Queen of Suburbs is now Desi Brooklyn
For The Times of India
Bandra, long labelled the Queen of the Suburbs, has lately acquired new tags, thanks to the large number of expats who have made it their home. It’s now also nicknamed Gora Town and the Desi Brooklyn.
The old stomping ground of Mumbai’s expat community was once farther south. But today, Colaba is largely for tourists, and Malabar Hill for vegetarians. Bandra is where the Americans, Brits, French and Germans are headed. To cater to their needs, the bhajiwallas of Pali market stock parsley, arugula and thyme. You see expats waiting for rattling autorickshaws, teaching underprivileged children, learning how to belly dance and tango at Zenzi, and jogging along the curvy promenades at Carter Road and Bandstand.
If Bandra Beautiful has become an attractive expat magnet, it’s for a host of reasons, including good schools and good sushi. For one thing, the consulates are moving. The British deputy high commission has already pitched its tent at the Bandra-Kurla Complex. The Americans, who for years have been making noises about moving there, promise to do so by the summer of 2010.
The consular shifts make eminent sense given that schools and corporates have turned their backs on the pricey real estate of SoBo or South Bombay. Locals worry as expats drive up rents in Bandra
There are many reasons Bandra, the queen of Mumbai’s suburbs, is increasingly the preferred home of expats in the city. The Bandra-Kurla Complex is home to the American School of Bombay and the Dhirubhai Ambani International School. In addition, a number of NGOs like Operation Smile, Kripa, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and the Kherwadi Social Welfare Association, all of which have a stream of earnest young expat volunteers knocking on their doors, are also based in Bandra. Not only is the suburb ideally located between the Old South and the New North, it’s also less expensive than Breach Candy and offers three luxurious waterfronts as compared to the lone Scandal Point stretch on Bhulabhai Desai Road.
Bandraites, otherwise happy with their exotic new migrants, aren’t too thrilled that expat demand has sent rents soaring higher than Mount Mary’s steeple. Having moved to Mumbai after falling in love online, marketing specialist Jennifer Schoffel thinks Bandra’s strategic placement makes it the most comfortable place in which to live. “It’s almost like a little, independent town in a big city. With its little cafes, bars, restaurants and shopping areas, Bandra offers a very special atmosphere,’’ says the 29-year-old German whose favourite places are restos like Out of the Blue, The Bagel Shop and Zenzi.
Fittingly, the owner of the much-loved Bagel Shop and Zenzi, Matan Schabracq, is himself an expat. A business opportunity brought him from Amsterdam to Bandra five years ago and he fell head over heels in love with the suburb. “Bandra is Mumbai’s New York. It’s full of ambitious young people from other places,’’ says the Almeida Park resident.
Serving expat needs are designer home stores, where American moms shop after dropping their kids off at school, and groceries that stock several varieties of cheese, Thai, Mexican and Chinese sauces, Middle Eastern hummus and crisp lavash bread. At Pali Naka’s Regal Plus store, for example, more than half the customers are foreigners. “We’ve seen a 60% increase in the number of foreign clients who come for imported packaged food,’’ says owner Alkesh Dedhia.
Real estate agent Jogi Singh says Bandra is easily the most popular choice among expats looking to rent. “In the last year, there has been a 30% increase in expats, including students and business heads,’’ he says. He adds that customers prefer to live close to Mount Mary or Pali Hill. Says Ajay Rao, CEO of Writer Relocation, a company that helps people move and set up home in a new city, “About 40% of the members of Writer’s Expat Club live in Bandra.”
Online too, of all the areas in Mumbai, Gora Town is a favoured destination, with Powai a close second. Blogs and travel forums offer free advice to newcomers drifting in from Holland, Israel, Australia, Italy, France, Denmark and Lithuania. Shannon Frandsen, who recently moved to Mumbai from Rotterdam, chose Bandra over Worli and Powai because she felt “it’s a happening place not too far from work or fun’’. This blogger and mom says she’s met expats in Powai who said they’d rather be in Bandra. “I should sell Powai residents a T-shirt that says, ‘I’d rather be in Bandra’,’’ she says jokingly.
Last but not least, Bandra is cool in an important way. “It’s a comfortable place for women,’’ says Daniel Goff, a US resident who lived in Bandra while he was in Mumbai. “They can wear western clothes without getting harassed. And since there are so many of us all around the place, we don’t get constantly stared at.’’

