This post has its beginnings on a hot summer afternoon in Mumbai, when I reluctantly accompanied a friend who was visiting the city to Palladium Mall in the Lower Parel. I’m not particularly fond of malls and do my best to avoid visit them; the visit to Palladium Mall was probably my second or third. If not for the fact that this was a dear and very close friend, I would not have agreed to visit the mall.
As my friend explored the various the various stores spread over four floors of Palladium Mall — Mumbai’s “first luxury and premium retail…destination” — I dutifully followed her around. At one of the stores in the uppermost level, as she made some purchases and paid for them, I decided to wait outside the store and look around.
As I leaned over the banisters into the atrium, beautiful floor patterns created from different types of polished stone looked back at me.
About 10 days back, Mumbai Metro’s 2B Dream Line arrived right outside my workplace — or to be more specific, the groundwork for the Metro line — bringing disruption in its wake. The barriers used to cordon off the road proclaimed that the Metro was for the “bright future of the citizens”, and that Mumbai Metro was “Our Metro”.
But is it really? Let’s see.
Will the 20-odd shopkeepers who have lost their jobs and their livelihoods due to the Metro really consider it theirs? What future are they going to dream of when their present is destroyed?
What about the kaali peeli taxi stand who were unceremoniously asked to close down overnight? Already facing competition from the Olas and the Ubers, this would have been like the final nail in the coffin.
What about the number of trees that have already been cut and the many others that are awaiting the axe — all in the name of development? What about the birds and animals for whom these trees were home? An entire colony of bats that vanished overnight when their tree was cut.
These few instances are only from the short stretch of the road outside my workplace. When If one were to consider the entire city of Mumbai and the effect and cost of the Metro work, the mind boggles and leads to many questions.
It all started off with me spotting Lord Ganesha in a dragonboat, sitting pretty on the dashboard of the Uber I got into on a September morning in 2018. That’s a rather unusual Ganesha you have, I mentioned to the cab driver.
That was all it needed to get the driver talking. Appasaheb, that was his name, liked unusual designs and was very particular about what he surrounded himself with. Like the Ganesha in the dragonboat he had picked up from a shop in central Mumbai — he knew it would be perfect to adorn his cab dashboard. The conversation flowed and when I arrived at my destination, I was surprised to find that 40 minutes had elapsed.
A few days later, I was in a cab again and the first thing I noticed was the Ganesha on the dashboard, this time with a mini parasol. Like with Appasaheb, I got chatting with Sanjay, the cab driver. Thereafter, it became a habit to look at the dashboard as soon as I got into a cab and chat with the cab driver about the God placed there.
Little did I realise about the significance of that conversation with Appasaheb. What began as a series of fun capture about the Gods on cab dashboards soon turned to random shares on Instagram Stories. But over weeks and then months, these shares turned into an entire series with its own hashtag called #DashboardGod and conversations which I did not share.
I love experiences that challenge me, make me think and occasionally shake me up a bit — not too much, mind you, just a little. Be it a book, travel, a music performance, food… the memories that have stayed with me are the ones that offered something extra by way of perception. The exhibition on “Mutable: Ceramic and Clay Art in India since 1947“ at the Piramal Museum of Art in Mumbai was one such experience. Curated by Sindhura D.M. and Annapurna Garimella, Mutable showcases 70 years of ceramic and clay art objectssourced from artists, artisans, institutions and private collectors from across India.
I wasn’t aware of this exhibition till photos of its preview night on October 13, 2017, exploded on all my social media timelines. Friends who knew of my interest in all things art tagged me and I went dizzy just keeping up. In the days that followed, tantalising articles and write-ups in newspapers followed, tempting me to drop everything and visit the exhibition, but as it happened it took me 10 days before I could actually do so.
It was my first visit to the Piramal Museum of Art and when I walked in on that October afternoon, I didn’t know where to look first — the large open exhibition space or the exhibits. Exhibition spaces fascinate me in how they are designed to interact with the exhibits within and also how their very design enhances or limits viewer experience. In this case the large open gallery, a viewing gallery on the first floor, a domed roof and the exhibits promised a great experience.
My experience of and participation in the annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) this year, which was held from 3rd to 12th February, was limited, for I was travelling. This was the first time that I missed the opening day of KGAF, missed seeing the stalls open, missed seeing the installations on the first day, missed bumping into people I always meet at the KGAF, missed attending other events…
It felt strange and kind of weird to miss out on what has become an annual tradition for me. So I did the next best thing: the day after I returned to Mumbai, I headed to Rampart Row in the Kala Ghoda area, where the visual art installations are displayed. Like in previous years, I went in the morning, before the place officially opened and before the place got crowded. Since I wasn’t following the #htKGAF hashtag on social media, I had no idea what the installations were like. So it was almost like seeing them on the first day. Almost.
As always I began with the Kala Ghoda installation — the black horse that is the centrepiece of the KGAF.
Over 500 events were organised during this iconic annual festival in the following categories: Children, Children’s Literature, Cinema, Dance, Food, Heritage Walks, Literature, Music, Stand-Up Comedy, Street and Stalls, Theatre, Urban Design and Architecture, and Visual Arts. While I wanted to attend some of the events in the Workshops and Heritage Walk sections, I couldn’t. I could only manage to view the installations at different venues — Rampart Row, CSMVS Museum Grounds and Cross Maidan.
I visited the KGAF 2016 on three separate days. The first was on the evening of the opening day itself. When I arrived at Rampart Row, it was to the familiar sight of college goers with selfie sticks, ‘serious’ photographers with even more ‘serious’ camera gear, families looking forward to an evening together, wailing toddlers… all queuing up impatiently for the security check. Once in, my eyes automatically sought out the installation of the “Kala Ghoda” or the black horse that the festival derives its name from. This installation changes every year and the 2016 version was a visual stunner. Fashioned like a giant chess piece, it was strategically placed in front of a horse-shaped cut out.