James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Take Your $10 Cold‑Pressed Juice and Shove It, We Know a Guy With a Trunk Full of Herbal Remedies

Take Your $10 Cold‑Pressed Juice and Shove It, We Know a Guy With a Trunk Full of Herbal Remedies

Juice in Mumbai

“Hot or cold?” Sanjay Naik asks me, pointing with one hand to thermos flasks in the boot of his car and with the other to six large milk cans sitting on a folding steel table nearby.

“Cold,” I say, cautiously. For a second I wonder how prudent it is to drink something sold out of the back of a stranger’s car. But I take solace in the fact that people around me are doing the same thing without crumpling in pain. Most of them were folks out for their morning walk on Marine Drive, one of Mumbai’s seaside promenades.

On hearing my order, Naik begins scooping out ladles of various juices from the milk cans, mixing them together in a small plastic cup. I’m handed a sinister-looking green blend. What’s in it, I ask him. “Tulsi, adrak, neem, and haldi,” he says—the Hindi words for basil, ginger, and turmeric.

I sip it gingerly and cringe at its bitterness. Luckily, Naik is ready with a handful of fresh sprouts and sweetcorn to add some sweetness. “That’s everyone’s reaction the first time they try these juices,” he says.

He should know. Naik has been selling fresh juices and soups at the northern end of Marine Drive for about 20 years now. Every morning, the 47-year-old pulls up his minivan outside the Mafatlal Swimming Pool and mans his pop-up juice stall from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. The menu doesn’t change, except for some seasonal additions. The all-natural, preservative-free juices include basil, ginger-lime, turmeric, neem, mint, beetroot, carrot, bitter gourd, coriander, and wheatgrass. There are also three hot soups: spinach, tomato, and drumstick.

Naik doesn’t do this for the money. For him, it’s about helping people stay healthy the natural way and he pays attention to each customer’s needs.

His degree in herbal medicine helps him know just what to serve for each ailment. Struggling with diabetes? A daily shot of bitter gourd juice is a must. Got a bad throat? Tulsi juice is what you need. Joints creaking a bit too much? Try some drumstick soup. There are dozens of other naturopathy and Ayurveda enthusiasts who set up similar pop-up outfits from their cars at various places around Mumbai. You can spot them on Carter Road in Bandra, Worli Seaface, and outside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali. Naik himself has vehicles in ten different locations in the city.

It isn’t uncommon to spot small crowds around these minivans. It’s a motley group of old uncles and aunties out for a leisurely stroll, kids on cycles, and thirtysomethings trying to squeeze in a 10k run before rushing to work. These juice breaks are part of their morning routine—they gather to chat about each other’s families, the fortunes of the Indian cricket team and trade stock market tips.

I pay Naik the 20 rupees (about 30 cents) I owe him and prepare to leave. During our chat, I’d mentioned that my mother has severe joint pain caused by arthritis and before I walk away, he hands me a takeaway pouch of drumstick soup for her, on the house.

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