Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai is one of the largest cultural art festivals in India. They have something for everyone – Events for Children, Theatre, Literature, Cinema, Dance, Music, Workshop, Street Events, Urban Design and Architecture and Heritage Walks. All events at the nine days Kala Ghoda Festival are Free to the public.
The second day of Festival had a Heritage cycling tour for which the registrations started between 6:15 am to 6:45 am. As I had downloaded the schedule from Internet, there was a small note for this tour – “Token/ Passes available at the “HELP DESK” located in the middle of K Dubash Marg (Kala Ghoda Rd)”.
I reached Help Desk with my cycle at 6:25 am on a Sunday morning and could not see anyone at the helpdesk. Behind the helpdesk stall there was a closed room and so I knocked the door. Once…no response…then twice…no response…thrice this time….someone screamed “Wait!!”
Sleepy guy – What do you want? The helpdesk starts at 11 am Madam. Don’t you think you are too early?
Me – Thanks…for opening the door! There is a Heritage cycling tour which starts at Woodside Inn and I am here to collect my token / register for the tour.
Sleepy guy – We don’t give any tokens here. Why don’t you check at the meeting point i.e. Woodside Inn?
Me – Ok. Thanks!
I started heading towards Woodside Inn and it was 6:40 am when I reached Woodside Inn. I was so happy that I made it just in time. I thanked God. There were two volunteers at the spot.
First volunteer – Madam you are late, registrations are closed as it is restricted to 15 people on first come basis.
I explained the entire story about the Note in schedule…helpdesk…tokens…and tried my best to convince her to accommodate me in the tour and I had my own cycle as well.
Second volunteer – Madam, we are really sorry but the tour has already started and the cyclists are already at Gateway of India. We have the same tour on next Sunday and you can try for that one.
Disappointed! I started from Woodside Inn and saw a group of cyclists heading towards David Sassoon Library. This group had three Indian kids, six Foreigners (all adults) and one Indian guy who was their guide. I followed this group out of curiosity just to find out what is this combination upto so early in the morning. I followed them for around 500 meters and when they halted, I asked the guide about the tour and if I could join them. The guide said that it was a 3 hour South Mumbai Cycling tour and I could join them.
I was so happy to be a part of this tour! There were people from Argentina (local language Spanish) and an old lady who understood only French. So her companion and I debriefed her in French 🙂
From the tree lined inner lanes of Kala Ghoda we reached CST (Victoria Terminus) Station and even after staying in this city for more than two decades I had no clue about this shortcut route to CST. On reaching CST, the guide started briefing us about its heritage value (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chhatrapati_Shivaji_Terminus) and one of the cyclist approached me…
Chinese guy – You speak local language and you appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Are you a student?
Me – I am a Chartered Accountant and working in a consultancy Firm. Actually I missed one cycling tour this morning.…
Chinese guy – Oh! Where are you working?
Me – I am working with KPMG.
Chinese guy – You are from KPMG!!! I am an ex-KPMG. Their working hours are crazy and now I work with a Bank. By the way, I am Bernard. I live in Hong Kong.
Me – I am Lubna. Nice meeting you Bernard.
From CST we went to Crawford Market, Mumbai’s Flower alley famous for nearly a century for its saffron-colored marigolds and red rose garlands, Mumbadevi temple, Bombay Panjrapole (I had no clue about this place either). Tucked somewhere in the by-lanes of the crowded Bhuleshwar bazaar is the Bombay Panjrapole, a 176-year-old infirmary that primarily looks after 350 cows and other stray animals like donkeys, hens, birds, dogs, goats, parrots and ducks.
At Bombay Panjrapole
Bernard – This is my first visit to India. I am here for 3 days for official work and so today i.e. Sunday is a leisure day. Since you are a local, can you suggest few places to visit in this city?
Me – Sure. (Suggested few places) Why don’t you visit the Kala Ghoda Art Festival?
Bernard – Where exactly is this festival and what is it all about?
Me – (Explained all about the Festival). I am going for the Festival today evening with my friends. You can join us if you like.
Bernard – That will be great! I don’t have a local number but we can stay in touch through emails which I can access once I am in the Hotel.
Me – Sounds interesting! So see you at Westside, Kala Ghoda at 5 p.m. and I will email the details to you.
We started from Bombay Panjrapole and on reaching Marine Drive, I chose to head home while the other cyclists continued to head towards Sassoon Dock. I told Bernard that I would send an email to him and see him in the evening.
So, with the help of technology Bernard and I met at the Kala Ghoda Festival. We exchanged our knowledge of Indian and Chinese culture. The perfect day ended with yummiest sandwich ice-cream at K. Rustom and Co. Ice-cream parlour at Churchgate.
If I would have not missed my Heritage cycling tour, I would have never met Bernard. Well, I think at times it is good to miss few things 🙂
Cheers – Lubna