Mixology, Mystery, and Martinis at Miss T


miss t colaba


Miss T is seductive, intoxicating and downright mesmerising. Housed in a beautiful bungalow on a quiet street in Colaba, the restaurant boasts an innovative Asian menu and creative cocktails that showcase fresh ingredients and premium spirits. The ambience is chic, and the vibe is sexy, perfect for #datenight with bae.

Miss T, 4, Mandlik Road, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 2280 1144/022 2280 115


The setting is perfect. We’re in the ‘secret room’, tucked away on the first floor of Miss T. The glimmer from the tea lights bounces off the clear liquid in my mini goblet and multiplies many times over as it reflects on the mirrored walls. The room smells of spiced gin and orange. The conversation swirls around alcohol, entrepreneurs, and puppies.

The drink is the “greatest in the world”, a Gibson Martini prepared by the two acclaimed mixologists sitting across the table. I nurse my cocktail, well aware I look less Brosnan and more Bullock from The Net. I’m wondering if I need to drain my glass quickly before I can get to the pickled onion when Dimi and Meagan* tell me that that is, in fact, the correct way to drink a martini; while it’s still cold.

I don’t need to be told twice.

I bid adieu to the master mixologists and get ready to explore other facets of the mysterious Miss T. Gliding down the stairs, feeling more Brosnan than before, I let the sequinned storks guide me to the ground floor.

Once below, I gravitate towards the lit T-shaped community bar, where Feruzan and Jeremy* hold fort on either side. I join the captivated cluster and watch Jeremy prepare my second drink of the night, a herbaceous gin tipple with a refreshing touch of cucumber, kaffir, and lime. As he talks about the balance of flavours, I notice that the fragrant mixture that fills the glass is just the right quantity. Jeremy uses a tweezer to place a sprig of green aniseed and an edible garnish with a tiger print on the thin layer of foam. This astute attention to detail is the common thread that binds different aspects of Miss T.

The chic interiors evoke a sense of intimacy and set the mood for a sophisticated evening. The spectacular skylight, which streams in diffused light through the leaves during the day, opens out to glowing Chinese lanterns at night. The cosy booths near the entrance can be used as a waiting area but seem ideal for coy conversations and flirtatious knee-touching. The soft lighting, metallic accents, and flickering tea lights at every table create an atmosphere that’s equal parts playful and provocative.

The kitchen runs like clockwork under the watchful eyes of Chef Nikhil, with each plate being executed to perfection. Locally sourced ingredients are used to create Asian dishes with an innovative twist. The crunch of the vegetables in the Vietnamese rice rolls can be heard over the hum of candid conversations. The black sesame ice cream slices through the citrusy flavour of the yuzu tart. I couldn’t possibly eat any more, but my eyes still rove lasciviously over culinary assortments as I walk past a row of occupied booths and tables on my way back to the buzzing bar.

I know it’s the beginning of the end of the night. But it’s also the beginning of a potential long-lasting love affair, one that grows more intense over time and many handcrafted cocktails.

I like Miss T. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.

*Dimi Lezinska is the Beverage Manager at KOKO. Meagan Ashley is a renowned New York-based mixologist. Feruzan B is an acclaimed mixologist and the brand ambassador for Stranger & Sons. All three were present at Miss T for a special event. Jeremy Buck, the Beverage Director at Miss T, leads the team behind the bar and is responsible for creating the unique cocktail menu.

Feature photograph courtesy Miss T




Dolcemi Delivers Authentic Italian Confectionary


dolcemi italian sweets


Dolcemi, a dessert kitchen in Bandra, is the brainchild of an Italian jewellery designer and Indian entrepreneur. Confections such as tiramisu, biscotti, semifroddo, gelato, mousse, and more can be picked up from their base or delivered to your doorstep via delivery apps. Orders have to be placed before 2 p.m. on the previous day.

