Kala Ghoda Festival ’12

Ever year that nondescript street, a few minutes away from Churchgate station is transformed into the stage for our own little carnival – larger than life sculptures, exhibits and stalls selling everything from wooden watches to furniture, make Kala Ghoda come alive.

The street festival of Mumbai city holds special significance for me – more than just being a reflection of the city’s dynamic, pulsating and ever growing arts scene, it’s a reflection of who I’ve been and who I’ve become.That first year as a Jr. college student of St.Xaviers was all about making the ultimate ‘artsy’ statement, one of those things expected of the jhola carrying passouts of the institution – but all we managed was a candy floss induced high and confusion at the installations that dotted the street.

Today it’s about being lost in a world where everything stands for something and being yourself and having the courage to express it, is the ultimate style statement. The art isn’t just about the creations we see on the street, it’s about the people who make the choice to fashion them- believing that art means something to the world. It is about the people who who walk the street – because self expression is the truest form of art. It isn’t about bohemian clothes and a devil may care attitude, it isn’t for a select few belonging to the creative industry – it’s about everyone and everything..where you live and what you do..

With the theme of this year being ‘the art of Mumbai’ I picked a few of the things that for me are quintessentially the city – walk with me…

P.S – You can never have enough candy floss. This year or the next.

Mumbai is incomplete without these two..


You haven’t really lived in the city, unless you’ve been woken up thanks to their incessant and oh so annoying cawing..

Among my favourite installations was this one – old pens, even a stray telephone are what have been used to ornament the car – look closely, cause even those worthless things can become quite meaningful…


In the chaos and sometimes unbearable din of the maximum city it’s easy enough to lose peace of mind – but it doesn’t have to be lost for always…

Every year the iconic Kala Ghoda (the original stands in the Byculla Zoo)is reinvented – this year’s version mirrored Mumbai, quite literally – it can seem bleak but it always manages to catch the light..

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is on from the 4th -12th February 2012. Timings – 11:00 am to 9:30 pm Along with a number of Arts and Crafts Stalls and displays, there will performances and screenings, log on to www.kalaghodaassociation.com for a full schedule

Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm  Comments (1)  
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The streets of Mumbai

A city has the potential to be a friend, a lover, a protector or the greatest antagonist that ever was and Mumbai (Bombay) can be all these and more in one single day. Walk through the streets of the place I’ve called home, lived in and lost in with this series of articles dedicated to the city with ephemeral moods but a lasting spirit. Plunge into it with…

 Cruise along the Causeway

Jewellry

Tousled haired foreigners with backpacks wander through the street, stopping when they see something that catches their eye. What follows is a raucous party of loud voices, in different languages. Each trying to convince the other that he should be listened to. That’s Colaba Causeway for you.

Senses have a tough job here as the sounds are overwhelming but the sights even more so. Clashing colours, stupendous shapes and thrifty trinkets all make their appearances. It’s difficult to mistake this street market as simply a typical tourist trap, which it is but locals swear by it as well.

Says avid shopper, Gayathry Latheef , “Shopping in causeway is fun because you never come back empty handed and you find everything you need in one street, from food to clothes to accessories and even, eye-candy.”

Mojris- For men and women

Formally known as Shahid Bhagat Singh road and informally as Colaba Causeway, it is as visited as its high profile neighbours, the Gateway of India and Taj Mahal hotel and palace. Gregory David Robert’s Colaba was one of intrigue, romance and drugs; the qualities that attract many who expect to relive his encounters.

It’s also just a street, where buyers meet sellers and relentless persuasion follows.  A curtain of jewellery, bronzed, silver and gold flutters in the air, alluringly, nudging you to enter the street. Café Mondegar one of Colaba’s oldest restaurants is Iranian owned and almost always full, is the first on the street.

As you walk along, it’s hard to escape the shouts of, ‘Miss, buy this. It’s the best quality’ but if you listen carefully you can hear that the prices for the locals and the prices for the unassuming foreigners differ as the vendors try to make a quick buck off those who don’t know better, a feature at almost every touristy location.

For the clotheshorse, there’s plenty to choose from. Whether its designer knock offs or indigenous outfits, it’s all out there and within grasp if you know how to spot what you like effectively and acquire it with smart bargaining.

Stalls that sell perfect replicas of perfumes, designer watches and sunglasses tempt those that want to look stylish but don’t want to pay the full price that comes with it.

Belts

Moving on, shops sell idols of Indian gods as well as hookah’s act as a metaphor for this street, that’s one thing in the day and a diametrically different one at night.

