India, Feb. 15 -- There's a column building up in my mind about the questions I get asked as a Mumbai columnist. Being everyone's first port of call for city queries is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I have no power over (or interest in) the BMC's garbage collection system in your locality. On the other hand, some questions are wonderful gateways to understanding how people see Mumbai.

All winter, as NRIs descended, friends kept asking me for recommendations on gifts that represent our city. There was a time when they could be placated by the odd autorickshaw fridge magnet, a vintage print of Flora Fountain, or a three-tiered stainless steel dabba with a personal message engraved onto it. There's more to choose from now. If you're lo...