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.
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.
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. 🙂
A short distance away from the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) buildings in South Mumbai is its Monetary Museum. The museum, which is the first (and perhaps the only one) of its kind is all about something that is an intrinsic part of our daily life — money. The Monetary Museum is not very well-known, but having visited it I can say that is one of Mumbai’s, and perhaps India’s, best curated museums.
Though I had been aware of the Monetary Museum’s existence for some years now, I had never gotten around to actually visiting it. Which is kind of strange as the Museum is located in an area that I visit quite often. And when I did actually visit it earlier this year, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision that led me there!
A 10-15 minute walk from CST or Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the RBI Monetary Museum is a high security museum, with no photography and no bags inside. Entry is free and after depositing my bag and cell phone in the locker provided, and a security check later, I was inside the first of the 6 galleries of the Museum.
Did you know that there is another dargah near the world-famous Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai? By near, I mean as the crow flies or perhaps in this case as a seagull flies, for it is across the sea at Mahalaxmi to Worli. This dargah is known as the Worli Dargah or the dargah-with-the-blue-dome. Of course, if you are aware of this dargah’s existence then you would know that its full and official name is Saint Ma Hajiani Dargah.
I didn’t know any of this. I can’t even say that I have seen the blue dome of the Worli dargah. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed till a friend told me about it. And that too, when she first mentioned it, I thought she was talking about the Haji Ali Dargah. As did the cab driver taking us there resulting in both of us being corrected by my friend and us, in turn, being reprimanded by the cab driver for not knowing the right name of the dargah or giving him the right directions.
Anyway, we reached the entrance gate leading to the Saint Ma Hajiani Dargah only to be confronted by a suspicious and surly watchman whose inquiring look made me feel like a school girl. When I mentioned the dargah he only pointed the way and motioned us in with a ‘finger-on-the-lips’ gesture.
We followed the direction pointed to us, went past a mosque on one side and some living quarters on the other side and came out into a little clearing with these steps going up.