As day turns to night, this shopper’s street transforms, with visitors telling you that they’ve been propositioned by young women and drug peddler’s, surreptiously and sometimes, openly. Cafe Leopold, one of the iconic restaurants, been here since the 1800’s has a formidable reputation that goes beyond just serving delectable vegetable samosas.

Rainbow coloured

The streets of Mumbai are ever changing; one minute something is forever and the next it isn’t there anymore. Much like Colaba causeway, a quaint, busy street in the day unrecognisable from its night avatar.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 11:10 am  Comments (1)  
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Gateway to Mumbai

A man pretending to hold the Gateway up between two of his fingers while posing for a photograph, camera-toting photographers trying to sell heavily photo shopped images of the monument and women selling miniature versions as keepsakes. These and more shenanigans are daily occurrences at the Gateway of India, Mumbai.

The Gateway remains a wry observer, seemingly oblivious to the crowds that gather around it but the imposing, yellowed gate with its four domes and weathered inscriptions gives away its age. It always evokes a second glance from tourists who gather to admire its beauty, locals who come to admire the sea breeze after a hard day’s work or just passer’s by.

Even with all this activity, there’s still always a hush around it. It’s almost like it’s a wise old man, whose reputation precedes him. He’s seen it all, he’s done it all and so you can’t help be awed in his presence. That’s what the Gateway if India is to Mumbai. Revered. It has seen Mumbai through everything. Bloody murders, bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, pick pocketing and run of the mill con artists. It has been witness to decades of celebrations; a romantic proposal by the sea and even just a day’s outing for a family. Candlelight vigils to protest against atrocities commemorate a day or an event; it’s seen and heard everything. It keeps everybody’s secrets. People say that they make unique memories at the Gateway and the truth is, everybody does. On March 31st 1911, the foundation stone of the Gateway of India was laid making 2011 its centenary year. For 100 years it has seen the city develop from an English colony to the financial capital of an independent nation, from a trading town to a bustling city; it has seen kings, sailors, fishermen, lovebirds and tourists pass through. A passageway to Bombay in the old days, today it sits and watches the streets of Mumbai as the city scurries along at a mind boggling pace. Even though it was famously inaugurated in 1924, its foundation was laid way back in March 1911 to commemorate the visit of the then King of England, King George V and his Queen, Mary to Bombay, as the city was formerly known. From 1911- 1920, its construction was interrupted to build a seawall and reclaim land, forcing construction to resume only in 1920.

The Gateway captures Mumbai’s all encompassing spirit and diversity. It brings together the architectural style of the two most at odds groups, Hindus and Muslims. With an arch that is an ode to Muslim architecture and decorations in the Hindu style it acts as a mirror to the streets that accommodate groups of people who are drastically different from one another but live, breathe and die side by side, in the same salty air of this cosmopolitan city.

The Gateway was meant to be accompanied by an esplanade but lack of funds forced a delay and change in construction. A sign of things to come perhaps because Mumbai is infamous for projects that have been abandoned midway or shoddily done because of cost constraints, like the Worli Bandra sea link that took double the time it was meant to, to be built because of delays caused by lack of funds. The roads of Mumbai are notoriously bad, repaired every year and disintegrating with the first monsoon showers.

Back in 1911, acquiring 21 lakhs (29,358)for a monument was a big amount and it was borne largely by the Government of the country and contributions from rich business families of the city. The Sassoons, a wealthy business family donated ten lakhs () towards the construction of the Gateway; a tradition that dates back to the 17th century wherein rich families of the city would donate money to develop their city and even today, they play an important role in the functioning of Mumbai.

It’s often debated whether it’s government that keeps Mumbai running or the dozens of rich business families and their connections. It is no stretch of the truth that the rich and the powerful have security that could rival that of the Government in our country and on many occasions, the whims of the rich have overpowered what is right and legal.

Salman Khan, a much loved film actor ran his car over a sleeping man and injured three others and was shockingly found not guilty of culpable homicide nor was he jailed in this case for even a few days while incidents of rich kids being involved in hit and runs scarcely make the front pages of newspapers. Even when they do, somehow follow up stories neglect to occur.

It’s often been described as the city of dreams; that big city where millions from under developed parts of India come to pursue greener pastures.

Very few go on to attain these dreams, like Dhirubhai Ambani who amassed his great fortune after relocating to Mumbai in 1958. He went on to feature on the Forbes list of the world’s richest men. The majority of movers however have to satisfy themselves with working in factories, as taxi or car drivers and maybe even domestic workers.

Says driver Kartik Yadav, “ Mumbai promises greener pastures but when you reach here it’s an entirely different story. It’s a struggle, it’s a fight to survive but the more you give this city, the more it gives back.”

