A walk to remember

By Vinitha Ramchandani | Mumbai

After my Banganga walk last month, I had decided to take my 11-year-old son and teenage daughter for one heritage walk around the city a month

If you are a parent of young children (or young adults) and have lived in Mumbai for two years or more, what needs to be on your must-do list is signing up for a heritage walk. In the mad hustle of the city, we forget to pause and admire the hidden nuggets and remnants of its dynamic history.

After my Banganga walk last month, I had decided to take my 11-year-old son and teenage daughter for one heritage walk around the city a month. And true to our promise, we sign up for the Fort Heritage walk this time. The walk starts off at the magnificent steps of the grandiose Asiatic Library. The tour conducted by Trip 360, with museum and heritage professional Alisha Sadikot, begins with us examining the landscape from where we stand, looking at close-ups of ancient maps that Sadikot has on her iPad and engaging in spontaneous dialogue with fellow participants.

"Fort" refers to a fort built by the British East India Company, hugging the eastern coast of the city, which was demolished in the 1860s. We walk around the invisible and visible circumference of this Fort area, looking closely at an amazing array of historic landmarks and buildings, constructed in different architectural styles, with a variety of local and imported materials. The architecture of the Fort area — literally the starting point of British advent in the city — is a great way to explore and understand the whys and the wherefores of Maximum City. So, if you wish to teach children Bombay's British history, an ideal way to cushion the learning is by signing up.

Walking briskly, after talking at length, we move from the library and Horniman Circle to St Thomas Cathedral, examining the varied use of multiple stones that has imparted a unique polychromatic effect to the façades, particularly those of public buildings built in the 19th and 20th centuries. Each building tells a fascinating story, about the men who built it, and the historical events associated with it. As we stroll through the area, we are asked to imagine the open spaces and esplanade that were once a part of Fort, while astonishing nuggets of information and stories of the city's forefathers, icons and local heroes are told to us.

The engrossed group finds itself cutting across Flora Fountain (listening to the marvellous story of the edifice), and walks towards Mumbai University and the High Court, to observe the similarities and differences in architecture. We are told why it was left to the rich locals to fund the building of public structures, and how the Rajabai Tower got its name (Seth Premchand Raichand, who donated a princely sum of '4 lakh for its construction, named the tower after his mother, who was slowly going blind. The stipulation was that the clock would chime every 15 minutes so that she could keep track of her day. The clock still chimes).

The walk also gives an insight into how Rudyard Kipling's father John Lockwood Kipling, who headed the JJ School of Art's sculpture department, got involved in the design of VT station as well as the Bombay University and the High Court, adding Indian flowers, leaves, animals, birds, stories in their architecture, and creating a design that not only made provisions for different weather conditions, but also created a brand new form of architecture found only in the city of Mumbai — the Bombay Gothic. A nugget worth taking home from a morning well spent.

Safety Tip: Be careful while crossing the road

Fact File

Where: From Asiatic Library to Bombay University
Best for: Boys and girls, 10 years and above
How to reach: Get off at CSMT or Churchgate and walk
Timings: Start off early in the morning, preferably on weekends to avoid office-going crowds
Budget: We paid Rs 1,000 per head for a guided tour
Food: Carry food or snacks if kids are younger
Water: Carry water as well as caps
Restroom facilities: There are public lavatories available en route and at coffee shops
Where else to goRelax at the Horniman Circle garden

Parent Poll: Loved the details of the guided tour
Rating
Kids' Poll: Will look at the city with different eyes now
Rating

What's Good: Walking; listening to real stories of the city
What's Not So Good: Meant only for older kids and those inclined towards history

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