Jan 242022
Parsi Food, Secret Codes, An Underground Radio and a Revolution! The Chowpatty Cooking Club [Review]
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Title: The Chowpatty Cooking Club

Author: Lubaina Bandukwala

Publisher: Duckbill, Penguin Random House India

Pages: 128

Type: Paperback

Age group: 10 years+

The Chowpatty Cooking Club is set in Bombay, 1942, when Mahatma Gandhi’s Quit India Movement was gathering momentum. 

Three children, Sakina, Zenobia and Mehul, find their carefree playful lives ‘disrupted’ by student protests, secret magazines, and even an underground radio station. 

The entire story is related as notes by Sakina, who with her innocent charm, unfolds the story, one day at a time. 

The children while playing detective-detective, (inspired, no doubt, by Sherlock Holmes), show remarkable maturity in supporting the Quit India Movement and wanting to contribute to it, little realizing that their homes and surroundings are the centre of action. 

Today, 80 years later, we take our freedom for granted. But look back to those days, when our country was firmly under British rule. The author, Lubaina Bandukwala, does this with great aplomb and weaves a wonderful believable story, that takes us through the Bombay of those days. The days of Basket Paneer, Mawa Pastry, Bhakras, Kheema Pattice and Sosyo drink (the only Indian drink in those days from Surat), the days of Royal Doulton tea sets, of tonga walas and radio licenses… Yes, radio licenses! 

It’s interesting to see these carefree children find their real awakening in the ethos of our freedom movement, while their rich families debate on Swadeshi vs Imported, Instant Profits vs the Struggle for a New Independent India. And the fact that among their own family and friends, there could be a traitor selling secrets to the British. 

But if you (like Sakina and her two friends), think the ladies of the Chowpatty Cooking Club, (the children’s moms and aunts), are only exchanging exquisite cuisine and recipes, be prepared for a revolutionary surprise! Join our three friends in learning what 29 PO Dal and 10m RL Besan are!! 

As a work of historical fiction, it’s extremely well researched and well crafted. One would say that it’s beautiful reading for any age (I’m hoping our teen Aarini, will read this after her exams!). While our young generation will discover their history books come to life, adults will get a chance to turn reminiscent, with the sights, sounds and cuisine of yesterday. 

You can find That Year At Manikoil, the other book in the Songs Of Freedom series here.

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