Phone: +91 90290 17000 (from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday)


Everybody knows that dolce means sweet in Italian and that Anita Ekberg was really living the good life when she waded into that Roman fountain in her legendary black dress. But dolce is also an Italian musical term – an indication to play an instrument in a tender, adoring manner; to play a chord sweetly, with a light touch. That is what Dolcemi’s tiramisu does – it caresses your palate gently, the subtle sweetness melting on your tongue. The coffee liqueur diffuses into your throat, leaving behind a warm glow instead of the familiar burning sensation. You have to close your eyes and mouth to hold on to the feeling of being in sunny Sicily before it evaporates.

The pastina de mandorla elicits a similar reaction, accompanied by a deep, content sigh possible only in the absence of guilt. The small almond biscuits – crispy on the outside with a condensed centre – are dairy-free and gluten-free. For those who crave all year for marzipan sweets, Dolcemi’s soft dough pastry is Christmas come early.

Chocolate lovers have a long list of unusual suspects to choose from, but one item stands out. The chocolate salami may sound suspicious to vegetarians, but what looks like black pudding is a log of semi-frozen dark chocolate dotted with tiny pieces of biscotti. The specks, although substantial, aren’t quite enough to grasp the incredible nature of the Italian classic.

Luckily, Dolcemi offers 100gm biscotti packets and four tempting options, including the newly introduced walnut and gianduja.

Just scanning the luscious menu is enough to cause acute cravings and intense confusion at the same time. What’s certain, however, is that to live the good life in Mumbai, you need a certain amount of foresight and Dolcemi on your speed dial. Order early, then sit back to dream about an Italian summer. All dolce things are worth waiting for.

Feature photograph courtesy Dolcemi




Makers Of Mumbai: Tapasya Prabhu Of Lovely Little Charms

SPACE EXPERIENCE PEOPLE FOOD + DRINK VIDEO lovely little charms tapasya prabhu


Tapasya Prabhu is the owner and artist behind Lovely Little Charms, a one-woman brand specialising in miniature collectibles modelled after food items. An interior designer by day and miniature artist by night, the 25-year-old artist is always in the middle of creating something. We speak to her about her creative processes, colour palettes, and her favourite corner of Mumbai.

lovely little charms tapasya prabhu


The City Story: When did you start making miniatures, and what inspired you?

Tapasya Prabhu: I was always very creative and inclined towards art. Even in school I would create art from waste materials like plastic bottles. I used to make miniature flowers out of either play dough or regular atta. When I was in my third year of architecture, I saw a video online that introduced me to polymer clay. Polymer clay contains particles of plastic and hardens on baking. That was a big revelation, and I was very excited about it. I started doing my own research and began experimenting. The first miniatures I made were a cookie, a doughnut and a bear on top of paperclips. I don’t get into creating realistic food items straight away. I just wanted to make cute things that could be used by people. Later I realised I could make it look more realistic, challenge myself, and turn it into a serious art form.

TCS: Why food?

TP: I’m a big foodie. And with this I can combine two things I love – food and art. Also, even though I’ve made them before, I don’t really enjoy making cars, cameras, and figurines.

TCS: When and how did you decide to turn this into a business?

TP: When I initially showed my friends the miniatures I had made, they were blown away. They didn’t even know something like this was possible. I got on to Instagram on my friends’ insistence, and then people started contacting me to ask if they could buy the miniatures. The plan was never to sell, but eventually I started doing that. (Editor’s note: Tapasya sells miniatures from her Instagram page.)

lovely little charms tapasya prabhu

TCS: Take us through the process of making one of your miniatures. What is your frame of mind when you create?

TP: I usually work at night, because I can concentrate better when it’s quiet. It’s very important to be patient, because there is a lot of research involved. I don’t have the actual food in front of me, so I have to replicate by referring to an image. Even after finding the image, I have to sit with it for a while to study and understand the colours and textures, because they are essential to making the miniature look realistic. I usually work on 10 pieces at a time, because if I make more it gets monotonous and hampers my creativity. It takes 3 to 4 days of work to complete one batch. And I’m very particular about quality. So even if there’s a minor mistake, I do it again.

