About Sudha Ganapathi

I write about this, that, here, there and everywhere... Come, explore my world. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Street art @ Reay Road

There I was travelling in a Harbour Line local train that hot April afternoon.

I had just woken up from a short nap when the train halted at Cotton Green station. I was still drowsy when the train crossed the beautiful drinking water fountain (that I always look out for whenever I travel by train on this route) just before Reay Road station. I noted that the water fountain was there, a little more decrepit than ever before, a little more lonelier and a… wait a minute… what was the flash of colour on the wall behind the fountain? It looked like graffiti, but I couldn’t be sure.The train had already crossed that patch and was slowing down for its Reay Road station halt.

A week later, I was back on the train travelling the same route at round the same time. This time I did not sleep. And this time I saw that my guess was right. There was not just one wall with graffiti, but what looked like a lot of them. My first impulse was to get off the train and explore the area immediately. But the deserted area, run down buildings and a general sense of unease at going alone made me postpone the visit to another day and with company.

So a month later, I was back on the train and this time alighted at Reay Road station to wait for Rushikesh Kulkarni, a fellow blogger, the guy who runs Breakfree Journeys, and the guy who very readily agreed to be my bodyguard and explore the area with me. :) A short walk from the station and I was looking at the first of the many works of art I saw that afternoon at Reay Road.

Peek-a-Boo !Graffiti, street art, Reay Road, Mumbai, abandoned warehouse Continue reading

Neighbourhoods of Mumbai 2: Khotachiwadi

Neighbourhoods of Mumbai is a series that will explore the different areas of Mumbai, their history, their sub-cultures, their architecture, the changes sweeping through them, and what makes them tick.

No discussion or debate on urban heritage and conservation in Mumbai is complete without a mention, and then some more, of Khotachiwadi, a neighborhood / village / hamlet (depending on your perspective) in the Girgaum area of South Mumbai.

Khotachiwadi, Neighbourhoods of Mumbai, Breakfree JourneysI first came across Khotachiwadi in a newspaper article on the rising builder–politician nexus in Mumbai and how old neighbourhoods and enclaves of the city were in danger of being demolished to make way for highrises. The grainy black and white photographs that accompanied the article were all of Khotachiwadi’s cottages. This was sometime in the early 1990s and while I don’t remember who wrote the article or even the newspaper it was published in, I still remember the sense of wonder I felt at seeing the cottages. I actually double checked to be sure that Khotachiwadi was indeed located in Mumbai !

The article was also responsible for sparking an interest in urban heritage and conservation issues. It is an interest that has sustained till date and I still keenly follow the (always heated) debates on this topic. Even after two decades, Khotachiwadi still remains at the heart of such debates.

And yet, in all these years of living in Mumbai I had never visited Khotachiwadi. Something that was remedied when I visited it for the first time two months ago as part of a guided walk of the area organised by Breakfree Journeys. Our group met at Charni Road station and walked the short distance to Khotachiwadi. When we turned off from the main road and into the lane leading to Khotachiwadi, we left the crowds and the cacophony of Girgaum and stepped into a world of peace and quiet. The contrast was so great that I felt I had stepped through a portal and entered another world, another time.

Khotachiwadi, Neighbourhoods of Mumbai, Breakfree Journeys

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Mumbai Lens: The painted tree

Roadside shrines are a common sight all over India. They can be anything from a tree, to a stone with eyes painted on it, to small stone idols placed under a tree, to a framed picture of a god or a holy man/woman, a cross, a grave of a pir… In my experience, the concentration of such shrines is the highest in cities, and Mumbai is no exception. I am no longer surprised when I come across them in the most unexpected of places; I do, however, get surprised only when I don’t see any.

But today morning, I came across a shrine that surprised me, stopped me in my tracks, made me have a good look, and then come home and write about it. Do let me tell you more about it.

I have been having some work in the Gandhi Market area, near King’s Circle in Mumbai this entire week. Once my work is done, I walk to King’s Circle to take a bus home. It is a short walk and I pass three well-maintained roadside shrines to reach my bus stop. The sharp contrast between the well-maintained and clean shrines and the squalid dwellings of the pavement dwellers who look after the shrines is what I have been noticing day after day.

