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.
I love South Mumbai, or town as many of us refer to that part of Mumbai. It is one of my favourite areas of the city and I’m always looking for excuses to head towards that side of the city. Need to buy a book? Want to stock up on dry fruits? Buy a gift? Meet a friend for coffee? No, problem. I just make a trip to town. 🙂
I haven’t been needing an excuse these last couple of months. Every Saturday, I head to town for my PG Diploma in Indian Aesthetics classes. Though they are in the afternoon, I try to combine it with other ‘work’ or explorations in town.
About a month back, I had a minor fall that left me with a sprained ankle. Nothing serious, but my doctor didn’t want me gallivanting to town in local trains or walking around and straining the ankle, especially since I was due to travel soon. (I leave today. Yay !). That meant that my forays to town had to be restricted to going for class and coming straight back home. It was a depressing thought !
A couple of days later after the fall, I got a mail from Blacklane, a car ride service referring to an earlier email exchange. Sometime in June, Blacklane had reached out offering me a ride anywhere in Mumbai. Since I didn’t need one at that time, I declined and we left it that. The second time around, I didn’t decline, Blacklane offered me their services a couple of Saturdays back.
This is an account, in pictures, of that day in town.
The visit to Nala Sopara in March this year had its beginnings in a museum located 85 km away in Mumbai. On one of my many visits to the sculpture gallery of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, I came across an exhibit which, at first glance, looked like a random block of stone.
But museums don’t exhibit just about any random block of stone, do they? A closer look at the stone exhibit revealed inscriptions and when I read the accompanying information board, discovered that I was looking at the 9th Ashokan Edict. This edict, which dates the third century BCE, had been found at a stupa in Nala Sopara.
I was vaguely aware that Nala Sopara had a Buddhist past, but this was the first time I was hearing about the presence of a stupa there. An internet search revealed that the stupa at Nala Sopara still existed, that it was under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and also that one could visit it. The same internet search also led me to this fabulous blog post that not only talked about the stupa, but also an ancient temple in Nala Sopara — the Chakreshwar Mahadev Temple.
The result? The first free Saturday that came up saw me headed for Nala Sopara (which is connected by suburban train services from Mumbai) with my friends — Anuradha, Rama and Rupal. 🙂
“And why should I give the keys of the building terrace to you?”
“We want to see the art painted on the terrace of your building?”
“The terrace is not safe. You could fall over.”
“We’ll be very careful. We only want to see the art work there.”
“That is what everyone says.” The office bearer of the Nabi Nagar Co-op. Housing Society at Dharavi (Mumbai) glares at my friends and me and launches into a tirade about people pestering him for keys to the terrace all the time, how it was no longer safe for the building children as they wanted to go to the terrace, how it was a nuisance, etc.
We listen to him and commiserate with him and promise to be very careful and not allow any children up on the terrace with us. But he isn’t done ranting and after what seemed like a long time, he runs out of steam and grudgingly hands over the keys to us.
As we thank him, he says with a sly smile, “The lift doesn’t work. You’ll have to take the stairs all the way up to the terrace on the 9th floor.”
On a Saturday morning in November 2014, I participated in a special, curated walk — perhaps the first of its kind — on street art. Organised by the St+art India Foundation, the walk was to showcase the culmination of almost three weeks of work done by 20 renowned artists from India and abroad in and around Bandra in Mumbai.
I had closely followed the progress of the various artworks on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And each time an artwork was “unveiled”, the itch to go and see them for myself only intensified. So when the announcement of a curated and guided street art walk popped up on my Facebook feed, I immediately signed up for it. But then, the excitement gave way to scepticism.
Let me elaborate. I love street art — it’s vibrancy, its uniqueness, its colourfulness, and the fact that they don’t follow any set rules. But most of all I love how all the street art I have seen have been serendipitous and delightful finds. Something, I thought that a curated walk would not be able to give.
Still, the lure of seeing the St+Art in Bandra prevailed over my scepticism and I made it for the walk, as did 10 other people.