This piece is in two parts and will be concluded next week.
Up to about 10–15 years ago, the Circle was a sleepy little place that hardly ever saw any new activity…for the first 25–30 years of my life, a new shop on the Circle or even a little renovation of an existing shop was considered such a major event that the whole of Matunga would come out for a “look-see”.
It was the ATMs that slowly started changing the character of the Circle, followed by the foodie shops like Garnish, a change that has now accelerated to such an extent that a new outlet causes no excitement whatsoever.
The latest kid on the block is a place called “Dairy Don”, a name that only a nutty Gujju from Gujarat could have come up with. The shop serves sandwich ice-creams, a “paan” ice-cream and also something called “gotala”. Even though Baskin Robbins struggled, Naturals and the softies sold by the Noble brothers have always done well and probably so will “Dairy Don”, catering to the ever-growing numbers of Gujjus, who like their cousins in Rajkot, need their sweet-tooth fix on a regular basis.
Food is where the most action is.
Nanoomal Bhojmal behind Aurora is gone with a blast (its illegally stored fire cylinders exploded and the building caught fire), replaced by a kindergarten teaching chain. New Yorker’s has been replaced by Only Parathas and Rasna Panjab has renovated its signage. CCD has a new branch opposite Matunga station with a new coffee place next to Abbas Library called Capresso, which does a better job of froth decoration on the cappuccino than CCD. And, Ahar serving coastal food now has a new family area with a separate entrance. Luckily, Fu Yong still remains…unchanged.
Muthuswamy has opened an outlet opposite the Matunga station…unfortunately, the food just doesn’t compare to the stuff he serves during parties and functions. Koolar has become even more iconic, being the only “Irani” restaurant left within miles, while all the Udipis continue to do great business.
And among all these, Varun is steadily doing better and better with his home made thin-crust pizzas and pastas, serving a select set of known customers, friends and family.
There also seems to be a sudden eruption of parlors and salons. While Enrich has been around for some time, there is now Adorn next to Foto Circle, one other shop next to Natural ice-cream and Diva behind Aurora cinema, while Star continues to handle the bargain seeking clients.
Then there are the shiny shops in the new buildings on the stretch from the Circle to the Station. While Pramanik and Milap have been around for some time, IIFA (like Alfa in Santacruz) has become the new store to go to for anything and everything you need at home, with SIA across the road providing reasonably inexpensive branded jewelry. Only when it comes to big brand clothing and shoe stores, does the Circle still seem to lag behind even places like Parel, Levi’s perhaps being the only major brand to have an outlet in Matunga.
The roadside vendors have increased. The bhelwala in the lane behind Aurora does more and more business with each passing day and each week sees yet another pavement occupied by some or the other vendor.
And to patronize all these shops and roadside eateries, are the ever-growing numbers of Gujjus and Kutchis and Marwaris, with their large and shiny cars, occupying all the new high-rises and redevelopments, along with their retinue of chauffeurs and cooks and maids.