As part of my “Mumbai Local” series, I am always on a look-out for Mumbai’s hidden nooks and corners, often the non-touristy parts of the city which we as residents either take for granted or don’t notice while going about our everyday lives. Recently I came across Raconteur Walks, a group of Mumbai enthusiasts who organize theme based walking tours around Mumbai and show people a new side of this city, that we call home.
Priyanka, another fellow traveler and a hard-core Mumbai-ite, and I saw the website of Raconteur Walks and decided to try one of their walks. They had 5 to choose from (each covered a different part of the city), but we decided to go for “Churchgate-Heritage Mile walk”, after all who wants to miss an opportunity to see the old and best part of Mumbai’s history and architecture. The meeting point for this was at the Aaram vada-pav stall near Capitol Theatre and we just couldn’t resist grabbing a bite of this really tasty snack early morning. We also met Viraat and Zui here and received a Ranconteur branded cap, a bottle of Nimbooz and a Nature Valley granola bar. All of which was extremely useful during the entire walk. 🙂
We started the walk opposite the Victoria Terminus (VT) station (one of most iconic and beautiful buildings in Mumbai) and the BMC building. Viraat quickly gave us a brief snapshot into Mumbai’s history starting from its earliest recording as Heptanesia to its transformation into the present day bustling metropolis of Mumbai. We also got a quick insight into how the VT station and the BMC buildings were commissioned and stories associated with their design, execution and salient features. A lot of these facts were familiar but many were quite new to us too. He also had a set of laminated old photographs of the city and the maps, that he kept showing us during the entire walk. This was actually quite useful in helping us understand how the city and the buildings originally stood and the massive changes that the city has undergone all around it.
We then walked down DN road towards Flora Fountain and kept stopping at various buildings to get a glimpse of interesting sculptures, discuss the designs and at times to generally stand and admire these masterpieces that still stand tall despite age, harsh Mumbai weather and the atrocious changes that are made in some of these buildings. We continued our walk and reached Flora Fountain and I got answers to quite a few queries that I always had about this fountain and the area around it. I finally also got to know why this fountain was made and was called “Flora”. And no, it had nothing to do with any woman named “Flora”. We also stared sadly at the ugly parking lot that now is the background for this beautiful fountain.
We then continued our walk towards Kala Ghoda, where there used to be a Black Horse :), got to know the stories behind the different buildings around here such as the Army Navy Building, the Sassoon Library and I finally saw the once famous and now in shambles Watson hotel.
From here we turned and continued our walk towards the beautiful buildings of Mumbai Sessions Court, the Mumbai University, the Rajabai Tower and the Mumbai High Court. Now I am so intrigued by the designs of many of these buildings from the outside that I also want to see them from inside. Like the convocation Hall of the Mumbai University building seemed to have some stunning stain glass that I would love to see. And the Mumbai High Court has some carvings of some cheeky animals with imparting some unusual messages.
Post that we walked along the Oval Maidan and ended our tour near Eros Theater.
This entire walk took around 2.5 hours and overall I had a very good experience. This tour are made very interesting by many anecdotes and gossip (some actual and some lore) along with the actual history and architecture. I learnt many new things that I was otherwise oblivious to about the city of Mumbai. Walking along this trail I also noticed many small things about these old buildings that I had not seen or noticed before. This walk also made me realize that what we have here is a part of history that needs to be preserved and cherished.
By design, I am not sharing the stories and anecdotes that were shared during this walk, as I would like you to hear them first hand. But just as a sneak peak, you will get an answer to the following questions – Where was Phassi (hanging) talao in Mumbai? Why are Churchgate and Flora Fountain named as they are? Why the stark contrast in design of buildings on either side of the Oval Maidan? Did Mumbai have a Fort, for that area to be called so? Why one side of DN road is very congested while the other side is better planned? Why did the Rajabai Tower ring 15 minutes before sunset everyday? and very many more 🙂
Even Raconteur Tours believes that Heritage preservation is losing its color due to loss of awareness at some level. Hence in a small endeavor to promote, preserve and create awareness of heritage in the city , Raconteur Walks plans to do a special walking tour this Republic Day (26 January 2014) to give us residents of Mumbai a chance to discover and re-discover this beautiful city. You can check this link for additional information on the Republic Day walk and they are also giving a 50% discount. 🙂 So don’t waste this Republic Day morning by just sleeping in or sitting in front of the TV, but grab those walking shoes languishing in some corner, step out and discover your own hidden secret corner and story in this beautifully historic city.
This walk was sponsored by Raconteur walks but experience that we had and views that I have shared, are my own 🙂