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UnFamiliar Territory Image Credit: Verve
UnFamiliar Territory Image Credit: Verve

(Un)Familiar Territory

As redevelopment and construction projects cast a dusty haze over an already unrecognisable Mumbai, Simin Patel, founder of walking tours company Bombaywalla, and photographer Hashim Badani are determined not to lose sight of the sometimes-overlooked spaces that gave Mumbai its original, distinct character. Sadaf Shaikh joins them on a customised expedition and is reminded why she shouldn’t take the uniqueness of her hometown for granted.

Sadaf Shaikh

I’ve been a resident of Mumbai for all of my 27 years and, yet, I must shamefully admit that much of this ‘maximum city’ remains a mystery to me. I continue to depend on Google Maps to get me to familiar places, I lose my way more often than I’d care to reveal, and I almost always miss discovering a hidden route or quaint nook because I’m preoccupied with my phone. Simin Patel is flummoxed by my admission and attempts to fix this inanity on a Wednesday morning, as she checks a mental list of places we will be visiting during a specially curated walking tour. The 34-year-old historian is the founder of Bombaywalla, a company that is in the business of guiding visitors and locals in the direction of the lesser-known sites within crowded neighbourhoods that may well be invisible to the inhabitants of this bustling city. And on tour-free days, you will find her bent over a laptop screen at Ministry of New, a co-working space in Fort, where she often spends long days doing research. Fact-checking, she says, is perhaps the most important part of her job.

It’s 8.30 in the morning, and while Patel is readying for the shoot, I notice a tall figure skulking around the Verve office. I gingerly call out, “Hashim?” and he turns immediately, a shy smile on his face. Clad in jeans and a simple T-shirt, travel and fashion photographer Hashim Badani is clearly more accustomed to being behind the camera than in front of it, evident from his de


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