It may promise greatness and the stars may cloud your eyes but the city is as unruly ass the waves of the ocean that can take you down as easily as let you ride on them.

At the end of the day, it is simply a stone archway but what makes it ever so important is the fact that in a city that’s constantly changing, fluctuating and sometimes struggling to survive, this 100 year old Gateway is still standing.

It’s witnessed bloody murders, bomb blasts and broken hearts. It’s seen crime, crowds and catastrophes. It’s been witness to the whims of the rich and the wails of the poor and even though Bombay has changed to Mumbai and it’s people labour everyday with themselves to survive in this land, the Gateway remains constant, forever.

Published in: on July 31, 2011 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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The grocery store of the masses- Bhaji Galli

 

A whizzing of flies is in the air. They sit atop the coconuts that stand in the very first stall of the lane and if you listen carefully, almost sound like a welcoming jingle.

Being able to hear them is rare as the noise of the street is so overwhelming that it becomes difficult to even hear the voices in your own head. It is after all, in every sense of the word a street vegetable market, Bhaji Gallli where vendors and buyers come together, burgeoning stalls and bargaining voices.

Oversized and overused umbrella’s shelter the brightly coloured fruits and vegetables from the harsh Mumbai sun and the even more relentless rains but flecks of mud nonetheless make it to a these wares. Flecks that are sneakily wiped off when the customer’s backs are turned.

More than 60 years old, this long meandering lane at 17, Shankar Seth Road, Bhaji Galli, offers a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in small stalls along with a quirky peppering of items such as metal vessels, plastic wares and oddly enough, a little shanty selling only fancy ribbons.

The smells in the air are confusing, there’s a whiff of garlic here, the smell of wet leafy vegetables there and somewhere in the midst, the scent of juicy plums.

You can find ordinary Indian vegetables and fruits here but as you venture into the heart of the market, exotic wares like Celery, rosemary, thyme, cherry tomatoes and purple cabbages make their presence felt.

The vendors have a kind of brotherhood, nobody slashes their prices beyond an accepted rate and most customers have their favourite sellers.

The stalls on the street are rented or even bought. Om Prakasah from Uttar Pradesh was attracted by the lure of the big city and came to Mumbai seeking fortune. He has his fields at home but decided to get into the fruit business and has been a fruit vendor at the market since ten years. “ You need a BMC license to own a stall here, which I don’t have so I rent out the space for Rs.6000 (₤ 84) a month.”

The opulence of the vegetables and fruits and the simplicity of the market and its lower middle class vendors form a sad paradox. Little boys younger than even 14 wander the lane offering their lifting services to customers, customers who only want the freshest fruit and the greatest variety in vegetables while the boys can scarcely afford even half a fruit.

As the vendors shoo these little men away and turn their backs, they dip into the somewhat spoilt fruit basket and wander away with a stray litchi, grins of accomplishment on their faces.

Much like the women who feel they’ve struck a great bargain and the vendors who think the same. It’s a continuation of the streets of Mumbai, where the rich remain rich, the poor remain poor and they both like to think they’ve outsmarted one another.

 

 

Published in: on July 23, 2011 at 7:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lost in London!

Left home at 11:07 am today, with the sun shining brightly and when I got back home it was 4:45 pm, nearly pitch dark and I was drenched and cold.

I could’ve kissed the floor of my university (if it hadn’t been so wet and dirty!) in relief.

Six hours is not long enough for me to feel such extreme emotions for a building but here’s why.

I spent two hours traveling to bricklane for a vintage fashion fair and another 30 minutes locating the place because strangely enough, not even the people that owned stalls outside the place knew where it was!

On the way back I lost my way on the tube, had to change three lines, get a bus and finally walk to my university.

Native Londoners complain about the transport in London all the time. They say the trains don’t run on time, the cabs are too expensive and the traffic is crazy.

I’m from Mumbai where the traffic is worse; the trains not only don’t run on time but also are so full of people that getting flung out is a very real possibility.

After 2 months in London I learnt my way around the streets and the tube map became easy enough to follow.

I would still pick Mumbai’s unorganized system over this one.

Ask me why? Its because while the tubes exists they decide to take weekends off. They have ‘planned construction’ delays and blocks.

Being a student the weekend is my only time to explore London and I cannot afford the exorbitant cab fares nor is my weekend long enough to endure three hours of London traffic to get somewhere.

Then the fabulous Directions.

People are helpful its true, very but whether the directions actually help is debatable. “Xx street is off abc road”. Now what in god’s name is ‘off’ supposed to mean? Is it at the end of the road or in a lane on the road?