TCS: How do you decide what you want to create next?

TP: I get a lot of suggestions from people who contact me on social media. Whenever I’m out of ideas, I refer to that list of suggestions. A lot of the times its food that I really like. Otherwise, I always check Pinterest for inspiration.

lovely little charms tapasya prabhu

TCS: What is the most challenging miniature you’ve created?

TP: The butter that’s on top of the pav bhaji miniature was challenging. It was very tough to get that colour right. I have actually written down the exact proportion of different coloured clay that I had to mix to get this shade. When I initially tried to mix white and yellow to get the pale shade, it looked like a very weird neon green because of the chemical composition of the clay. Everything else on the plate was ready, but I had to experiment a lot for the butter. It’s the tiniest bit, but it took the most amount of time. Even the ramen bowl was quite challenging.

TCS: What’s the most memorable compliment you’ve received for your work?

TP: When people say, “I thought it was real”, that’s the biggest compliment for me. Recently my friend was over while I was creating the paneer tikka miniature, and she started picking up everything and pretended to eat it. It’s funny, but the fact that she wants to eat it even though it’s not real makes me very happy.


lovely little charms tapasya prabhu

TCS: What’s the best place in Mumbai to procure art materials?

TP: The area around Crawford market, especially Abdul Rehman Street. You get everything there.

TCS: Do you have a favourite area in Mumbai?

Apart from Wadala where I live, I love Bandra village. I also like Colaba. Since I’ve been an architecture student, I tend to pay attention to buildings and structure, and there are some beautiful old buildings on the back of Colaba Causeway. Whenever I’m in that area, I always take a walk to look at the buildings. I even like the stretch of art deco buildings along Marine Drive. I feel bad when buildings go for redevelopment to make way for monotonous structures.

lovely little charms tapasya prabhu

TCS: What next for Lovely Little Charms?

I usually just go with the flow and take up opportunities that come along. However, I have spoken to a few restaurants and brands about creating miniatures for them. So let’s see how that goes.

TCS: Any words of advice for budding miniature artists?

TP: Just go for it. Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Challenge yourself and be consistent.

Photographs courtesy Tapasya Prabhu



Makers Of Mumbai: Saptaparni & Shalmoli Of Myrtle Handcrafted Jewellery

myrtle handcrafted jewellery Saptaparni Shalmoli


When Saptaparni and Shalmoli couldn’t turn away the stray cats that trooped into their ground-floor apartment, they realised they needed to find alternate means of income to feed their growing army. They began Myrtle in early 2018 and their distinct handcrafted jewellery has already gathered a loyal following in the city. The sisters have moulded the perfect partnership – Saptaparni designs and creates the jewellery, while Shalmoli does all the number crunching.


The City Story: Tell us a little about your journey. How and when did you decide to start Myrtle Handkraft?

Saptaparni: I loved clay modelling and painting as a child. I started with sculpting faces and heads and then moved on to miniatures. That was my learning curve. I started making jewellery in 2013. Being an actor, I often get a lot of free time between auditions and shoots. Then my closest friends suggested I start selling the pieces. I don’t like selling art, but I needed the money to feed the stray cats we had started adopting. So we began posting the pieces on Instagram where we got a good response.

TCS: Can you talk us through the process of creating?

Saptaparni: I use air-dry or polymer clay that you can buy from any store. I mix a little bit of watercolour, acrylic or oil paint into the clay to create the colours that I want. The true colours only show once the product is completely dry. I make the base first, then the flowers, leaves and other designs. Finally, I stick those on the base. I improvise a lot. I never have a fixed design in mind when I start.

Shalmoli: We always tell our customers that they will never get the same design, because our designer keeps improvising. Even making a pair of earrings is difficult for her at times, because she can’t copy the designs so precisely. But customers love that, because it makes the jewellery unique.

myrtle handcrafted jewellery Saptaparni Shalmoli

TCS: What inspires you?

