Every city is a living thing, with a pulse, a personality, a soul. For 14 years, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival has been at the epicentre of that soul in Mumbai. And this year, the festival comes to you courtesy your favourite newspaper - the Hindustan Times.
Over the years, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival has marked the growth of a unique effort to bring culture and community to the forefront in the commercial capital.
Amid the bustle that is south Mumbai, this festival has moved to a different beat, inviting poets, painters, dancers, artists, musicians and craftsmen to unite as an impromptu community, reaching out to a city starved of cultural events.
For the people of Mumbai, the festival offers an opportunity to step outside the daily grind, broaden their horizons, think, talk, celebrate.
It offers a carnival-like ambience, with its mime artists, open-air performances, street food and pavement art. Drawn by the intensity of this pulse, people turn up in the tens of thousands to browse, buy, watch, eat, pose, tweet and instagram.
"Initially, we used to ask people to send us photos from the festival. We don't really need to do that anymore, because today everyone is using their mobile phones and happily clicking away, sharing KGAF memories in real time across different social media platforms," says artist Brinda Miller, honorary director of the festival.
As it has increased in scale and magnitude, the festival has begun to draw visitors not just from across Mumbai but also from other cities and countries. This year, several consulates have come forward to add yet another international element to the flavours on offer.
"Year after year, we have tried to make the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival bigger and better. This year it's even more special because of the introduction of an all-new segment - Urban Design and Architecture," says Miller. "Apart from attending two panel discussions as part of this new segment, visitors will see interesting architectural installations on Rampart Row, created by prominent architects and students of architecture."
This year, the festival offers a whopping 400 events and 50 art installations - all packed into nine days.
"Organising KGAF is an intense experience," says Miller. "Luckily, this year I have had an excellent team of 30 volunteers - including students, art lovers and young professionals - all of whom have taken the time to turn up after their own workday was done to help put together this event for their city."
From curating and coordinating to printing those essential booklets to guide visitors through it all, and seeking the necessary sanctions from the municipality and police, it takes a total of two months to put together the nine-day festival.
"Once the gates open, as it were, I don't have the time to peacefully attend a single session, much as I'd like to," says Miller. "Then it's all over and there is exhilaration, relief and, yes, withdrawal symptoms. So, like many Mumbaiites, I keep returning every year."
Well, the gates are nearly open, and you're invited.
We'd love to see you there.