Mumbaiwale: The 20 coolest city chroniclers on Instagram
I know. I know. Instagram is a rabbit hole. It will distract you for hours. The last thing a Mumbai column should do is drive your attention online. But Insta, I’ve found is a lovely platform for those who love the city. There are the usual Mumbai-food, Mumbai-landmarks, Mumbai-postcard accounts. For those who look closer, there are accounts, dedicated to documenting just one unexpected aspect of city life. See Mumbai from a different angle with these handles. And tell me your favourites here.
Few know Zake but almost everyone has seen his work. The anonymous graffiti artist has written and painted over some of the city’s most iconic walls and surfaces, and is one of Mumbai’s earliest street-art practitioners. His latest post, from this week, features a B-boy spinning a smooth move. Almost as smooth as Zake’s art.
The feed has barely 40 posts. But it’s been quietly observing, photographing and helpfully describing the most colon flowering species in the city. Scroll through the pictures and you’ll recognise them right away, making it a handy guide for the road.
Possibly the last word on the city’s Art Deco structures, from the ones that make it to heritage lists to new discoveries in unexpected parts of Mumbai. These are the kinds of posts that bring out Instagram’s favourite comment: OMG, where is this?
The account that proves that Mumbai windows mean more than boxed-grilles and drying laundry. The page is open to submissions, and is a delightful gateway to admiring the city, even if the windows it features are sometimes closed.
What does it mean to be an East Indian Christian? To trace your Mumbai and Vasai roots to a time before the Portuguese began consolidating the community in the 1500s and come from a culture that mixes East and West with a generous seasoning of bottle masala? Reena Pereira-Almeida, who divides her time between Brisbane and Mumbai chronicles objects, homes, oral histories and much else on her site and the Insta account.
Probably my favourite handle in this list – it means “I’ll wait, but I’ll only go by BEST”. Medical student Prashant Prakash Chindarkar’s account is a homage to public transport (he also includes trains in his posts) and is a commuter’s-eye-view of getting around in Mumbai. Check out the shots of outstation trains entering city limits.
Vidyasagar Hariharan describes himself as a banker, weekend birder and photographer, and his page as a humble attempt of #flamingo clicks from #Mumbai. It’s more than that. It’s a visual record of Mumbai’s pink-feathered winter visitors, and the vanishing wetlands that support them.
Doff your hat to Gopal MS, who’s probably walked more city streets than any of us. And he’s seen Mumbai the way few of us do. Check out his #AamArtistgallery, featuring everyday hacks and art.
I’d featured the work of the good folks of @MarineLifeOf Mumbai in a previous column. This one, maintained by Ganesh B Nakhawa presents a different side of a life spent at sea. Nakhawa is a director with the Karanja Fisheries Cooperative Society, a fisherman, and a member of the Koli community. His feed: a mix of the day’s catch, evidence of climate change, and beautiful glimpses of Koli life.
You’ll love this feed even if you’ve never been to Chembur. Local resident and academic Shaunak Joshi, photographs the beautiful old homes he spots as he loiters around his neighbourhood. Mumbaikars tend to pay attention to free-standing homes on the island city, Matunga and Bandra. But Joshi’s feed offers more. Plus the feed’s aims to showcase “the low key cosmopolitanism, linguistic and religious pluralism, and general idiosyncracy of the houses of Chembur”. What’s not to love?
I’m especially fond of this page. It’s created and maintained by a journalist who sits right across from me at work. Natasha Rego takes the popular reflection-in-a-puddle theme and turns it into art with a feed dedicated to seeing the city only as reflected in water. Little details – floating leaves, marshy edges, ripples, and rocks life the shots from the ordinary. And a lovely commentary in the captions.
Simin Patel’s labour of love spans much more than Instagram posts. There’s documentation, talks, walks, maps and even a book about Irani cafes. On the feed, however, you never know what to expect. There will be objects one day, locations another, people the next – all with a fantastic attention to detail and a historical and cultural perspective. And a sense of celebration.
How can you not love a handle like this? Mumbai photographer Nasar Husami runs this page, which explains why there are so many shots of Indians napping in public places, alongside pictures of sleeping folks the world over. Submissions accepted, so long as you shots don’t invade on someone’s privacy.
If you’ve followed Kunal Tripathi’s handle on Twitter, this is the more visual extension, showcasing the city’s architectural legacy. Beautiful structural details on buildings you pass every day, unexpected angles highlighting the city’s contrasts, lesser-known monuments and all things heritage. The most common question in the comments: Wow, where is this?
Like me, 22-year-old photographer Sanjog Mhatre loves looking up. But where I see the colourful, crazy interiors of Mumbai taxis, he sees the city reaching for the sky. Mhatre has been on the top of more than 60 high-rises (predominantly in Mumbai), and his shots take in the concrete-jungle skyline, the city set against its natural surroundings, economic disparities, architectural differences and the silence that only life at the top can bring.
You can’t be everywhere and see all the street art in the city. So GreatWalls does it for you. They repost great works from all corners, from Dombivli station murals and crumbling but colourful corners of chembur to dedicated spaces for wall art in Andheri and Bandra. My favourite: A wall that warns. “Stick No BIlls” next to which the artist Tyler has stencilled a paintbrush-toting ninja and the response, “Challenge Accepted”
There are only 23 posts, but baobabs, those massive solitary trees look resplendent on this feed nonetheless. Zico Fernandes’s account aims to document all the baobab trees in the city, map and possibly get them protected by the government. He’s got quite a few more to go,
If you love typography, fonts, lettering, calligraphy and script styles as much as iIdo (and you know the differences between all those terms) you’ll love this feed. Actually, you’ll love it even if you can’t tell the difference. The project describes itself as “The fruit of a lot of long walks in the wilderness of letters.” and focuses on city typefaces - road signs, shop signs, words cropping up out of stained glass, stone, marble and wood.
Shaunak Modi is a nature photographer and part of the @marinelifeofmumbai team, which draws attention to coastal-life diversity and its role in the ecosystem. His personal feed though seem to be happy outtakes from life on the job - birds, snakes, creepy crawlies, anemones, corals and other thriving life we never would have guessed was in Mumbai.
I’d featured the GoHalluHallu team in this column a few weeks ago. Here’s the other initiative by @Mumbaipaused and @Bombay_ka-shana. It’s a collection of details that make up life in public transport, from the inside and outside, and how the city comes alive when its on the move.