Kala Ghoda Arts Festival – I

Every year, a 9-day Festival of the Arts, ‘The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival’ is held in Mumbai. Initiated in 1999, it is a celebration of the culture and various Art forms of India, with an aim to involving the community and so helping in their preservation. The historic Kala Ghoda district is the hub of Mumbai’s Art World…lined with Art Galleries, Museums, Libraries, located in heritage buildings dating back to the days of the Raj. 


The Festival is a colorful spectacle of Art installations, street acts, musical concerts, movie screenings, and a myriad of workshops in various fields. The energy is palpable as families wander through the pedestrian zone, cameras at the ready, taking in the sights, catching the latest street acts, grabbing a bite to eat, jostling to shop at the many interesting stalls that line the walk, and studying the many installations that dot the landscape. I have happy memories of wandering here when we were last in Mumbai – it was much smaller then, less crowded although thoroughly enjoyable. Like everything else in this city – it has ballooned in size and scope and attendance so that it is quite difficult to walk around without stepping on anonymous toes and warding off strange elbows with your own, as we found out when we were there last Sunday! Since Ishaan was with us, I was quite paranoid of holding on to his hand, lest the crowd swallow him up!! There were scouts too – they approached us to ask whether we would be interested in Ishaan being a child model and Hubby, much to my annoyance gave them his number!! Not that he has a say in the matter. My decision is quite final and it’s a resounding NO!

We did however soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the street – it’s impossible not to! I took pictures of the various installations – the theme this year seemed to be skulls made out of refuse – which would explain this gigantic model made out of disemboweled computer parts!


A scooter shaped like a fly reminiscent of a recent Bollywood blockbuster titled ‘Makkhi’, (fly in Hindi);


A giant pair of glasses served as a showcase for the normal-sized ones ensconced within;


A shiny copper bicycle encouraging Mumbai denizens towards an environment-friendly lifestyle;


Totem poles made out of recyclable materials and a green map of India strung with fairy lights that lit up when cyclists pedaled hard creating energy!



The boys ate ice-cream and we all enjoyed a 20 min tightrope performance by a troupe of local acrobats! Ishaan was extremely excited but confused by the boy on stilts and utterly in awe of the boy balancing on the rope all to riveting beat of handheld drums! It was his first time watching a show like this and I’m so glad he was able to experience it, even in the 21st century 🙂 It took me back to my childhood, when there were several such troupes wandering around Bombay, usually families, where the children performed all sorts of dare-devilry and acrobatics! ‘Dombari’ they are called in Marathi and their appearance was always exciting if a little scary!

The 'Dombari' displaying their formidable skills!
The ‘Dombari’ displaying their formidable skills!

With the boys in tow, I didn’t get to shop or even browse, but I’m going back with a friend, during school hours tomorrow, to do exactly that! There are always a couple of stalls that are out of the ordinary 🙂

Wish me Luck 😀

Art Therapy

For most of my life, I’ve shunned museums. Shocked?! Not more than me, I can assure you! Even as I type, I’m amazed at how ludicrous it seems, how absurd, considering how much I have grown to love them in recent years 🙂 I guess it was a combination of several things that made me feel museums were boring places, the first being a lack of exposure to good ones! Goa isn’t exactly the Museum capital of the world and although I did travel often in Southeast Asia during my teens, Art wasn’t exactly my priority then! Also, my family wasn’t exactly encouraging, which is surprising considering how creative they are! My Grandma was an award-winning seamstress in her day, my aunt is a poet and we have several talented musicians, actors and painters too; but growing up, there was never a conscious effort made to introduce us kids to the Arts. All the stress was on getting an academic education and the Arts were looked upon as definitely inferior to Science. Sad but true 😦 So I grew up with a limited understanding of Art and artists (I’m referring to paintings here), and although I knew of the Mona Lisa, I thought it was a huge fuss to make over some silly smile! I blame it now on the shoddy prints I saw 😛 I grew up in a computer-less world people, a simpler time 🙂

Even with my limited exposure to Art though, I was both fascinated & curious about its existence & creators, probably coz I sucked at all forms of it myself and because most artists I read about seemed to lead such weirdly wonderful lives far removed from my own sane, secure reality! So even though I was a klutz (still am) and delicacy was beyond me, I could recognize and appreciate it in my fellow humans and was in awe of them 🙂 My friend M could draw fabulous pictures of almost anything and I would watch in wonder as she made something beautiful out of a void. She drew me this Pixie/Elf in my autograph book (remember those?), that brings me joy to this day! Thanks M 🙂

Recent events have meant that I’m making a concerted and conscious effort to look around my world and find beauty, joy, anything really, that lightens the heart and brings a smile to my face. Not so very difficult when you know where to look and sometimes even when you don’t! I remember very clearly standing in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona (my kind of city!), gazing at this particular painting (the one below)… awestruck at the beautiful asymmetry and bold lines. I fell in love instantly & quite unexpectedly with Picasso, I might add 🙂 If I were a painter, I would want to paint like him…with abandon & verve. 

Same trip, a few days later & I’m at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. In front of me is a simple canvas of almond blossoms on a blue sky, so real, I can inhale their scent, feel their soft petals against my skin. Magical! Then I learnt that Van Gogh painted this on the birth of his nephew Vincent, and chose almond blossoms to represent the coming of spring, and that made it all the more special. It’s my absolute favorite Van Gogh 🙂 That blue sky, painted way back in 1890 (imagine that!) is to die for!

The next day I’m at the Rijkmuseum and standing with my jaw dropping to the floor, awestruck at the massive canvas that is The Night Watch. I stare at the play of light & shadows, the detail, the scale, the way the characters seem alive – like they’re about to walk out of the canvas and into the room, and again, I’m in love 🙂 I find it hard to tear myself away.

A week later in Brussels, I discover Klimt and I’m head over heels again! The sheer brilliance of his work (he used gold leaf in his work) and his sensuality won me over. My kind of guy this!

Then there are other paintings that have touched my heart over the years…not the Masters, but artists whose work I’ve admired and occasionally bought. One such is Mariann Johansen-Ellis, of Dutch origin whose original prints from copper etchings caught my eye. I met her at an exhibition in Singapore and she was as charming as her work. I have two prints by her hanging in Ishaan’s room 🙂

Another time I went to an exhibition by a Ukranian artist who painted the most adorable figures 🙂 How can the sight of that maiden on the beach not make you smile?

This is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s not even the tip of a giant iceberg. I haven’t even spoken about other forms of Art like sculpture and music and architecture! But it’ll have to do for now, coz it’s Ishaan’s bed-time! I’ll save the Indian paintings that I love for another post, coz there are oh so many!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this spot of Art Therapy 🙂 I know I’ve enjoyed reliving happy memories. In fact I’ve enjoyed it so much that I think I’ll be posting more posts like this one regularly 🙂 But then that’s what Art does, doesn’t it? It shows you that no matter how hard and long the winter in your neck of the woods, spring and almond blossoms are never far away 🙂 And ever so often…we need to remember and stop to inhale the wonder!

I’m sure you have your favorite paintings. Feel free to share 🙂

Inhale, People 🙂

P. S. By a strange & sad co-incidence, Hubby has just informed me that M. F. Hussian, arguably India’s most famous painter has passed away in London at the ripe old age of 96. Certainly the end of an era. He was pretty controversial, especially towards the latter part of his life, and always seemed to be in the news for the wrong reasons, but he was an awesome painter! I loved his horses (his hallmark).