Saptaparni: In 2013 I saw big, chunky earrings at a Dolce and Gabbana Show at Milan Fashion Week. I loved those earrings, and I wanted them. That was the trigger point. Since then I’ve always wanted to create big jewellery pieces.

In terms of design, I’m instantly attracted to flowers and leaves. Even if I consciously try to avoid them, I end up creating them in most of my designs. I will eventually move on to more geometric shapes, but right now I’m focused on florals.

TCS: What are some of the challenges of running a business?

Shalmoli: Money is always a problem. So many customers bargain a lot. We do give some discount if they’re buying in bulk, but it’s not possible for us to lower our prices since we’re barely making any profit. While fixing prices, we take the cost of production into account, then the size, then the postage charges and finally add only a tiny margin for the actual labour and time spent on making the product.

TCS: What keeps you going?

Saptaparni: The love of art. I believe that any form of art is therapeutic and requires a lot of concentration. People should not take up art to become famous, to earn money. They should do it for the joy it brings them, just like I do.

myrtle handcrafted jewellery Saptaparni Shalmoli

TCS: What are your future plans? Where do you want to take Myrtle in the next 5 years?

Shalmoli: Our next step would be to create a website. Right now, we only have an Instagram account. A website means better brand value and more customers. We are also looking to start world-wide shipping, because we have been getting requests from overseas as well.

Saptaparni: From the product point of view, my goal is to make bigger, chunkier earrings. I believe that more is less. People have approached us for collaborations and bulk orders, but I can’t keep up with that since I’m the only one who makes the jewellery.

I would also love to make my own utensils – ceramic bowls and plates. But it’s very expensive to have that kind of a set-up at home with a wheel and baking kiln. I started with the jewellery because I couldn’t afford that, but I hope one day I can.

TCS: What do you love most about Mumbai?

Saptaparni: I’ve travelled all over the country, but I can relate to Mumbai because in many ways it is similar to Calcutta. The culture is rich, the people are humble and the weather is beautiful for most part.

TCS: Where do you go when you need a quick escape from the city?

Saptaparni: We like going to Karjat on the weekends because all our cats are there now, at an animal shelter called Probably Paradise run by Roxanne Davur. It’s a beautiful space with over 250 rescued animals including horses, dogs, cats, and cows.



Your Guide To Indian-Chinese Restaurants In Malad, Kandivali, And Borivali




Remember the old days when you’d visit a dimly lit restaurant with the entire family and slurp on manchow soup in unison? Or the times you sent the manchurian back with the delivery boy because the dumplings were soaked in gravy despite your instructions to have it served ‘dry’? Well, for some of us, that was last weekend.

There’s been a seismic shift in Mumbai’s definition of Chinese cuisine. But while townies and Bandra-ites debate subtle differences in Sichuan and Cantonese flavours, in the ‘burbs, the greasy, soy-stained, laminated menus of the ’80s and ’90s still exist. The Malad-Kandivali-Borivali belt in particular, is peppered with eateries that serve Indian-Chinese staples in melamine plates with no mention whatsoever of monosodium glutamate.

If you’ve ever put one too many drops of soy sauce into your sweet corn soup or foraged through capsicum, chilli, and onion for that last piece of paneer, read on. This guide is flavoured with nostalgia, budget-friendliness, and a little train travel. It’s delicious!


Uncle’s Kitchen

If you’re inexplicably drawn to heaps of neon orange fried rice served in bright yellow plates, Schezwan everything and the love of the common people, head to Uncle’s Kitchen. The Mith Chowki landmark recently changed location to a nearby lane, but its established popularity ensures a minimum wait of 20-30 minutes for a table on weekends. Crowd-pleasers include Drums of Heaven (chicken lollypops), triple fried rice, and pretty retro sized portions.

