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Redefining Tourism: Mumbai Heritage Walk With Khaki Tours

Campus Lead, RPG Enterprises
Feb 13, 2018 7:08 AM 4 min read

A city’s heritage resides in its stories, not in its monuments. When those stories are forgotten, even standing monuments become as good as invisible and heritage is lost.


Khaki Tours is a unique avenue for many who are intellectually inclined to ask how they can be involved in their city's heritage: Not just to create awareness, but also to create change.


I'll begin by giving a brief backdrop on where I come from. I was born in Delhi and stayed there most of my formative years. This changed when my father landed a job in Bahrain where I spent the last 8 years of my education before joining Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh for my undergrad studies. As I graduated, I got into a sales role at Godrej & Boyce, where I spent 2.5 years and ended up joining XLRI Jamshedpur to pursue a MBA in Human Resources.


As you can see, my line of 'interest' is an undecided one, having moved from Engineering to sales to HR and God only knows where to next! As I landed a job at Sony Pictures Networks in Mumbai (from XLRI) is where my story of 'Heritage Evangelism' begins. Throughout my first year at Sony, while the weekdays kept me busy with work, I was quite free over the weekends and to spend my time wisely, I decided to continue with my passion of the French Language and enrolled at Alliance Française for a year.


Post completion of the course, I was once again faced with the dilemma of what next!. At the same time, I was keen to attend various events taking place in Mumbai such as plays, screenings, festivals, etc. While there was always that inclination to discover this Metropolis, it was colonial history that for some reason appealed more. Perhaps Ancient history being hard to 'imagine' is much harder to comprehend. It was then in the month of April, 2016 that I came across an event on Facebook called 'Bhuleshwar Bhulbhulaiya' by a group called 'Khaki Tours'. It seemed to be a heritage walk in a part of Mumbai that I had never even heard of. I decided to sign up for it and try it out. Although the content of the walk was one which comprised of temples and mythology (something I would, in most cases, run away from), the way it was presented in a duration of 3 hours was fascinating and I was hooked on to it there onwards.


From Bhuleshwar, I went on to attend the walk at Lalbaug, then Parel, then Bazargate, then Gamdevi, till I had attended all the walks which were not set up in the seemingly popular heritage precinct of the Fort. Intrigued by my interest, the host of the walks, Bharat Gothoskar, approached me and asked me if I would like to contribute more towards the walks. I gladly accepted the offer and soon realised that the walks were just a medium to help create awareness for a larger cause of not only highlighting some of the hidden heritage of the city but also highlight their importance through stories and providing a 'counter narrative' to what is assumed as the truth by the masses.


Unveiling Mumbai


While other tour companies focus on foreigners for their business, Khaki Tours manages to involve the Mumbaikar who has been living in this city his/her entire life but does not know about the fascinating history it has been a witness to. Sharing this philosophy, I am contributing to creating newer walks, hosting them and researching about this city in whatever way possible to obtain more information that can help create a story and share it with everyone. The aim of this movement is to keep trying in whatever means possible, till an action is taken about conserving and restoring these artefacts which could be in the form of a residential building, an office, a cinema, a milestone, a statue or even a cannon! Personally, for me the thrill comes from living in a city that lives and breathes in the history it is surrounded by instead of it being present in a museum behind a glass wall.

The next step for Khaki Tours is to not just keep conducting walks but to set up a foundation that allows the masses to contribute for the cause in whatever means possible to raise funds for projects that could lead to the conservation of some heritage landmarks of this city as well. This will also include initiatives such as talks, exhibitions, knowledge sharing sessions, setting up of museums and many more, each of which can be done for spreading the awareness and help this city bring back its glory of being 'Urbs Prima In Indis' - The first city of India.