A Dinner Of Tripes In Dongri
Dongri lies to the south of Mumbai, India. It is probably one of the most densely populated places on our earth. Its residents are mainly Muslim, with a sprinkling of Hindu communities. These occupants are made of many Muslim denominations, all with their cultural identities. And quirks. But the most compelling reason to visit Dongri, for a visitor, are the food choices of the various communities. There is the Bohri Mualla, the Memon Mualla, and several others. The choices to eat are not all that great but the food is yummy. I also get my clothes stitched here at very reasonable prices. My very experienced tailor charges me US$12 to stitch a shalwar in Dongri while the same service would set me back US$40 in Bandra or Andheri. At a minimum.
Although I must visit Dongri every time I come to Mumbai, I dread the trip. I come here because the offices of Alimaan Foundation, CAI’s legal partners in India are located in a packed, grimy, smelly, and suffocating alley past the Char Nul crossroads. Beyond Char Nul is the impossible traffic of Mohammed Ali Road. You could not pay me enough to drive in this neighborhood; I will certainly seriously maim or take several lives to premature deaths.
Sarfaraz is the main hustler working for Alimaan Foundation. He wears several hats in his role and one of them is driver. I will vouch that Sarfaraz can get himself (and his passengers) out of any impossible tight spot. He has maneuvered cars in difficult spaces and reached the airport with time to spare when I am certain I will miss my flight. The sheer volume of cars, motorbikes, human traffic, dogs, and cows, all honking or hustling for little available space to avoid a collision in Dongri makes me want to scream in fear and frustration sitting in the passenger seat, driving will be a non-starter. Doing this every day will drive me to a mental house.
I had eaten divine barbecued tripes (sheep’s intestines) at the Bori Mualla adda a few years ago and I yearn to have some once more. But it is peak traffic time and we would be wasting an hour, at least, fighting the foojo driving in a car so Sarfaraz suggests that we go on a motorbike. I balk at the idea. I had done that a few years ago and the experience was terrifying. He assures me it’ll be all right – I eventually relent. The barbecue tripes are worth a little terror on a bike. Am I wrong!
Dongri does not have a modern sewer system so the muck gets shoveled onto a truck and taken away for disposal. The pong this exercise leaves behind is indescribable. It is gut-wrenchingly evil and I have puked when I encountered it in the past. Sitting on a battered motorbike that is as ancient as Dongri, Sarfaraz rides past the truck – yuk. The scene at the Mohammed Ali junction is surreal. Two traffic cops are frantically trying to move the snared cars by blowing on their whistles and wildly flailing their arms – nobody pays them any heed. A motorbike has hit a beggar who is lying on the road, seemingly writhing in pain, and causing chaos but everybody ignores him, including the cops. Sarfaraz says the guy probably belongs to a beggar gang and is acting, to elicit a bigger payout from the guilty party. He effortlessly skirts by the filthy howling man and we enter another alley that is packed with hassled motorbike riders rushing home after work. I notice many of the riders are women and I am surprised how they, too, have been able to take on the challenge and aggressively compete, unscathed, with the men for the limited space on the roads.
After several twists and turns to avoid the tail-end of monsoon potholes filled with mucky water, we arrive at the adda. The aroma of the lamb tripes and boti and kababs barbequing on pits shrouded in smoke makes my tummy rumble. Loud. Sarfaraz orders a feast and we tuck in, no matter that the table and chairs that support us wobble dramatically as we splurge. Burp.
Change In The Offing
CAI is going to have a change in leadership beginning January 1, 2024 – I will be resigning, stepping down as CEO and Sohail Abdullah will take over the leadership. The Board of Trustees will still be in place, of course. It has been wonderful 25-plus years at the helm, and I am most fortunate and blessed to have had the blessing and opportunity in this profound role.
I need personal time to enjoy the sunset of my life, plus I do not have the same past energy needed for the constant travel and headbutting needed in this role. Sohail has shadowed me for several years and he will, insha’Allah, lead and grow CAI to better and higher heights. My plea for all donors and well-wishers is to continue the fantastic support going forward. I will be actively around until December 31, 2023, insha’Allah, and will be always around as an advisor past this time as well.
I’ll continue to Blog since I love writing and most times release pent-up frustrations with all that’s going on in our crazy world. Perhaps not as frequently as I do now.