In Mumbai, you can never step into the same city twice; every day, something disappears, something new takes its place. Fortunately, a number of museums spread across the metro offer Mumbaiites a chance to reconnect with the city’s past and, for a few rupees a day, revisit what it was like to commute, trade and live in the Bombay of yore.
At the BEST Transport Museum in Wadala, for instance, you can check out miniature models of the city’s first horse-drawn trams, which operated between 1874 and 1905 and charged one anna (one-sixteenth of a rupee) for a ride. You can also check out miniature models of every bus depot in Mumbai, take a break on 100-year-old tram seats and then tour the displays of old ticket-issuing machines, passes and badges through the years.
At the lesser known but equally fascinating Ballard Bunder Gatehouse Navy Museum, you will find the knee-high lights from the top of a lighthouse, giant anchors up to 6 ft tall and scale models of ships, trawlers and dhows. Old maps and photographs of Mumbai and its diverse communities — goldsmiths, policemen, mill workers and fisherfolk — are also on display.
Continue your journey through Mumbai’s cultural history at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in the Byculla zoo compound, which houses samples of antique armoury, textiles, embroidery, woodwork inlaid with ivory, a number of miniatures of south Indian temples and busts of the various communities of Mumbai, all in traditional garb.
At the RBI Monetary Museum in Fort, you can check out a different kind of green revolution, via coins dating back to 600 BC.
A short drive away, at Kala Ghoda, is the erstwhile Prince of Wales Museum, now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, where you can browse through European oil paintings and old Indian artifacts — including Akbar’s suit of armour — or marvel at a stuffed white tiger and numerous stuffed birds in the natural history section.
Your museum trail would not be complete without a visit to Mani Bhavan, Gamdevi, where you can revisit Mahatma Gandhi’s charkha, prayer beads and slippers, or seek out lesser-known exhibits, such as the letter Gandhi wrote to Hitler, advocating ahimsa and asking the German dictator to mend his ways!