Uncle’s Kitchen, Ground Floor, Buena Vista, Sunder Lane, Opposite St. Anne’s School, Orlem, Malad (w), Mumbai 400 064. Phone: 022 2888 1752

Fire Bowl

At Fire Bowl, what you see is what you get. The extensive menu features vibrant pictures of soups, chopsuey and everything in between. You could spend time poring over the menu, or just follow conventional wisdom and order burnt garlic fried rice with gobi manchurian. Eat at the restaurant only if you can slurp your noodles with a gaudy, red-eyed dragon staring you down. Or else choose the efficient home delivery option.

Fire Bowl, Ground Floor, Aruna Residency, Atmaram Compound, Near Dalmia College, Sundar Nagar, Malad (w), Mumbai 400 064. Phone: 022 6504 0002


Lama’s Corner

Lama’s Corner never fails to pack a pungent punch of nostalgia. Red plastic stools? Check. Option of half or full portions? Check. Folding pamphlet menu? Check. Spelling errors on said menu? Check, check, check. The vegetarian menu includes familiar favourites like sweet corn soup, Hakka ‘noodels’, Chinese bhel, plus an entire section dedicated to paneer lovers.

Lama’s Corner, Shop No. 1, Krishna Apartment, Bhatt Lane, SV Road, Kandivali (w), Mumbai, 400 067. Phone: 098214 43899


Unlike the derivative restaurant chains cropping up across the city, this mononymous establishment has an uncomplicated menu with neat columns and year-round discounts that could put online shopping sites to shame. The manchow soup alone is worth the trek to Charkop, but the Singapore rice and Chicken 65 have their fair share of fans. All food is sans ajinomoto.

Wok, Shop 2/3, Plot 118, Ila Apartment, Charkop Sector 4, Kandivali (w), Mumbai 400 067. Phone: 022 2868 6399


Night Evil

As a teenager, every time I walked down LT Road, I would stop to read the bold calligraphic script that declared; Night Evil – “Our only competitors are in China”. While that statement may need corroboration, their confidence is commendable. The mushroom chilly (dry) and vegetarian Manchurian (gravy) are quite good too. Comparatively higher prices and cramped quarters may deter new diners, but old-timers swear by the sizzling chicken Schezwan noodles at the oldest Chinese restaurant in Borivali.

Night Evil, Hari Darshan, Opposite St. Anne’s High School, Lokmanya Tilak Road, Borivali (w), Mumbai 400 092. Phone: 022 2892 2889

Choi Kim Cuisine

The intricate red and golden wrought iron gateway at Choi Kim acts as a portal, transporting patrons back to the ’90s. There’s obviously an AC section decorated with dragons, hand fans, mandalas and other such tropes. Of course, they have staple Indian Chinese dishes at pocket-friendly prices. Chicken lollypop, spring rolls, American chopsuey – you can have it all. The more contemporary wine ribs and Hunan pork are welcome additions to the otherwise vintage menu.

Choi Kim Cuisine, Ground Floor, Mansi Enclave, IC Colony, Borivali (w), Mumbai 400 103. Phone: 022 2892 8332

Hill View

Though technically in Dahisar, Hill View makes it to this list because it never fails to deliver, albeit a tad late at times. When our family discovered the concept of ordering in, Chinese was our poison of choice, and Hill View the executioner. The restaurant itself is tiny, bare, and has no actual view, but the aroma of paneer chilly and Hunan chicken is enough to ensnare customers. However, it’s the radioactive American chopsuey – orange gravy oozing over the top of a volcano of crumbled fried noodles – that ensures lifelong loyalty to Hill View.

Hill View, Sterling Avenue, Kandarpada, Link Road, Dahisar (w), Mumbai 400 068. Phone: 022 2892 3344

Feature photograph copyright Brent Hofacker – stock.adobe.com


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Late-Night Coffee And Conversations At Elementaria

elementaria cafe bkc lower parel


Elementaria is a direct contrast to the reservation-only fine-dining restaurants at BKC. Patrons can linger over coffee, nibble croissants, or chat till 1 a.m. at this cosy cafe that serves a host of delicious desserts and beverages. They also have an outpost at Lower Parel.

