Born in Bombay, India, Kaiwan Mehta is a design critic in the field of architecture. He teaches in various graduate and undergraduate programs in the history of architecture. He has achieved many acclaims in the field of art and architecture. He has authored two books ‘Alice in Bluleshwar: Navigating a Mumbai Neighbourhood and another in 2016 by the title of ‘The Architecture of I M Kadri’. Recently, a podcast by Kaiwan Mehta aired on global platforms called ‘Neighbourhoods as Histories’. 

Elephant figurine at Kalbadevi, Mumbai _©Alberto Rojas

In the podcast, Kaiwan Mehta talks about the Bluleshwar, Kalbadevi & Thakurdwar (present-day Bhindi Bazar) neighborhoods of Bombay. Kaiwan Mehta briefs about his experiences thought process and memories of these places in terms of architecture, history, culture, and people. This neighborhood is amidst the center of Mumbai, one of the most populated cities of India and the center of culture, trade, and diversity. Mumbai’s architectural heritage narrates its rich cultural history. The architectural remains of any region show a journey of that region’s culture, architectural style, influencers, and economics that shape the city over time. Mumbai has witnessed various important events in the history of India. Events from independence, post-independence, economic majors, etc. 

Kaiwan Mehta specifically recalls such events from those specific neighborhoods of Mumbai. He marks two important events which are also mentioned in his article published in a magazine in February 2020 issue. The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival at Kala Ghoda Bombay which an arts festival and meet for artists, architects, and enthusiasts from the art community not only across India but even abroad. Participants display their art in various forms at the fest. Kaiwan Mehta marks this fest as a way of recovering public space and consciousness which will apparently help restore the public value of the city. Another event mentioned was the LGBTQ parades happening in many cities across India wherein parades are held on roads and in the parks bringing together people. 

Later on, Kaiwan Mehta recalls his exercise for the subject of Urban Research as a student in the late 1990s. He roamed across the neighborhoods that he now emphasizes in his podcast and articles and describes the native heritage and history as fascinating. He recollects the demolition of Babri Masjid and the riots that followed. Mehta marks these important events such as the Babri Masjid demolition and later how they impacted these areas far away from the masjid and shaped their current existing culture. All these places are shopping streets and have developed as mercantile and trade flourishing regions within Mumbai. These places show diversity in caste, culture, and ethnicities which then reflect diversity in history and architecture (both heritage and modern) in the regions. 

Kaiwan Mehta has briefly described his experiences of traveling all around the world and how his perspective was molded into visualizing Mumbai and elements from heritage here into structures everywhere. 

“Every time I saw a foreign city, I rediscovered my own Bombay.” -Kaiwan Mehta

The podcast, as the title, ‘The Neighbourhood as History’,  suggests takes you through the relationship between the history, the city, and the residing public by means of examples of the Bluleshwar, Kalbadevi & Thakurdwar areas of South Bombay. Kaiwan Mehta through his enthusiasm and fondness of history and an architect’s eye created a heritage walk of these regions of Mumbai. 

He describes the architectural elements, types of architectural influences such as Greek, Roman, Gothic, and Indian by means of elements he observed in a few remaining structures here. The podcast targets the audiences biased towards history and heritage, perhaps architects, historians, history, and architecture students. Mehta gives a jist of what a heritage walk through these old lanes would appear to these eyes. He paints a picture of what these lanes could’ve been in the past and what shaped them to be what we see today. Mehta uses the term ‘Riot of Architecture’ to paint this very picture. He merrily celebrates the diversity these lanes dwell with and then worries about how this diversity results in conflicts many a time and how these events will shape what we see in the future. 

The podcast is a must-listen if you’re willing to explore the subject of history, this will be a peek. Kaiwan Mehta being an architect himself covered the architectural specification, holding the attention of listeners from architectural backgrounds. The podcast may seem off-track when some of the recent events are described but when the overall subject is put together, the podcast only leaves the listeners with an eagerness to want to explore these lanes and see in person what the listening triggered into imaginations. 

 

Author

Pranjali is a fresher architect & a keen explorer. She finds tranquility in nature, traveling, reading, writing & architecture, altogether & discretely. She is fascinated by contemporary vernacular & sustainable style of architecture & hopes to promote it through her writing someday.

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