Nights are never dull in a 100-year-old bungalow in Bandra when the laughter of Mogambo, an iconic character in a Bollywood film portrayed by actor Amrish Puri, rings through the hallways of the building. For guests in the city’s newest backpackers’ hostel, Bollywood movies are just one of the many ways in which they soak in the spirit of Mumbai during the second half of the day.
“We host events in the evenings so that guests are occupied and they interact with each other,” says Rohan Shelke, the co-founder of Horn Ok Please, a seven-month-old hostel on D’Monte Street in Bandra West. Through the week, evening activities at the hostel range from walks around Bandra and pub crawls, to gigs, magic shows and film screenings. “On Mondays, we hit two-three bars where guests can find drinks at very cheap rates and on Tuesdays, we take guests walking around Bandra Fort and Carter Road,” Shelke adds.
While the walks and the pub crawls have become a regular feature at the hostel, the management intersperses these by bringing in musicians and magicians to perform from time to time. “These are all friends, not professional musicians. For instance, we have friends who are magicians, who just need an audience in front of whom they need to practice their tricks. We don’t pay them,” Shelke says.
Shelke and his friends, Rishab Maskara and Smit Jain, started the hostel in October 2017, after years of backpacking across several countries. The hostel has five dormitories and one private room, equipped with modern amenities in a heritage bungalow and is aimed at becoming a fun and safe space for travelers making their way across India. “We get a lot of returning travelers. Those who go to the north and south of India, pass through Mumbai and tell their friends about the hostel,” says Shelke.
It took them a few trial runs to identify what activities the guests enjoy the most. Shelke recalls that an attempt at holding a barbeque night in the hostel’s initial days was not very successful. “The nitty-gritties were too tedious and the food wasn’t liked by everyone,” he says. “It took a little time to get to know a traveler’s head. If they don’t like something, they will jump to another hostel.”
While the priority is to keep the activities as economical as possible, given that the guests are not charged extra for them, the managers also ensure that they cause no disturbance to those who do not wish to take part. The top priority though is to ensure that the activities give travelers a distinct flavor of the city. “We screen typical Bollywood movies with a lot of dance and comedy, like say, Mr. India, Hum or Amar Akbar Anthony. We don’t play serious movies because we want the atmosphere to be light,” says Shelke.
Reviews on a hostel booking platform, hostelworld.com, show that tourists might have been impressed. Mark Magliocco from Canada, who visited last month, described his stay at Horn Ok Please as: “Great atmosphere, good vibes and great location to travel around Mumbai.”