Elementaria, Shop 1A, Godrej Jet Airways Building, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai 400 051. Phone: 077380 73812; Shop 10, Khimji Nagji Chawl 1, Opposite Phoenix High Street, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400 013. Phone: 077380 99212


It’s one of those nights when dinner just isn’t enough. The steady stream of overlapping exchanges over fluffy poee and cashew-infused tipples has failed to satiate us. We could do with coffee, but neither our taste buds nor our wallets are tempted by the options at hand. After much dilly-dallying, we call our respective taxis and start departing in ones and twos. When our party dwindles to four, we decide to take a wee walk around the block. Ten steps into our midnight stroll, I spot warm lighting, wooden interiors, and a coffee machine.

Ten minutes later, we’re staring at the delectable display at Elementaria. Not so long ago we were bursting with stories, now our priorities seem to have shifted from coffee and conversation to chocolate and more chocolate. How does one choose between an intense chocolate tub cake and whisky cupcake? Or between a Snickers pastry and a Ferrero Rocher brownie? One doesn’t.

Then there’s the stuff that’s not on display. The Cutting Dessert is an assortment of mousse, cakes, and cheesecakes set and served in cutting chai glasses. The Ele Pots have ice cream, waffles, fudge, cupcakes, choco balls, jelly beans, and sprinkles. Maybe even unicorns and rainbows. The staple sandwiches and wraps seem boring in comparison, but there’s a list of dessert croissants that we vow to demolish on our next visit. Then we have a chocolate tart to celebrate the discovery of our new 1 a.m. coffee and dessert haunt.
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Sunrise At Joseph Baptista Gardens



Dotted with beautiful tracks, gazebos, and flowerbeds, Joseph Baptista Gardens is the ideal space for running, rambling, and people watching. This 133-year-old garden atop Bhandarwada hill is the highest point in Mazagaon and the highlight of the day for many residents.

Joseph Baptista Gardens, Ekta Nagar, Mazagaon, Mumbai 400 001


There is a sliver of disappointment when the spectacular sunrise you promised yourself decides to ditch at the last minute. You’ve probably hit the snooze button seven times before trudging out while still prying loose gunk from crusty eyes. But the clouds don’t care if you’ve had only three hours of sleep. The fog doesn’t know you’re not a morning person. The pollution won’t clear up magically. Know this, fellow night birds: no valiant sunrise viewing attempt goes in vain at Joseph Baptista Gardens.

Ask a local about Joseph Baptista Gardens, and you might draw a blank stare. Enquire about Mazagaon Gardens, and you’ll promptly be pointed towards Bhandarwada hill. If it’s between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and the local is wearing shorts or sports shoes, you’ll probably be accompanied to the wrought iron gates of the garden. Retie your laces, ready your quadriceps, and join the early risers, insomniacs, mothers, trainers, runners, and irritatingly chirpy children ascending the hill. You’re just in time for sunrise.

Once at the top, it’s easy to just get swept up by waves of walkers washing over the tiled tracks. Women in fluttering burkhas power-walking their way through previous night’s mindboggling soap opera twist; octogenarians plodding along with the support of canes and caretakers; children racing towards a perennially shifting finish line; middle-aged men in the early stages of preparing for a marathon; teenage lovers shuffling along the sidelines seeking a quiet corner; dogs setting an impossible pace for their walkers. Blobs of different shapes, sizes, colours, and gaits swirl together to create a walking typhoon that varies in speed and strength, depending on your position. Break away from the current. The sun should make an appearance any minute.

joseph baptista gardens

The best seat in the house is actually a standing point. Run the obstacle course lined with steel bars and spiky cycas, jump into the bramble, peek through the iron fence lining the outer edge of the park, and you will be rewarded with a sweeping view of the docks. From the highest point in Mazagaon, you can spot vessels setting sail in the distance, hear office-bound vehicles honking on the flyover, and feel local trains hurtling past the hill on their way to Sandhurst Road.