For The Times of India

Bandra, long labelled the Queen of the Suburbs, has lately acquired new tags, thanks to the large number of expats who have made it their home. It’s now also nicknamed Gora Town and the Desi Brooklyn.

The old stomping ground of Mumbai’s expat community was once farther south. But today, Colaba is largely for tourists, and Malabar Hill for vegetarians. Bandra is where the Americans, Brits, French and Germans are headed. To cater to their needs, the bhajiwallas of Pali market stock parsley, arugula and thyme. You see expats waiting for rattling autorickshaws, teaching underprivileged children, learning how to belly dance and tango at Zenzi, and jogging along the curvy promenades at Carter Road and Bandstand.

If Bandra Beautiful has become an attractive expat magnet, it’s for a host of reasons, including good schools and good sushi. For one thing, the consulates are moving. The British deputy high commission has already pitched its tent at the Bandra-Kurla Complex. The Americans, who for years have been making noises about moving there, promise to do so by the summer of 2010.

The consular shifts make eminent sense given that schools and corporates have turned their backs on the pricey real estate of SoBo or South Bombay.

There are many reasons Bandra, the queen of Mumbai’s suburbs, is increasingly the preferred home of expats in the city. The Bandra-Kurla Complex is home to the American School of Bombay and the Dhirubhai Ambani International School. In addition, a number of NGOs like Operation Smile, Kripa, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and the Kherwadi Social Welfare Association, all of which have a stream of earnest young expat volunteers knocking on their doors, are also based in Bandra. Not only is the suburb ideally located between the Old South and the New North, it’s also less expensive than Breach Candy and offers three luxurious waterfronts as compared to the lone Scandal Point stretch on Bhulabhai Desai Road.

Bandraites, otherwise happy with their exotic new migrants, aren’t too thrilled that expat demand has sent rents soaring higher than Mount Mary’s steeple. Having moved to Mumbai after falling in love online, marketing specialist Jennifer Schoffel thinks Bandra’s strategic placement makes it the most comfortable place in which to live. “It’s almost like a little, independent town in a big city. With its little cafes, bars, restaurants and shopping areas, Bandra offers a very special atmosphere,’’ says the 29-year-old German whose favourite places are restos like Out of the Blue, The Bagel Shop and Zenzi.

Fittingly, the owner of the much-loved Bagel Shop and Zenzi, Matan Schabracq, is himself an expat. A business opportunity brought him from Amsterdam to Bandra five years ago and he fell head over heels in love with the suburb. “Bandra is Mumbai’s New York. It’s full of ambitious young people from other places,’’ says the Almeida Park resident.

Serving expat needs are designer home stores, where American moms shop after dropping their kids off at school, and groceries that stock several varieties of cheese, Thai, Mexican and Chinese sauces, Middle Eastern hummus and crisp lavash bread. At Pali Naka’s Regal Plus store, for example, more than half the customers are foreigners. “We’ve seen a 60% increase in the number of foreign clients who come for imported packaged food,’’ says owner Alkesh Dedhia.

Real estate agent Jogi Singh says Bandra is easily the most popular choice among expats looking to rent. “In the last year, there has been a 30% increase in expats, including students and business heads,’’ he says. He adds that customers prefer to live close to Mount Mary or Pali Hill. Says Ajay Rao, CEO of Writer Relocation, a company that helps people move and set up home in a new city, “About 40% of the members of Writer’s Expat Club live in Bandra.”

Online too, of all the areas in Mumbai, Gora Town is a favoured destination, with Powai a close second. Blogs and travel forums offer free advice to newcomers drifting in from Holland, Israel, Australia, Italy, France, Denmark and Lithuania. Shannon Frandsen, who recently moved to Mumbai from Rotterdam, chose Bandra over Worli and Powai because she felt “it’s a happening place not too far from work or fun’’. This blogger and mom says she’s met expats in Powai who said they’d rather be in Bandra. “I should sell Powai residents a T-shirt that says, ‘I’d rather be in Bandra’,’’ she says jokingly.

Last but not least, Bandra is cool in an important way. “It’s a comfortable place for women,’’ says Daniel Goff, a US resident who lived in Bandra while he was in Mumbai. “They can wear western clothes without getting harassed. And since there are so many of us all around the place, we don’t get constantly stared at.’’

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