If you have lived in Mumbai long enough, many interesting places in the city seem like furniture to you. I am sure you knew that there’s a zoo in Byculla. Or that Asiatic Library exists – and not just as a outside of a court for Bollywood movies but as a fully functional library. Often, having been around them, we forget how they offer a glimpse into the history of this city. On one sunny day, I decided to visit the Bhauji Lad Museum, in the same compound as the zoo. Here’s what’s inside.

The space

The Bhauji Lad Museum is small, only 2 floors. I was a little underwhelmed. Surely just two floors cannot do justice to a city with a vibrant, dramatic history. And it does not. Make no mistake, the exhibits are painstakingly laid out and interestingly encased in glass boxes. However with a malfunctioning audio device, there was much left to be desired about the details. There is definitely an effort put into carefully explaining history but with not much written information, you are often left filling the gaps for yourself.

The experience

While the exhibits are beautiful and graciously placed, the museum itself seems to lack coherence. We start with the leisurely activity of older times. Playing cards, hukkas etc are displayed here. From here, it goes on the weapons, gifts and lots more. Perhaps a better explanation of the historical significance in context is due here. Some are explained, some we have to skip due to lack of understanding.

The second floor is dedicated wholly to the city on Mumbai and its history. The big glass case showcasing the headgear of the many communities that occupy this city is fun. To the right and left of this case are figurines that showcase the clothes and distinct features of these communities. Ancient maps of Mumbai are also available for us to see. Then come the occupations of the city’s dwellers, games and then suddenly we are looking at communities that were part of the British Army. Onto other exhibits which had village and town lives and how these look.

This museum, you can tell, has seen a lot of improvement over the years. However, the scope here is tremendous. From explaining the story behind some exhibits, having fully functioning audio devices, clearly marked pathways so you know where to go, there’s lots that could use attention. Another aspect that is wholly missing here are interactive exhibits. I have been to museums around the world that keep the visitor engaged from pressing buttons to see movements or by posing questions at exhibits. At its core, it is wonderful, only it’s ancillaries need a little attention.

The services

I went on a regular weekday and the crowd was a mix of people looking for an escape for the unrelenting heat outside and students. The entry to the museum is merely Rs.10 and an audio guide was available for Rs.30. I was warned by the person manning the counter that the audio guide was malfunctioning and was given no further instructions. No guide was available at the counter and I assume the museum doesn’t employ any. My camera was let in, no questions asked. I was told, however, that I may not use the flash. The audio guide starts automatically and systematically divulging information about the exhibit you stand in front of. Written and narrated beautifully, the audio guide is a must. Some exhibits that did have the symbol didn’t have an explanation on the guide and if you walk through exhibits that are side by side, the audio device tends to get confused and give you information about both or none. With no buttons on the device, it a little unwieldy to deal with .

In a glimpse 

Inside: Bhauji Lad Museum, Byculla East

The wallet is lighter by : Rs.40 (Rs.10 for entry and Rs.30 for the audio guide)

Get in touch: 022 2373 1234 

Hygiene of place: Clean

Destress Quotient: 2 AAHs (0.5 AAHs have been cut because it can get really hot in there, it’s not air conditioned)

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