It’s Friday today and its Mumbai for Kids time as per today’s Times of India. So here is the article –
City and historicity
These walking tours acquaint children with Mumbai’s heritage
Sudeshna Chatterjee | TNN
It was almost an hour’s walk, but the children, aged between six and 15, did not grumble. They marched wide-eyed through the streets, taking in every detail that conservation architect Kruti Garg pointed out to them in the Fort area. They discovered that Regal Cinema and Dhanraj Mahal are Art Deco buildings, a design style that originated in Paris in the early 20th century, and that Mumbai has the second largest population of art deco buildings in the world after Miami. And doing what children do best, they plied their guide with a dozen questions.
One particularly curious child inquired why the windows of the Yacht Club looked different from the ones opposite at Dhanraj Mahal. Garg was floored by the observation. “The windows on Dhanraj Mahal have straight lines while those at the Yacht Club are in the form of arches,’’ she replied. “Straight lines are an important part of Art Decarchitecture, whereas the Yacht Club’s arches go back to a style called Neo-Gothic.’’ At the end of the walk, the children were given paper and little pieces of tile to cast their impressions of an art deco style.
The event happened months ago at the Kala Ghoda festival, but the kids had so much fun that Garg plans to continue the thread of these walk-workshops on special request. And they’re sorely needed, given that many kids—the privileged ones who travel abroad at least—know a lot about foreign history and culture but scarcely anything about their home city, which is unpacked only by mouldy school tours. Many children would know, for instance, where the statue of Henrietta Muirs Edwards stands at Parliament Hill, Ottawa, but not where Edward VII sits in Byculla. Scant attempts are made by agencies in the city to narrate to children the history and architecture of Bombay, perhaps because they don’t believe children are interested in these things.
This is what prompted the director of Podar Jumbo Kids, Swati Popat Vats, to introduce the concept of an educative field trip camouflaged as a treasure hunt in the city. The ‘hunt’ takes place on weekends, is open to all kids, and costs nothing to participate. “It’s called ‘Treasure Hunt with Mummy, Daddy and Me’. Parents have to accompany their child on his/her quest for eight particular statues, the names of which we will provide,’’ says Vats. “They then have to produce proof of the ‘discovery’ by photographing the child near the statue. The child will write a few lines about the statue and the experience and have their parents drop the notes to the school or mail them.’’ The treasure hunt is on till October 15, with prizes promised.
Apart from educating kids on the city and its statuesque inhabitants, the exercise has also taught them to be more observant. Several entries have pointed out small details about a particular statue and its surroundings: one child, Kriishh Jimmy Gada, for instance, called attention to Shivaji’s pet dog in the coronation plaque at Shivaji Park.
Tour India Travels, a company that organises educational trips across the country and field trips in the city, also does its mite towards educating kids. At Rs 50 for an inner-city walk, which includes transport, the entry fee to a civic building and the guide’s fees, it’s very reasonable. “But the minimum size of the group needs to be at least 50,’’ says CEO Anil Garg, who plans to introduce another day trip called Coastal Darshan at Rs 100 a head, where kids will be taken on a two-hour boat ride, with the guide pointing out important landmarks like Mazgaon Docks and Elephanta Caves.
“We will not just focus on history, but science as well,’’ says Garg. “We will halt outside ONGC and, through a slide show, tell the children how oil is extracted. While pointing to the heritage of Taj Hotel, we will tell them about the renovation done after 26/11. There will also be a Q&A session with prizes.’’
With more live walkabouts and water tours like these, dusty old history lessons could well soon be history.
I have put up a single page with a link to all Mumbai for Kids articles published in Times of India. Have a look !