I would like to draw you attention here to the fact that our filmmakers have it tough nowadays. No, no one is expecting scripts or hoping a movie will have decent performances. Bah, that’s nuts. But they’re faced with the turmoil of having to choose the one shot that will represent Bombay. Think about it, do you choose a done to death aerial shot of Gateway of India or do you attempt being cool with a shot of Bandra Worli sealink (you have to be indie enough to do that)? Or do you just show Dhobi Ghat? I mean, the choices are endless and a nightmare surely for our erudite movie makers. But funnily enough, while truly gorgeous, none of these icons truly represent Mumbai in all its historical glory.
I was invited by the team at Raconteur Walks for a ‘Churchgate and Heritage Mile Walk’ on 2nd August, 2015 at 8:30am. Guys, please feel for me. I woke up at 7 on a Sunday for this walk.
At this point, I must mention the fact that the team at Raconteur Walks was extremely proactive and happy to assist me with any queries or concerns I had. A special shoutout goes out to Aminah from their team for happily sorting out the details for me. An email informed me that Dwayne – one of their seasoned guides – would be doing this tour. I started out apprehensively, the last time I had done a Bandra walk, we gathered around the guide excitedly and her actual words were ‘ this is where the locals meet every morning.’ Yeah, that’s it. I was hoping this would be better as Aminah promised it would be.
And awesome it was. Here are 5 tidbits about Mumbai’s history I bet you didn’t know.
1.Victoria bes missing
Did you know that VT originally had a gigantic statue of Queen Victoria? And you can still see the empty space. The story goes that when we got our Independence, we didn’t want any symbolism of British dominance around us or so atleast any that was too obvious and we unceremoniously moved the statue. The removed statue is believed to be at the Byculla Zoo. Cheeky.
2. Fort of Call
The whole of Mumbai was housed inside a fort the wall of which was along the present day Fort area. Hence, the name. Yes, there were only that many people. In fact, Dwayne told us that the reason one side of the Fort area has buildings with no concept of personal space and the other side has intersecting roads etc is because the opposite side was built much later once the wall was brought down. Explains the little planning that did happen around that area.
3. Gotta love ‘em Parsis
Mumbai, present day and historically, owes plenty to the Parsis. One Parsi gentleman was so generous with his money, he acquired the nickname Readymoney. He liked it so much, he added it to his name. It’s the same with the name Petit. The Parsi gentlemen (I forgot his original name), was tiny and about 4’ 11” in height. The British often called him petite. A name he took a liking to and added it to his.
4. That’s a Googly
At some point, the Oval Maidan and all the other huge fields around that area were one long esplanade. The British loved playing cricket there but eventually got bored of playing within themselves and invited a few Indians to give them competition. However, the Indians got too good and the British, well, didn’t like it. They broke up the esplanade into various grounds meant for different communities so they could have Oval Maidan all to themselves, free of the skilled Indians.
5. Money is time
The British were used to having the time announced by huge clocks strategically placed where you could see them. When they were in Mumbai, they couldn’t tell day from night. Okay, that was a little extreme, but yes they wanted a tower that could tell the time. By this time, Readymoney was a little not so ready with the money, so they got in touch with another gentleman who agreed to part with this money as long as they named the clock tower after his mother. And that’s why you have Rajabai Tower. Two minute silence for those who thought it was Rajabhai Tower (I did).
To wrap it up
Company: Raconteur Walks
Service availed: Churchgate and Heritage Mile Walk
The wallet is lighter by : Rs.150. All of August, they are running a special offer where you pay a registration fee of Rs.150 and then how much ever you want to give the guide. It’s super.
Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org. Call: +91 22 22705280/81/82
Destress Quotient: 5 AAHs (That’s a first!)
Verdict: Dwayne knew the history like the back of his hand. It was obvious that there is lots of research goes behind designing a tour like this. Plus, they gave us caps, a drink and a energy bar to start off our tour. They ended it with us filling up feedback forms and being given postcards of old Mumbai (the cutest.) Overall, if all their tours are this details and interesting, you can safely place your bets on them.