Mumbai Lens: The Shoe House

This blog post was featured in the “Around the Blog” section of the DNA newspaper published on February 27, 2012 (pg.6).

I did my first 4 years of schooling in Mumbai and without fail the annual school picnic followed the same pattern—a visit to the Byculla Zoo, followed by lunch in the grounds there; then a quick visit to the Gateway of India; and finally a drive along the Marine Drive to the Kamala Nehru Park at Malabar Hill. This is part that we kids would be waiting for—a romp in the grounds and a visit to the Shoe House in the Park (and not necessarily in that order).

The Shoe House, which is supposedly inspired by the nursery rhyme “The Old Woman who Lived in the Shoe”, was the star attraction for us. A larger than life shoe-shaped house, painted a bright yellow with red shoe laces, a red roof and red chimney—it was every kid’s dream house. We would climb the narrow stairs in twos and threes to the balcony and wave out to the other classmates and feel that the Shoe House and the world belonged to us ! Ah the thrill and joy that little climb gave us.

The Shoe House at Kamala Nehru Park, Mumbai

My family left Mumbai in 1980 and that was the last I saw it. Till last February, that is, when I visited the Kamala Nehru Park on a sudden whim. I was delighted to see that the Shoe House was still standing and children were still running in and out of it. What was surprising was that there were so many adults who competing with the children and running up and down the stairs, and posing and getting their photographs taken. I too waited my turn and climbed up to the balcony and waved to the people standing below. And felt on top of the world, with all my nostalgic memories rushing back.

Of course, the yellow of the Shoe House had faded, the shoe looked dirty and scuffed, but it was charming nevertheless. But then so is nostalgia, isn’t it? 😀

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.

38 thoughts on “Mumbai Lens: The Shoe House

  1. I used to go on an annual trip to the Hanging Gardens and the Old Woman’s boot with my Dad. This was usually after visiting the Prince of Wales Museum and the Gateway :). I guess, most kids have the same stories in Mumbai!

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  2. You echo my first sentiment and thought when I say the shoe house first…I thought why would the old woman live in a shoe and when I saw the shoe the first time 20 years ago, I knew why, it was like a fairy tale….you take me back to the begining of my adulthood and those lovely fantasies despite the penumbra of the shadow! Thanks for helping me relive those fantasies!

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    1. Welcome here Jayess and thank you for stopping by and commenting. Not all fairy tales or nursery rhymes are nive and many of them actually have pretty dark histories or interpretations, the shoe house included. And yet, to see it like this is like a fantasy coming true. I would also love to see a real gingerbread house 🙂

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    1. Did we? I’m not sure about the shoe house, but I definitely remember learning the rhyme and asking my teacher as to how an old woman could have so many children ! And that they must have been her grandchildren 😛

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  3. Awww… this has brought back memories in a flood..We live in Nepeansea rd and hanging garden always used to be our monthly thing.. and those colored animals on the fence…I haven’t been there in like 20 years and seeing this today makes me want to go home.

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    1. Welcome here Kajal and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Those coloured animals are … er… quite something, aren’t they? The nearby Pherozeshah Garden has garden hedges clipped like Hanuman, etc. You should go and see those as well. 🙂

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  4. Thanks for sharing this! I remember playing the part of the ‘Old Woman’ in a school play – in Class 3 with talcum powder in my hair! – and this post took me back 🙂

    It’s wonderful the way our memories serve us – charming nostalgia, as you said!
    Cheers!

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    1. Then we have something in common, apart from blogging that is 🙂 I also played the role of the “Old Old Woman who lived in the shoe” in an “English action song” in class 4, though sand make up and all that. And our group even won a prize in an inter-school competition ! 🙂

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  5. I remember it too, but the first time I visited it was when I was 12! However, I took the boys when they were much younger and relived the joy through them. The rhyme of course was very sad, wasn’t it? I think it is a nice way to soften the blow of the rhyme by making it a playhouse for kids 🙂

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    1. I think it is high time that you start re-visiting places in Mumbai ! St. Andrews Chuch, Bandra Fort, Carter Road Promenade, the Gateway of India, and now this. Better start now before your list gets unmanageable.

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  6. This is lovely. My grandmother sailed to Australia in 1961 after the death of my grandfather. She was one of the £10 “poms”. Her middle daughter has lived there for over 60 years now so she lived with her for 18 months and then went to my other aunt in Hong Kong. One of her ports of call on her outward journey was Bombay where she saw the Shoehouse and even though I wasn’t quite two years old, she sent me a postcard of this house. I still have it 52 years later !! Thank you !!

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