March 07, 2006

Educating ourselves on local history

Lessons to learn. Ideas to borrow. This time in Bombay.
How do we network with citizens, private bodies and state institutions to educate ourselves on our local history?
The established Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
was on in Bombay when I was there last week and though I have soaked in it before, there were events I had missed.
Among them were the heritage walks.
So on Sunday morning, after the 6am Holy Mass at the Gloria
Church in Byculla, where you can get Konkani newspapers and magazines, I zipped down to Rampart Row and joined the just-out-of-bed crowd outside the Lion Gate of the Navy Dockyard.
The walks are held as part of the Kala Ghoda Fest, which has the Times of India as its new sponsor, and they are conducted by the Bombay Heritage Walks - founded by architects Abha Bahl and Brinda Gaitonde in 1999.
The previous evening, I had managed to squeeze myself in into the group, which was on the Regal Cinema walk. In the unsparing Saturday traffic, Brinda gamely threw her voice to
educate us on the architectural variety that the buildings around the fountain here, offers tourists.
The Sunday event was conducted by the Indian Navy.
Our guide inside the dock was Capt. A. P. S Talwar, a senior
manager at the Naval Dock Yard and when the friendly Sardar picked up the megaphone, there were close to 200 people hugging him.
There was a lot to see - the dry docks, the vintage workshops, submarines under repair, vintage fire extinguishers, remnants of the fort and a museum (wonder why they named it Motivational Hall?!).
Capt. Talwar was a persevering guide and when he was done, he got a huge round of applause.
The walk was indeed a bonus. Exploring a 'high security' campus is.
The previous evening we had explored another ÔsecuredÕ place - the office of the Police Commissioner, once a Mess for sailors.
The Naval walk was promoted by Vice Admiral Madhavendra Singh, Flag Officer Commander-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, Mumbai, in 2001. Today, the walk is held on the first Sunday of every month and is open to the public.
And when Abha and Brinda sought permission from the Top Cop to bring in people, to the Commissionerate, he had told them - this is your property!
Clearly, when officials and people open their homes and offices to people who wish to explore their local heritage, these add-ons are bonuses!
On the Mylapore walk in our city, two families, the Natarajans and Nagarajans, always open their doors to people.
Next weekend, a Dutch group will be treated to a 'pongal-vada-coffee' breakfast stop at one of these old houses.

One way to celebrate the best things of our neighbourhoods.

1 comment:

GB said...

is it possible to get information about heritage walks in other cities too? if its done by a private group it would be better instead of government organised walks......