Things We Love: ‘On Nature’s Trail In Mumbai’ By Kahani Designworks
They’ve brought out maps about Mumbai’s museums, places in the city associated with the sea and its architecture but Kahani Designworks’s newest Storycity release was perhaps its most challenging. On Nature’s Trail In Mumbai is a fold-out guide to the city’s few green areas, from vast spots such as the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali, the Maharashtra Nature Park in Dharavi, Rani Baug in Byculla to public gardens like Joggers Park in Bandra, Five Gardens in Dadar and Sagar Upvan or the BPT (Bombay Port Trust) garden in Colaba.
“The whole Storycity project is about exploring the idea of heritage and how one can engage with it in a creative way,” said Ruchita Madhok, the founder of Kahani Designworks, a design firm in Khar. “With this map, we wanted readers to think about nature as heritage, and as part of our urban landscape. One tends to not think about intangible heritage such as drama, music and natural heritage, which seem to be missing from the heritage debate.”
To put together the list of 18 places, they consulted nature enthusiasts and bird watchers and went through material published by organisations such as the Bombay Natural History Society. Each listing mentions the kind of flora and fauna you can see there as well as address details, contact information, days of operation or a recommendation of the best time to visit.
The selections include Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, which bears a number of sculptures of animals and avian creatures. “A place like CST explores motifs from nature in a built environment,” said Madhok. “This playfulness with natural forms is completely missing in today’s architecture. We’ve included CST in this map so as to bring attention to these possibilities.” Another name in the guide that some might not immediately associate with nature is the Dadar flower market, a visit to which Madhok describes as “an incredible heady, fragrant, visual experience”.
It’s debatable whether museums such as the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, whose collections have maps and miniature paintings showing nature, are valid inclusions to a nature trail. But going through facts and figures about Mumbai’s few green lungs is heartening at a time when open spaces, such as Aarey Milk Colony (which isn’t included because it’s part of the SGNP), are being threatened at an alarming pace. We are after all home to one of the world’s few national parks within city limits (the SGNP), the winter holiday destination of thousands of flamingoes (the Sewri wetlands and Thane creek), and a 53-acre botanical garden (Rani Baug).
Among the lesser-known points is the Ovalekar Wadi Butterfly Garden in Thane, which the designer picked as her favourite. It stands on a plot owned by the Ovalekar brothers, who converted their ancestral land into a “haven for butterflies” by planting trees that bear flowers and fruit that attract the colourful insects. They’re among the flora and fauna illustrated in green and gold on the striking and elegant guide, which is printed on unbleached handmade paper, 80 per cent of which was produced from recycled textile waste, said Madhok. The idea was to use materials that match the subject matter. “It’s about the most eco-friendly paper we could find,” she said.
On Nature’s Trail in Mumbai, Kahani Designworks, Rs300. Available at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla and Filter in Kala Ghoda. See here for address details.