For the gang behind the Heritage tours, showing people a different side of the city is worth the trouble. And as personal histories merge with the public one, the curators take back as much as they share.
What makes an Andheri resident curate heritage walks in Fort?
Kruti Garg (co-curator): As a conservation architect, my study is related to history and heritage. So even if I lived in Vashi, I'd be connected to this part of Bombay. This is the core, where the city's 200-year history begins. Our trails cover more than architectural styles. You can see Bombay through its stained glass, even its food. Yes, I call it Bombay.
The historic bunch: From left: Mohit Hirlekar, Apoorva Nanjangud, Pervin Mistry, Kruti Garg and Anne Thomas P. Not featured: Curators Sunaeya Vandrewala and Shraddha Bhtawadekar
What happens on a tour?
Garg: Much of our job involves giving the right information within the time we have. But people always want more. They're all over you. They don't want to miss a thing. So volunteers manage the crowd. We once had 100 people, so we split them into two groups, turning a 90-minute walk into a three-hour one. Still, no one moved, no one complained. They're wonderful!
Pervin Mistry (bus tour guide): Everyone's having fun! They love seeing the monuments from a different point of view and…
Apoorva Nanjangud (volunteer): …their eyes light up when they learn something new. One thing they all want is to stop for a photo op with the structures. We keep saying, "Ok. Two minutes".
Mohit Hirlekar (volunteer): Organising is 10 times more fun than attending! People look at you and go, "Oh, we have just one hour, but you see these beautiful places every day."
The hardest part of doing tours?
Anne Thomas P (volunteer): It can get overwhelming. If a tour is full we tell people they can still follow us if we're audible. They do and you see them strain to hear the guides. Hirlekar: Yeah, the worst thing is to say no to someone because a tour is full. Many come with kids and you see the disappointment on all their faces. I say "Come tomorrow"; they tell me they're on the train to their hometown that night. At that moment, I really want to pull out someone from the bus and give them a spot. Of course, we don't do that!
What's changed over the years?
Mistry: We've gone from 40 people to 100 on each tour. Garg: Often personal history mixes with city history when people tell you their own stories. So I take back as much as I give. It's the best feeling of all.
– Rachel Lopez
|Just for kids: it's a vibrant mini-festival In Itself|
Even 18-month-olds sign up for the events, says Kids events curator Nuriya Ranijiwala Rao. The most challenging part is to provide something for everyone in terms of age group, interests and abilities.
What's the best part about doing kids' events?
It's a 'mini KGAF' because you get all the arts here. The crowds have multiplied tremendously, and now, the most challenging thing is to provide enough activities, so that most children get a chance to participate in the workshop they choose. There should be something for everyone in terms of age group, interests and abilities. You also need to keep school timings in mind: so weekday workshops start after 3pm. Weekend activities are open to all age groups.
Twist and shout: Kids perform a few Chhau steps at last year's Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
What goes on backstage?
From July onwards, the members juggle time with their day job to meet once a month. We get in touch with experts from various backgrounds, as well as organisations related to the education or welfare of children. KGAF's popularity means many organisations now offer to conduct workshops.
Your best memory at KGAF? I conducted a workshop called 'Do The Chhau' (a mask and dance event) last year. I showed the kids how to make large Chhau masks, and then they were shown a few Chhau steps by a dance teacher. Finally, we led our vibrant troupe on to the main street where they performed to the beats of a live dhol in the midst of the crowd. It was a spectacular sight! Also a group of four to five kids arrive on the first day and attend almost two workshops a day! I've seen them grow up over six years.
- Mignonne Dsouza