Today, I noticed something else as well at one of the shrines – I saw that the tree trunk of one of the shrines was painted. And how !

Roadside shrine, Mumbai, Matunga, Ganesha

The painted tree

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My “now” song: Ab ke baras bhej

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My “now” song is Ab ke baras bhejo bhaiya ko baabul from the film Bandini and sung by Asha Bhosle to music by S.D. Burman and lyrics by Shailendra.

In Ab ke baras… the singer yearns for the return of her childhood days and the song remains one of the most haunting Hindi film melodies to be composed. I have always loved this song, but right now I love it for a different reason — the emotions in the song capture my yearning for the monsoons to arrive in Mumbai.

It’s end June and the monsoons have been delayed for almost a month now. Yes, Mumbai’s had a few showers, but not of the monsoon variety. These showers have only increased the humidity and the heat, while cooling, drenching, traffic clogging, train stopping monsoons are nowhere in sight. I monitor the skies all the time, alert to change in wind pattern. But to no avail. The wisps of clouds floating in the sky mock me as does the bright sunshine.

Though the song makes a passing reference to the rains, and the context is very different, no other music captures my mood right now. And I have been humming it for a while now and also have it playing on a loop when I’m working.

Rain gods, weather gods, gods of climate change: are you listening?

PS: This post is a first of sorts. I typed, edited, corrected, linked, added media, published this post and then shared it on various social media platforms using a Dell Venue Tablet that has been sent to me for review. I’m not sure, if I can do my usual long posts from a tablet, but this short one has been surprisingly easy.

Knowledge Whiteboard Library

Ever so often I come across an initiative, an organisation, a person or a group of people, a book, a film, an article, a piece of music… that leaves me feeling enthused. Since it also leaves me wondering why I haven’t heard of it before, I set off on an eager and happy quest to find out more about it. When such an initiative is that of a friend, it leaves me a little shocked. Pleasantly and happily shocked, I must hasten to clarify, as it happened when I heard of the Knowledge Whiteboard Library. Let me elaborate.

It all began with a telephone conversation a couple of months back with Rajshri Mahtani, founder of Knowledge Whiteboard (KW), and also a friend and a former colleague. Somewhere during our conversation Rajshri casually mentioned something about a library at the KW and the growing collection of books. I was intrigued and was left thinking… library? What library? How come I don’t know anything about it?

I decided to visit the KW office, which is located Santacruz in Mumbai and find out more about the library for myself. Sometime last month that is just what I did and sure enough, there was an interesting story waiting for me. :)

Knowledge Whiteboard Library

Dr. Rajshri Mahtani

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Book Review: Sirens Spell Danger

Self-published books are not my choice of reading material. In fact, I would prefer not to read them at all as my experience of reading such books has not been a very happy one. I know it sounds like a sweeping statement, not to mention prejudiced, but…

Now consider this scenario. A fellow blogger and a friend, Suresh Chandrasekaran, whose writing I admire and like very much, comes out with a self-published book. This leads to a dilemma or what can even be called a “situation”: I really want to read the book, but the self-published tag is a big deterrent of sorts. While I am mulling over this, Suresh (who I think is aware of my views on self-published books) requests for my feedback on the book. I agree, buy the book, read it and one afternoon over a long FB chat give him feedback on the book. This happened about 6 months back.

Sirens Spell Danger, ebook, Suresh C

Recently, I participated in an excellent discussion on “Self-Published Books” (do click on the link to read more about the discussion) at The Sunday Book Club (TSBC). It was an enlightening discussion and one that spurred me to to convert the feedback I gave Suresh on the book, Sirens Spell Danger, into a full-fledged book review.

Sirens Spell Danger (2013, Amazon eBook) is a collection of three longish short stories edited by Suresh. As the title suggests, all the stories in the book have women or “sirens’ as the pivot.

The sirens are not necessarily the protagonists of the stories; instead, they are characters without whom there would have been no story in the first place.

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