record shopping in Fort (Mumbai)

Mumbai being the virgin destination in a long string of 13 Indian cities, you can imagine our excitement at stumbling upon a small market selling original 1960s - '80s Bollywood soundtracks on our very first day of the trip. It happened while aimlessly wandering down one of Fort’s main thoroughfares, Dadabhai Naoroji Road. Sandwiched between several tacky souvenir stands and other downtrodden or abandoned shops, we found Royal Music Collection.

Managed by Abdul, an agreeable gentleman who definitely knew his stuff, Royal Music Collection is comprised of little more than a couple cabinets and an outdoor shelf in a heavily-littered alleyway. We surmise there must have been an adjacent storage unit nearby as whenever we asked Abdul if he had anymore soundtrack from the '70s or '80s, he would disappear for a few minutes, only to return with plastic bags filled with additional finds.

Over the course of a half an hour, we rifled through piles of grubby LPs searching for titles or songs we knew would be good. Of course, the unfortunate aspect of Royal Music Collection (and other stores of the same ilk we would encounter later), was that many of the record covers featured water damage, or worse, deteriorating corned that looked as though they had been chewed on by maggots or some such creature. (Set of Drifters tip: Definitely check the condition of the records you buy in India. In most cases, they tend to be very dusty or slightly warped due to improper storage and stiflingly hot temps. You may also find mismatches discs with the incorrect sleeve - so buyer beware.)

Some of the prices at Royal Music Collection were a bit high, and thus, we were unwilling to purchase anything that wasn’t a sure bet. What we did find was a copy of the Shalamar soundtrack (featuring Usha Uthup’s legendary “One, Two, Cha Cha Cha”), the Disco Dancer soundtrack by Bhappi Lahiri and several other cool LPs to add to our burgeoning Bollywood music collection. In hindsight, there were a few titles we should have added as there really aren’t that many places to find vinyl in India. (See Rajasthan and Delhi “goodies” for other options.)

We think it’s probably a good idea to bring a list of the records you are looking for before heading out to any store. Shopping in these overstuffed/ under-air-conditioned shopfronts can be an overwhelming experience, and chances are, it’s not likely you’ll be returning to India every few months! You’ll want to make sure you secure a copy of R. D. Burman’s gold-foiled Shaan soundtrack before it’s gone for good!

Royal Music Collection (next to Suvidha Hotel) - 192 Kitab Mahal, Dr. D. N. Road, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra  400001, +91 982 093 3365

design goods galore (Mumbai)

With Mumbai our first stop on a 13-city tour of India, your Set of Drifters were not necessarily looking to fill our luggage with souvenirs so early on in the trip. That being said, we found it pretty difficult to resist the precious AC wafting out from a few funky shops during our mid-morning architectural tour of Colaba.

The first of these was a colorful multilevel boutique we had seen featured in a few magazines on the plane ride over from Amsterdam. FabIndia! was everything its press had touted - and more. Sure, we had expected to find saris, kurtas and dupattas in a full spectrum of bright threads, but what we did not anticipate was FabIndia!s plethora of handsome housewares, modern stationary and cooking paraphernalia - or its entire upscale line of massage oils and bath soaps!

This shop is worth a good half hour of your time - notwithstanding the cool down. Though prices may a bit on the high side (for India), the quality - and selection - is top of the line. You can take a gander at FabIndia!s website for a sampling of the goods that may be on display, though part of the fun here is a first-hand rummage through the many diverse colors and textures. Set of Drifters tip:  Looking for something really unique to take back home? Why not visit the upstairs fabric hallway to cut off a few yards of some of the most unique patterns you’ll ever see. Perhaps you can find a local tailor to whip you up a unique sundress to dazzle your fellow travelers? FabIndia! is faboo indeed.

Further north in Fort, the Contemporary Arts & Crafts boutique takes things a step further design-wise with artisanal treasures for the home or office. You’re bound to find an extraordinary collection of unique pillow cases, curio boxes and specialty toys for the kids.

We especially liked what appeared to be the “one-of-a-kind” section where groovy vintage board games competed for space alongside zany Hindu deity figures and handsome color-blocked storage canisters.

Into saturated prints?  Then you’re gonna love CAC’s collection of Ikat cotton shams and tote bags.  

With over 50 years experience in Mumbai, the buyers at Contemporary Arts & Crafts clearly know what they’re doing.  This is the place to find that unusual “guilty pleasure” item to recall your time in Mumbai.

FabIndia! - Jeroo Building, 137, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra  400001, +91 222 262 6539,

Contemporary Arts & Crafts - Ground Floor, Taj Building, Opposite Fort House, Corner of Dr. D. N. Road and Wallace Street, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra  400036, +91 226 657 6069,