Happiness Cafe (Ghatkopar, Mumbai)

Kailash plaza has a rather sinister air about it in the east of Ghatkopar. The building is marred with dirt, the sign misses the letter H and it all feels reminiscent of a Gastby-esque Valley of Ashes scene.

It is also the underbelly of the Indian stock market where a number of stockbrokers and operators have chosen their den. I know this is stock market territory when I hear the term “maal lao” branded around by a few brokers recalling the day’s events outside. I can’t really think of an English equivalent but maybe something like “show me the money” or “hell yeah” comes close to the translation of this delightful phrase.

We sometimes think of the stock market as big computers, flashing red and green lights, people shouting down little black boxes but in reality, it is in unassuming buildings like this where the true “animal spirits” of the stock market lie.

It’s thus a surprise to me that in such a gloomy, money-centric atmosphere that a little café with the name “Happiness” stands proud. It a strange name and an even stranger menu. There are broadly three main things you can sample and in an infinite number of permutations: Maggi noodles, pizza and fries.

Interestingly, the first two items have been the source of two major National food scares (lead in noodles and more recently, cancerous additives in pizza dough). I opted for the third, fries. It was the carbohydrate overload of the fries sandwich that got my vote.

Had this have been “not just any sandwich” (to use that famous M&S Line), I would have had dreams of being transported to one of those little Belgian Barraque à Frites with their thin fresh-cut chips for 1 EUR (less than 100INR).  I also thought about those thick door-step slabs of soft, fluffy white sliced bread with lashings of delicious salted butter. But then I woke up…to thin cardboard slices of bread with a few measly generic fries in-between. The green chutney was a consolation but I would have liked more.

Happiness is ok (I prefer wisdom!). It’s a little grubby like the rest of the building; the menu cards are peeling and the service is pretty slow for fast food, but at less than 100 rupees it’s difficult to complain. Just remember the old adage “cheap is seldom good, and good is seldom cheap”.

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