Another one,’”Walk a considerable distance, look on your right and left then ask someone else.”

‘”Its round the corner’” is another gem. I think, the corner of the road in front of me, behind me or the side?

In Mumbai I longed for an organized transport system, as I didn’t realize the value of having trains, taxis, buses and autos at my disposal albeit a bit disorganised.

Here in London if I want to get somewhere all that’s really dependable and affordable are my two strong legs, as even though it’s organized enough to inform the public about transport issues really, how does that help?

Photo: – http://photobucket.com/images/uken35677/

Published in: on November 14, 2010 at 7:32 pm  Comments (7)  
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Miss Bean- Starring Chandni Sehgal

Everyone that has seen Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean thinks he’s a funny man but everyone thinks his misadventures seem a little too over the top to be true.

I beg to differ. I came to university two months ago after having lived my entire life at home. Since then I’ve been in a few bean-ish situations more than once.

I was born, bred in Mumbai city and enjoyed the perks of having a lot of normal, everyday things done for me.. like my laundry and my morning tea, which someone always made for me or I bought in a plastic cup at a coffee shop.

The time had come for a change, I now live alone in university dorms.

Which means if I need a cup of tea, I make it myself. So my room has a kettle. It also has a very sensitive fire alarm so the first time I made tea; I made sure I switched the kettle off before the fire alarm could detect anything. I also made sure I didn’t get tea. What I got was an odd combination of milk without water pooled at the top and the two, definitely hadn’t mixed.

While having a shower, I slathered body lotion all over my hair mistaking it to be conditioner. The tiny bathroom and hot showered had definitely fogged my vision.

From liquids we move to solids. Oranges. I tried to peel one. Then I tried to cut it. It didn’t relent. It was me against the orange. Ultimately like a creature from a cannibal movie I bit into the skin, sucking out all the juice I could. Spraying my carpeted floor in the bargain.

Next, defrosting. It is not as easy as it looks and on more than one occasion I have waited patiently for my pizza to bake in the oven only to realize 20 minutes later, I hadn’t actually turned the oven on. I have  managed to burn myself from the darn oven in the process of wrestling the pizza out of it. Twice.

I have scars from cutting myself with knives, burning myself with the oven and hand washing clothes that I spilt food on .I wear them proudly as they signify I have survived. I lived.

College is all about learning, from education to knowledge it’s been giving me a little of everything. Who knows, maybe next week I’ll progress to actually making omelets.

One step at a time.

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 9:38 pm  Comments (6)  
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Home is where the heart is <3

The greatest journeys are the one’s that bring you home. A line from the book *The Namesake best describes our relationship with the places we call home.

Most of us are nomadic, it doesn’t mean we literally live on the road but in life we go from one place to another. The places we go to and the places we leave behind always stay in our hearts but the one place that is irreplaceable is the one we call home.

Home is not where you spend the most years or where your family is. It is what makes you who you are, the place that you ultimately and completely belong to. The place where you fit in, something we struggle to do throughout our lives.

It was a particular incident that got me thinking about this. London has a huge Indian and Pakistani community. The 2010 floods of Pakistan have prompted citizens living in a London area called Harrow to come together and raise money for the victims under the Harrow Mayors flood relief appeal.

One of the principal organisers of an event held yesterday was a man who hails from Pakistan. He left home decades ago but still made the effort of going back inspecting the flood ravaged area and raising money for the people that were affected. His life in London is far removed from a place he left behind but the pull we feel to home is like no other and this is proof enough.

Mr. R. Khanna left India for America 20 years ago and even had to take up U.S citizenship in order to end the problems he faced after 9/11. He maybe a US citizen by legality but in his heart, he will always be an Indian.

He says,” I have lived in this country for 20 years but I have never belonged. I still feel that I will return to my home – India, one Day. It may sound totally silly, but the best sleep I have ever had was always in India. I still remember waking up to the sound of koel in the distance.”

The park that you met your first boyfriend in, the library you used to get away when the world got to difficult to bear and the bread that you only get in the tiny shop near your home gives you warmth and  a feeling of familiarity. *Home is that place that remains unchanged letting you see the ways in which you have altered.

I left my home two months ago to come study at the University of Westminster. London maybe the most vibrant city in the world with the best desserts and the most beautiful parks but I know that no matter how much I fall in love with London the place in my heart that’s reserved for my home says Mumbai. And I’m pretty sure any one else who has ever left home agrees with me.

*Adaptation of a Nelson Mandela quote

*From The Namesake

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 2:45 pm  Comments (6)  
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