A little while ago, I was asked to conduct a heritage walk for Wilson College’s Local Culture class, to introduce them to the story of Mumbai’s origin and growth. Two months long, the course is a one of a kind programme, extra-curricular and open to students from different undergraduate programmes. Its conducted primarily on Sundays, outside regular class hours, and aims to introduce participants to their city’s culture and history through walks and site visits. With access to experts leading sessions on food, cinema, religious traditions, material culture and physical heritage, and to usually inaccessible spaces such as the Parsi Towers of Silence, crumbling stone forts, and parts of the CST World Heritage Site to name just a few, it made me want to go back to college and sign up! I managed to get only two pictures of my session with the lucky group.
The old Town Hall building is one of my favourite places to introduce first time explorers to the story of Mumbai. To stand at the top of its stairs is to stand at what is literally the city’s ‘zero point’, or point of origin. From here, the city would grow, initially outwards and then northward as it continues to do even today. With a little imagination and prompting, its possible to picture what Bombay looked, and sounded, like from that very vantage point, through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. How and why it emerged and grew, from a group of seven swampy islands to the mega-city and financial capital it is today, is the story this particular walk route highlights.
Three hours later, having wound our way through and along the path of the erstwhile walls of the Bombay Fort, we ended our walk at the Gateway of India. Marking the site of Britain’s final departure from India in 1948, and so much more, the plaza in front of the monument is a great spot to end a walk through’s Bombay’s early history. And have a photo session, of course:)