Think you know #Mumbai? Take an Insta-tour for guaranteed surprises
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Think you know #Mumbai? Take an Insta-tour for guaranteed surprises

Rediscover its rivers, hidden architectural marvels, forgotten relics and even unique windows.

mumbai Updated: Nov 11, 2017 13:23 IST
Amanda D’Souza
Amanda D’Souza
Hindustan Times
The Versova fort at Madh Island, built by the Portuguese in the 17th century, is a popular location for Bollywood films.(@mumbaiheritage)

So you’ve done selfies at Gateway, hung out at Hanging Gardens, driven over the sea link and had chai on Marine Drive. What next? Take inspiration from Instagram. The photo-sharing app has users documenting unusual aspects of Mumbai. From stunning art deco buildings to forgotten rivers, follow their feeds and follow their routes to see Mumbai like never before.


A boy from the Warli tribe catches baby crabs at the Dahisar river. (@mumbai_river_photo_project)

“Most people forget that Mumbai also has not one or two but four rivers,” says Aslam Saiyad, the photographer behind the Instagram handle @mumbai_river_photo_project.

Saiyad’s Instagram page is a lively documentation of the Dahisar, Poisur, Oshiwara and Mithi rivers. His pictures focus on the rivers’ histories and the people whose lives are shaped by them. He recently held an exhibition of his photographs on the banks of a part of Dahisar river, which locals had assumed was a gutter. “The river looks clean near its source in the National Park hills, but deteriorates into a stinky gutter when it enters residential areas,” he says. “I’m trying to raise awareness and hope it helps clean-ups and pollution checks.”

Beyond the mainstream: Saiyad plans on organising ‘river walks’, and recommends that you similarly trace the rivers’ paths and talk to those who live around it to understand its significance. “Their survival is tied to the survival of the river.”


A metal grill elevator cage at Lalchand Mansion, Colaba. (@artdecomumbai)

“When one thinks of Mumbai’s iconic architecture, Victorian Gothic buildings usually come to mind. What most people don’t realise is that there are other stunning architectural marvels hiding in plain sight,” says Atul Kumar, founder of @artdecomumbai. Kumar’s work involves chronicling Mumbai’s art deco structures and advocating its conservation.

There are shots of intricate and ornate elevator cages, elegant window grills, and staircases that seem to come out of a storybook. Kumar is part of a four-person team that canvasses the city for architectural details. “Mumbai has the second largest collection of art deco in the world,” he says. “We wanted to draw attention to these under-appreciated designs.”

Deco decor: Art Deco Mumbai (they’re also on Twitter and Facebook) conducts guided city tours. Use the interactive map on their website as a guide for your own walks. “The wonderful thing about Mumbai’s art deco is that it can be found practically everywhere [in the city],” says Kumar


The Iranian Masjid, or Moghul Masjid, is a piece of Iranian heritage from 1860, located in Dongri. (@mumbaiheritage)

Kunal Tripathi’s Instagram page @mumbaiheritage tells a carefully crafted, delightful tale of Mumbai’s history through forgotten relics. Tripathi calls it his “search for the lost Mumbai.” It began when he first visited the Sardar Griha building near Crawford Market, discovering that it was where Lokmanya Tilak passed away, and where his newspaper, Kesari, still has an office (along with Tilak memorabilia). It drove him to discover other places that are off the heritage-walk map.

Search history: “Many of my followers ask me about the places I visit and shoot, so that they too, can visit them,” says Tripathi. His posts are sourced not merely from documents and objects but also from oral history and local anecdotes. They range from monuments and lamps to vintage clocks, statues, BEST bus seats, and forgotten fountains. The page is a useful compass to anyone looking to wander off the beaten path.


Posts on this handle cover everything from the giant glass panels of Antilla to dilapidated windows like this one. (@thebombaywindows)

As the name suggests, @thebombaywindows documents the city through its windows. The advertising director behind the account (who wishes to remain anonymous) started off in May 2013, as a way of “giving something back to the city that has given him so much”.

The posts cover the towering glass panels of Antilla, circular portholes on colonial buildings and everything in between. There’s a staggering variety of frames, grilles and panes. “Windows can tell us a lot about the place and about the time we live in,” says the Instagrammer. The account has triggered similar projects in Vietnam, Greece, Brazil, and Portugal.

Out the window: “Take a walk or drive around the city in search for any windows that seem interesting,” he advises. “Mumbaikars are so focussed on getting from one place to the other that we’ve forgotten to notice what’s around us. This project is all about finding beauty in unexpected places.”


A False Pillow coral on a rock at Haji Ali. (@sea_coocoomber)

How many times have you gone to the beach and spotted sea slugs? Or colourful crabs? Marine biologist Abhishek Jamalabad’s page @sea_coocoomber takes a different kind of coastal cruise along the coast, documenting Mumbai’s abundant marine life. Jamalabad is also the co-founder of citizen led enterprise Marine Life of Mumbai (@marinelifemumbai), which organises shore walks to spot sea creatures.

His Instagram feed, he says, is a visual repository of information to help raise awareness about marine life. “I make it a point to not just capture these creatures but also include trivia and facts about each of them, so that any interested person can spot these without any need for a guidebook or expertise,” says Jamalabad. “I have found unique aquatic lifeforms in places like Haji Ali and Khar Danda. These finds sometimes surprise me as well.”

Sea for yourself: Marine Life Mumbai organises free public walks once or twice a month during low tide. If you miss them, both accounts function as useful guides. “I make sure to include details about the location and the lifeform too, so that anyone who is curious and interested can go look,” says Jamalabad.


The art deco theme extends to the lettering that spells out the name of this structure in Churchgate, built in 1936. (@bombaytypeproject)

Design student Aditi Khandelwal combined her love for fonts, photography and Mumbai to create a feed unlike any other. Her account, The Bombay Type Project (@bombaytypeproject), captures beautiful instances of lettering all over the city: from signboards to hand-painted nameplates. “I took off on a borrowed scooter and with a borrowed camera one Sunday morning in 2015. I had hoped to cover a small area – Colaba to Fort. But one lane led to another, and I found numerous neglected treasures tucked away in obscure gallis. I ended up taking 74 pictures!” she says.

Letter go: The Bombay Type Project can be addictive. “I started seeing letters everywhere. My eyes would automatically start hunting corners, facades and gates in anticipation that an etched letterform would pop out at me!” she says. There’s no stopping anyone with similar interests from finding inspiration in Mumbai’s innumerable lanes. “The only funny part is that people stop and stare to wonder why this girl is photographing an ordinary old building,” says Khandelwal.

First Published: Nov 10, 2017 20:32 IST