares. You also see scavengers and dogs eating thrown away food. Generally, there is a lot of mess because of food items, cans and plastic bags thrown on the beach. But people don’t seem to care. Everyone is used to the crowd, noise and all the hulla bulla. All these add to the texture of the beach.

I would generally take an auto from here after I had done strolling around the beach and throwing pebbles in the sand. It is a great place to be with oneself and get in touch with the real Mumbai. At times, I would buy some jasmine flowers from a lady and tie it around my wrist. It would make me look like a drunk returning from a dance bar, but I enjoy it.

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