February brings with it a lot of things – the perfectly balanced weather with the winter on its way out, the nascent summer warmth making it a perfect day in Mumbai for an outdoor walk. It also is the time when the Fort area as its fondly called – a quaint buzzing business district plays host to the Kala Ghoda Arts festival (KGAF). Kala Ghoda literally meaning “Black Horse” is a multicultural community festival conducted over nine days in one of the historic areas of Mumbai. The festival is an amalgamation of beauty and vibrancy with a colorful presentation of crafts, arts, music, dance, food, architecture, and of course history.

As I stepped into the Kala Ghoda Arts District, I saw numerous notable arts and cultural institutions, historic buildings, museums of which I had heard about, but did not have a chance to visit. I felt like I had heaved a breath of fresh air as soon as I stepped into the festival arena. All around me, there were fluttering pops of color and as I gazed around, I saw a mural of a horse roaring, ready to take a leap and gallop across the streets. As I took a moment to wonder at this painting, I saw a ragamuffin watching this display and instantly hurried to capture a shot of him and the horse together.

I tore myself off from the mural and headed next to the Arts and Artisan corner. A string of handmade bead pendants, chains, earrings, rings, all clanking against the wooden board with the rustling of the wind greeted me. Metal pieces hanging from a thread chimed by, while decorative accessories adorned the table, ready to be taken home. A traditional basket weave maker was sitting in a corner patiently weaving baskets while his sons were actively talking to customers on the art of basket weaving. I smiled at a wooden parrot very nimbly set on top of a basket and walked along with a heart to buy everything I saw.

As I strolled past. I saw a tired shopkeeper catching a wink in his chair at one of the stalls, I tiptoed past him like a cat, smiling and thinking to myself “Sleeping at work is also an art”. The next series of stalls had wooden carvings with humorous writings on them and as I peeked out of the displays, colorful handpainted ricks beckoned me to take a look. I pondered over these wonderful three-wheelers that are a common man’s favorite commute any day. As I stopped for a break, wondering whether I am hungry or should pass on food for later, I stumbled upon miniatures based on key landmarks like The Gateway of India. The intricately carved out wood innately expressed the busy life at an evening in the gateway and the flurry of activities that was taking place among the street food vendors, balloon and toy sellers, candy sellers etc. It made me wonder how many hours the artist must have spent visualizing and depicting the art so gracefully.

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I could not but wait to tell my family and friends on the exuberance of participating in this festival and seeing the many colors of artisans work. I almost forgot to mention about the roadside vendors who were cheering up kids with their simple pieces of work. As I watched the children jumping with joy, I remembered Anne Frank’s quote in the ‘Diary of a young girl’- “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”

As I reflect on the festivities and the prismatic display, I wonder what a well-deserved break it was and how happy I felt just to see the craftsmen heading from far and near, selling with a passion and a satisfaction. I feel inadequate in just describing a portion of the festival despite its dedication and coverage of dance, music, literature, urban architecture etc., but I promise I will be back with a more interesting story to share next year.

Blog contributed by: Rakesh Sampath, Marketing Manager, Mumbai, India

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