Melee at the mela

I’ve spent the entire weekend at Kala Ghoda!! I’ve been a regular visitor to the festival these years and thus far my KGAF experience has been limited to perusing the sidewalk outside Jehangir Art Gallery and ooh-ing and aah-ing about the artwork. This year I’m super-excited this time round because of my increased participation. Like last year, I’m writing for the Kala Ghoda Gazette and for the first time I’m actually participating in the events. You can see my more detailed account of the events here.


The Festival is in its 10th year of existance. In the past years I’ve seen a gradual decline with the one rather regrettable year where all I remember of it was a row of food stalls (though my first experience of Kheer Kodom from Sweet Bengal did leave sweet memories). However it looks like the Black Horse has given itself a good shake since last year was an improvement. And this year is positively mind-boggling!

We enter to a cacaphony of lost kids’ announcements flanked by a tent that reveals several messy-fingered children running around wearing Surf Excel ‘Daag achche hai’ tee-shirts. A painting competition is in progress one presumes. There is also a huge whiteboard for kids to express themselves.

We walk around the various art installations and I’m alternately amused and annoyed. I hear one man tell another

Kuch bhi bana dete hai yeh artist log!!

referring to an exhibit of a buzzing mosquito/fly/insect made of metal wires and sundry parts. A girl is posing over a painted motor-bike in a corner while her friend takes a photograph. I resist the urge to yank her off it and tell her that it’s an exhibit in an art festival, not a prop in a photographer’s studio. I wonder what the artist must feel.

The crowds are thronging the food stalls and the stage. That’s quite descriptive of Mumbai, I think. Roti ke liye kuch bhi karega and Tamasha dekh! are this city’s twin motivations. I remember an episode from one of the years past, watching an angry man screaming at the waiters in one of the food stalls.

Call the manager!!! Yahan food khaya yesterday and dysentry ho gaya!

I was amused and not in the least bit sympathetic. Such a ” ” I thought, to eat food off the street as part of an ‘experience’ and then complain about the quality. Where does he think he is – the Reagent? Besides I added as an after-thought, only one of those types would fall sick eating roadside food. After all my gastroentitis attack last year happened after consuming a spinach pasta at one of Bandra’s fancy restaurants not my usual evening bhelpuri off the roadside. Even so, I sniff my plate cautiously before ordering what I hope is a ‘safe’ plate of kebabs.

Along the way I bump into familiar faces – colleagues, friends, fellow-bloggers. The culturally-conscious circle in Mumbai is a small tight knit group and bloggers are an even smaller fraction of them. The crowd is almost as interesting as the exhibits with stiff MBA-types (from Nariman Point one presumes) jostle with arty jhola-toting bohemians and inter-mingle with a lot of foreign tourists. Kids are running helter-skelter everywhere and I imagine that their parents are going to have a hell of a time explaining some of the photographs and exhibits on display.

Don’t read that aloud! That’s a bad word (from the photo-exhibit on Mumbai’s train graffiti)

Yes, that’s a fan. Hmm, it does look like an insect. Because the artist thought so, that’s why!! It’s called Modern Art (shakes head and moves away)


The Dilliwalla with me soon gets bored and wants to push off and watch a movie instead.

Yeh kahan mele mein leke aa gayi, yaar??!!

And his rueful expression is so comical that I concede, though not before sampling a panipuri and buying something from the blue pottery stall. On the way, I’m approached by several strangers attempting to recruit me into protesting against garbage dumping in India, preventing smoking, helping children and supporting battered women. I wonder what their connection with art is but I guess good causes need more force of will than invitations.

Before we leave, I manage to get a bird’s eye view of the next act on stage. And I think, my friend would never understand why the festival means so much. In a city that’s eternally chasing dreams that keep getting broken, that tries to burn the candle at every end possible and make them all meet as well, where even the air looks dirty…… can remind us of beauty, of joy, of expression and also…to laugh at ourselves. It’s a Mumbai thing, after all.


1 Comment so far

  1. Kapil (unregistered) on February 6th, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

    I missed it last weekend due to hectic work in office. but this weekend I am determined to be there with my camera and experience the fun.

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