joseph baptista gardens

When the hill was home to Mazagaon Fort in the 17th Century, this exact spot probably offered uninterrupted views of the shimmering horizon, sans zigzag roads, bulky cranes, and winter smog. Maybe the British stood on the ramparts and watched Siddi ships approach the shore, led by general Yakut Khan, who ultimately razed the fort to the ground. Bhandarwada hill was stripped of its crowning glory, but it remained relevant in the centuries to come. Developed as a major reservoir by the British in the late 1800s, it continues to supply water to the central and southern parts of Mumbai. The 1.5-acre garden above the reservoir is named after political activist, former mayor of the city, and Mazagaon resident Joseph “Kaka” Baptista. Though constantly evolving in appearance, this basalt bastille has stood the test of time. You, meanwhile, have lost track of time, but the sun remains out of sight.

joseph baptista gardens

The wooden benches have clearly been placed close together for a purpose – to arch your back, stretch your legs, and face the east. Kites and crows fly around in dizzying circles, occasionally resting on the black iron street lamps. Enthusiastic locals perform pull-ups on the arch bursting with bougainvillaea, burying their faces into the bright blooms at every count. Adolescents play a game of badminton; no rules, no scores. Young men plug in their earphones and scan the morning multitude, muttering to no one in particular. A woman rolls out her yoga mat and assumes the position for the surya namaskar. Two nuns wait patiently, hands lying gently in their laps, eyes shut, faces averted towards the slowly surfacing sunrays. When the sun finally makes an appearance, it is already high above the old city skyline. You could be disappointed, but you’re distracted by the fisherwomen rapt in a rawas-related conversation and children using remnants of pumping equipment as a jungle gym. There’s plenty of room for everyone at Joseph Baptista Gardens, but none for disappointment.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira


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Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2018 Takes The Green Route




Every February, almost half a million people make their way to Mumbai’s most aesthetic district to get an annual taste of art in all its forms. Since its inception almost two decades ago, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival has expanded exponentially, both geographically and conceptually. This year KGAF is taking a fresh approach in terms of theme and team. The City Story spoke to festival co-ordinator Nicole Mody about the main attractions at KGAF 2018, the hurdles at organisation level, and being in the saddle seat for the first time.

Green Is The New Black

The theme for this year’s festival –“Hara Ghoda” (green horse) – is timely and apt, considering both the rising concerns surrounding climate change and dwindling natural resources as well as people’s preference for organic food and healthy eating. “We need to pay attention to nature right now,” says Nicole. “We need to take care of the earth so that the earth takes care of us, otherwise we will be at a standstill. And as one of India’s biggest and most popular street festivals, we have a responsibility to create awareness when it’s needed.”

Each of the 12 verticals will interpret and incorporate the theme in a unique manner. The wonders of nature and the five elements will be brought to life via performance and visual arts. The food section will host foraging workshops and urban farming for children. Fresh talent, including a host of comediennes, will take over the stage as part of “Haha Hara”, the stand-up comedy vertical. The cinema section will host “Hara Pheri”, a double-bill section that screens two films connected by a common theme, person, or era. Nicole is most animated about something that hasn’t been attempted before in the music segment. “We are doing a master class on opera,” she says, “and I am very excited about that.”

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As part of the Hara Ghoda theme, the team is also giving space to other green initiatives at the festival. One such initiative is Green Yatra, which promotes tree planting across the city in order to create green belts to neutralise the impact of global warming. Roti Bank, started by former top cop D. Sivanandan, is another one. This month-old initiative collects and distributes basic meals for the underprivileged. Garbage Free India runs campaigns to create awareness about garbage dumping. “We’re trying to send a message to a larger audience about social and civic responsibility,” says Nicole. “About taking care of not just everything around you, but a little more than that.” She hopes that together they can create a message that carries forward even after the festival is over.

Taking Over the Reins from Brinda Miller

Though she has been involved with KGAF in various capacities since 2009, this is Nicole’s maiden run as the festival co-ordinator. She takes over from Brinda Miller, whose 15-year old track record at the helm and inspiring reputation as an artist could cause some nervousness. “Of course I’m nervous,” says Nicole, “because those are pretty big shoes to fill. Brinda’s still very much a part of the festival. I call her once a week to ask her questions.”

