Sto­ries of a con­crete Jun­gle

Khaki Tours’ Ur­ban Sa­fari shows you the sights of the city and re­veals its lost sto­ries.

India Today - - CITY BUZZ - By Moeena Halim

It is a few hours to twi­light when we

meet Bharat Gothoskar, founder of Khaki Tours, on the iconic Asi­atic So­ci­ety steps. The build­ing is a land­mark easy to find, but that isn’t why Gothoskar in­sists on be­gin­ning his ‘ur­ban sa­fari’ cov­er­ing 15 km around the Fort area here. Be­hind the colos­sal Town Hall build­ing, within the com­pound, is a bun­ga­low that was once home to Gar­cia de Orta, a Jewish physi­cian. “That bun­ga­low is the seed around which the mod­ern me­trop­o­lis of Mum­bai has grown,” says Gothoskar. The re­gion had seen civ­i­liza­tion be­fore this, with the Shi­la­hara regime and its cap­i­tal at Mahim, and the Sul­tans of Gu­jarat con­trol­ling the is­lands for a while, but the is­lands were a malar­ial, marshy lot when the Por­tuguese took over, which is why de Orta had been sent over from Goa. He spent sev­eral years in the city, and his manor still ex­ists. No vis­i­tors are al­lowed though be­cause it is now part of the Naval Dock­yard. “When Cather­ine Bra­ganza mar­ried Prince Charles of Eng­land and got Bom­bay as dowry, it was Gar­cia de Orta’s house where all the trans­ac­tions took place,” re­veals Gothoskar, head­ing to­wards the open-air jeep to be­gin our tour. “The other day, some­one asked me the dif­fer­ence be­tween Mum­bai Dar­shan and what I do with Khaki Tours’ Ur­ban Sa­fari. I said Mum­bai Dar­shan will take you to Co­laba and point out Re­gal Cin­ema. I will take you to the same place and tell you how this is the first air-con­di­tioned build­ing in Asia, the first one to have un­der­ground park­ing and an el­e­va­tor,” says Gothoskar. Here are a few other se­crets that Gothoskar’s ur­ban sa­faris across Mum­bai and her­itage walks can re­veal about the city:

By­culla’s Se­crets

Did you know that By­culla has a 66-mil­lion-year-old so­lid­i­fied lava flow? Or that Dr BR Ambed­kar got mar­ried here? That there is a Jewish school where classes are held in Marathi? That the wife of Pak­istan’s founder Mo­hammed Ali Jin­nah is buried here?

Parel of the Past

Did you know that the his­tory of Parel goes back 16 cen­turies? That the first dar­bar of a Bri­tish royal in In­dia was held here? That the area was hit quite badly by the great plague? That the area is home to a hill made of pil­low lava?

The Old City

Did you know that there are Bri­tish-era horse sta­bles that still ex­ist in South Mum­bai? That opium trad­ing was once a com­mon ac­tiv­ity in one of the city’s busiest busi­ness dis­tricts. That if you know where to look you’ll find a vil­lage tucked away in the city where the houses have a dis­tinctly Por­tuguese style.

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