Saturday, February 8, 2014

KGAF - A piece of Mumbai.

I have been KGAF admirer since I have known it's existence. The Rampart row is a converted into a lane of art work. Art enthusiasts admire the thought and skill behind the installations, while most of the shutter bugs are more interested in being admired for their art of capturing the installations. Over the period of years, the footfall has increased more due to word-of-mouth publicity. It is now so crowded that you are either shoved or requested to click a snap. Hence over the last couple of years, my focus has shifted from Rampart Row installations to the other schedules.

This year, KGAF had a new addition to their Heritage tours. A boat ride showcasing the ports and lighthouse. The moment I read it, it was highlighted as a "MUST SEE". The registrations were to start at 8:00 am on Saturday, 8 Feb. To be on the safer side, I had planned to reach an hour early and had planned another hour in case I wasn't able to locate the Help Desk (where the registrations were to be distributed). I must have highlighted the boat ride quite loudly, as when I reached, I had two of my office colleagues at the Help Desk. We were there at 6:15 am and we were at number 20! The queue had touched the 60 mark by 6:45 and by 8:00, it looked endless. Thanks to the counting done by a colleague in the queue, those around the 50 mark ensured that no one jumped the queue (yet we landed up at being 30 from initial 20). Eventually, we had our passes at 8:15 and it was time for a heavy breakfast.
Colaba is known of it's Irani restaurants serving Kheema pav, Irani chai and Brun-maska. When in Rome, be a Roman. We were in Colaba. So after a nice sumptuous breakfast, we headed to search for the Evelyn House (assembly point for the boat ride). Not sure why they had chosen this location, but it was quite chaotic with unregistered people turning up. Our host, Dilip Vishwanathan (Chief Mechanical Engineer with the port trust) was a very soft spoken person. So soft that the third person would not be able to hear his voice. We were then told to move to Vivekananda statue at the Gateway. Now that area was already flooded with weekend travellers to Alibaug and other tourists. Amidst all the din, we boarded the boat for the tour. With much ado and unorganised volunteers trying to organize things, the tour began. Mr Vishwanathan briefed us on what we would be seeing and that was all that the speaker could convey to us. After that the speaker system lost its battery and we were on our own identifying most of the tour. The tour covered Naval Dockyard (from far), Indira dock and Mazgaon dock. There were quite a few ships anchored along the way and it was a wonderful experience travelling the waterway, enjoying the breeze and the boat ride. As a picnic, we were served snacks followed by tea and coffee. After Mazgaon dock, we moved towards the southern tip of Mumbai where there is a light house. This tip was almost in line with the Colaba Army area (though quite far from it). From this point, we returned to Gateway after a good 3 hour ride. Getting up at 5:00 am and reaching early to get one pass for this ride was worth it.
After a blissful first leg, the next plan was to "chill-out". Destination: Cafe Mondegar. Jukebox, draught beer and fried sausages in a full-packed cafe. Just that thing needed to indicate that "the day is going better than dreamt". A round of beer and then a trip to food paradise "Bagdadi" via Gokul. Gokul served one of the freshest Bombils and prawns that I have tasted lately. As my colleagues shared similar food preferences, our food choices matched. Bagdadi experience need not be described as it has always been the exquisite Mughlai taste and the large tandoori rotis (almost double the size of a regular roti and about the same price or cheaper). After chilling and gorging, most of the better afternoon was done for. I had planned to day so far and it had been beyond expectations.
Scanning through the agenda for the rest of the day, we zeroed in on "Doob dhaan", a play at House of Tales. It took us some time to locate this place. House of Tales is a small place compared to the grand KGAF locations. With a granite and marble door, the place is grand too. But where most events can house hundreds of people, House of tales can accommodate 50-55 comfortably with most sitting on the floor. It reminded me of the school times with us sitting on the carpet and stage barely a 2-3 feet away from us. The stage was a make-shift stage of 4ft x 8ft and height not more than half foot. It was so small that during the show we had to fold our legs else the actors could trip. A very unique experience. Much better was the play. Not just that it was a live performance that we could see so up-close, but the act was put up very beautifully. The whole act was performed by 3 ladies. It was primarily held by 2 of them, both depicting Ketki, a girl from village who had moved to city. The senior lady depicted Ketki of today and the younger one was the playful young girl in her. The senior lady shared sentiments, the younger one added liveliness. The third lady was village woman who had grown old in the village and carried forward traditions when the world was losing them. She added emotions. With simple acts and characters that you can relate with, the play leaves you with good theatre experience and some thoughts to chew on.

Wandering over these thoughts, we walked towards the sugarcane juice centre. This is a must have whenever I am in that region. JUMBO glass that barely fits into a hand. This seemed to be that day when things work better than you can think of. That greed drove us to attend another play at the same venue. The show was quite hyped and with the wonderful experience of the first show, we expected this to be even better as it was from the house of Babbar's (Nadira Babbar and Juhi Babbar). Probably, we have had our share of good for the day and we should have stopped at the sugarcane juice. The play named "Ji, Jaisi aapki marzi" sounded funny and the description mentioned "They make you laugh and think like never before". The story depicted lives of a female as a sister, daughter, mother and wife. Each role played by 4 different ladies, each showcasing the worst possible scenarios in life, very strongly portraying villainous males throughout their lives in all forms. In the 90 minute show, they show cased torture, inequality, sadomasochism, adultery leading to suicide, eve teasing, molestation, underage marriage, rape by husband, talaq followed by disassociation from family, polygamy, forced to live on footpath, child rape, murder. And each of these very strongly portrayed by the artists. While a saas-bahu serial lover might have admired this act, it was a bit strenuous for someone like me, especially after a beautiful day.
Overall, a memorable day, a wonderful and unique experience. Being early at the registration desk and realizing that I am not the first went to show how fast Mumbai is. In a company of many unknown on the boat and still chatting as long lost friends' showed how comfortable Mumbai is. For a 60-capacity boat ride, a crowd of about 300 standing patiently in a queue showed how hopeful Mumbai is. Mondegar and Bagdadi showed how tasty Mumbai is. Many experiences, one location: KGAF.