I remember the first time I travelled by a BEST bus in Mumbai on my own. Since I was new to the city, I wasn't sure whether the bus would stop at Opera House. I asked the conductor, "Opera House jati hai?" He said, "Fir?" Now, for someone who had spent her growing years in Delhi and Pune, "Fir?" was not exactly an answer. I thought he hadn't heard me. I asked him again. He said "Fir" again. Luckily, a co-commuter came to my rescue and answered, "Yes!" I hopped on to the bus.
That's the first time I realised how different the language of Mumbai is from the rest of the country. Sure, they understand Hindi but they speak it the way it's not spoken anywhere else. If there's one thing that makes you a true Mumbaikar, it's your efficacy in spouting Mumbaiyya. With a colourful mix of Hindi, Marathi, English and a dash of Arabic (yes!), Mumbaiyya is "more than a language; it's a culture of its own," you read on the back cover of Cutting Chai and Maska Pao. "It holds the keys to Mumbai, its lanes and bylanes, its dabbawalas and the Page 3 brigade, its Chor Bazaar and its BEST buses."
What started off as a college project of putting together a 'cultural lexicon of Mumbai' for 22-year-olds Mithila Mehta, Priya Sheth and Digantika Mitra has turned into delightful 103 pages dedicated to the city we all love. With little text (thankfully!) and more pictures by Mitra and illustrations by Mehta, the book is light, funny and extremely commuter-friendly. Bole toh, ekdum jhakkas!