This prestigious position comes with its own set of challenges. “There are a lot of expectations that everyone else has about the festival and the way it should be run,” says Nicole. “I think managing people’s expectations is the most challenging thing I have had to face and will continue to face throughout the festival.”

At the same time, Nicole is excited pushing her own boundaries and seeing the different ideas that can be implemented. What’s also exciting is that the team has been infused with some new energy this year. “A few of our curators from previous years have taken a break this time,” says Nicole, “and we have brought on some new people. We are definitely going to have a bit of a change this year.”

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Pushing The Digital Agenda

So what’s different this year? “There’s a lot of integration of the digital format,” says Nicole, going on to give us different examples. “In the literature section, we have tried to include a lot of digital programming, including talking about digital publication. We are running contests and doing a lot more digital integration. We’ve ramped up our digital engagement considerably this year. We are looking at doing live broadcasts from the festival, which I think is going to be super fun.”

The Fun (And Hard Work) Never Stops

The toughest part of Nicole’s job is also the most fun. “Coordinating with so many people on a large scale is challenging,” says Nicole. While her background in event management is an advantage, the sheer number of people involved can be quite overwhelming at times. “It’s a bit of a pain,” she says, “but it’s challenging to be creative. That is what I enjoy, and that is also what frightens me the most.”

The creative process begins eight months in advance, with the core team going over the previous year’s festival with a fine-tooth comb. “The actual work starts in June or July, and it gets very intense in October,” says Nicole. “We try and finish our programming by mid-December. But we’re always planning. I’m already thinking about things I want to do for the festival in 2019. That never stops.”

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Even during the festival, Nicole is always on the move, jumping from one venue to the next, checking in with the curators, ensuring that there are no technical glitches. Though she’s a big fan of literature and music, she has no time to attend any performances. “Even if I do attempt to sit through an event,” she says, “the phone will keep ringing and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.”

Surging Crowds and Swelling Popularity

While some may consider the large number of people at the festival a hindrance, Nicole takes is as a sign of KGAF’s rising popularity. “It’s not really worrying,” she says, “because the festival isn’t on just one street. We have 43 different venues this year, spread out from Rampart Row and Horniman Circle to Cross Maidan. Those are the three major hubs. Then there is the museum, venues on the streets, NGMA, David Sassoon Library. Shifting the music and dance stage to Cross Maidan has actually helped dilute the crowd.”

Even the increasing number of shutterbugs and selfie-takers at the festival doesn’t perturb Nicole, who prefers to look at the silver lining. “We have students and photography enthusiasts come in early to take pictures when the festival is empty, and it’s wonderful to see their photographs. We have our own photography team, but the pictures that crop up online are phenomenal.”

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Mapping the Future of KGAF

Nicole already has ideas about the evolution of KGAF, taking it to new heights while retaining its core essence. The festival provides a great platform for “young, unknown people” and will continue to encourage new talent, and Nicole wants to branch out. “I would like to increase the interactive part of the festival,” she says. “I would like to concentrate on interaction with not just the people of Mumbai, but from different parts of the country as well. We do have artisans coming in from all over India and setting up stalls, but we don’t have too many people from outside the city when it comes to dance, music, and literature. We would like to make KGAF a larger platform for the younger artists and performers to be heard.”

Quick Fire – Nicole Mody’s Kala Ghoda:

  • Best coffee in Kala Ghoda can be found at… Kala Ghoda Café
  • Samovar or Rhythm House. If one of these could be resurrected, which one would you choose and why? Samovar, for the view, the chai, and the parathas.
  • Your favourite heritage building in Kala Ghoda? CSMVS
  • Your favourite food stall at KGAF? Sadhana Tai, the fish lady at Cross Maidan
  • What’s the one thing we must take a selfie with at KGAF this year? The Kala Ghoda statue

Photographs courtesy the Kala Ghoda Association