Farokh Engineer and Kala Ghoda: Two legends from Mumbai
The festival manages to mix the cutting edge with the old worldmumbai Updated: Feb 09, 2018 00:55 IST
Opportunity to share the stage with Farokh Engineer during the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival compelled me to revise my travel plans for this week. But this was no sacrifice. How often do you get to speak to one of India’s most colourful cricketers?
Engineer is in town for the release of his authorized biography, ‘Farokh, The Cricketing Cavalier’, written by English journalist Colin Evans. He lives on the outskirts of Manchester, but at heart remains a total Mumbaikar.
Born here, brought up in Dadar, he schooled at Don Bosco and went to Podar College, both institutions close to home. ``This is my city, and it’s always fantastic to be back home,’’ he said when we spoke a couple of days before the event.
Later Engineer moved to Cuffe Parade, living there for a number of years before migrating to England, where he played with distinction for Lancashire in county cricket. He had been playing for India since 1961.
Engineer’s last Test was incidentally the first to be played at the Wankhede Stadium, in 1974-75 against West Indies, bringing down the curtain on a glittering career that defined him as among the finest wicket-keeper batsmen of his era.
Stardom came early to Engineer. He was among the first Indian players to get endorsements (Brylcreem the most renownefd), but it was more the way he played that endeared him to cricket fans and aficionados all over the world.
Swashbuckling, flamboyant and devil-may-care are some adjectives used to describe Engineer’s playing style. But I prefer the one by best-selling writer, politician and avowed cricket buff Jeffrey Archer: “Farokh is not an engineer. He’s a maestro and a wizard.”
I write this piece a day before our session at the Kala Ghoda Festival and hope to elicit his views on some of his own achievements (playing pace demons like Hall and Griffith without a helmet, being part of the 1971 team that beat England at the Oval), and what he thinks of the current ethos of Indian cricket.
On his part he wanted to know more about the Kala Ghoda Festival. “I’ve never been part of it, but it’s wonderful to see that art and culture are part of a metropolis known primarily for business,’’ he said.
One can add substantially to that. Now, almost two-decades old, the Festival which once seemed like a massive gamble by a few arts and heritage-minded people has become a Mumbai legacy. Much like the wonderful area around which it is based.
From a few events and stalls selling crafts and food, showcasing shops and galleries in the area, we now have a stimulating, busy, exciting arts, literary and music festival, which celebrates the best that Mumbai and the world has to offer.
The Kala Ghoda area itself is such a pleasure to wander around in, with its heritage buildings peeking through large leafy trees, the stand-out structure being that of the museum, one of the best in the country.
From the Bombay Natural History Society at one end, to the David Sassoon Library, the Army and Navy Building, the sweep of the Jehangir Art Gallery, is some of Mumbai’s formative history within walking distance.
Sitting in the gardens of the David Sassoon Library one can back as if in a time machine, so near and yet so far from the relentless buzz of Mumbai just around the corner. A visit to an event or exhibition or the lawns of the museum prods you to take another look at the ancient exhibits inside.
The allure of the handicraft stalls, street performers, art installations and street food make KGAF unbeatable, especially for those who may not be interested in more specialist or esoteric events.
The festival has grown considerably since it began and now encompasses the Cross Maidan and Marine Drive. There was a ruckus about holding music events at Cross Maidan — for what reason beats me — which the Mumbai High Court thankfully cleared on Wednesday.
All told, the festival manages to mix the cutting edge with the old world. The crowds it is true can get unmanageable sometimes, especially on the last weekend. But that’s cheap excuse in a city where you are squeezed and squashed far more on a local train or bus.