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  • Writer's picturePlacemaking


Mumbai derives its signature characteristic through its people. With a diverse population influx each minute, every person here is a story in its own. However, their story is not theirs alone. Many a times, it belongs to a collective narrative, falling into the compartments of the city's history. It is in this context, the publication project- People Called Mumbai, by the architecture studio - Design [Variable] draws a parallel between writing and designing and views the city through the lens of the people. It collected personal narratives across the geography and social cross section of the city, detailed with snippets in hopes of providing a re-reading of the city. A mélange of designing, literary skills and community interactions, People Called Mumbai stands as a framework for understanding the cities as an architect, a story-teller and as a citizen of the place.

It's been an amazing journey since! ‘The first day started with the initial awkward silence between the interns, trying to start up a conversation to get to know each other. It magically vanished over an introduction around the iconic glass table, under the bright and ‘enlightening’ lighting fixtures. It directed the minds beyond the limited view through the rusted lenses that had narrowed the vision in the past. Creative juices rushed through the veins, leading to endless discussions!’ recalls Sahil.

The brainstorming on the first day was a starry eyed wanting to come up with a million ideas. A thrill ran through the minds as the boards were filled with ideas and visions for the project. The lunch breaks were a pause to stop worrying and relax together. The Week 1 passed within a blink of the eye, it went in such a jiffy, and it was shocking. The story topics were in place and everybody was excited. Next week saw a lot of story writing and fine tuning of these stories that would add splashes of brightly coloured paints to the projects.

‘It had been a rediscovering experience overall - sweating it out in the heat during exhausting site visits, trying to observe, rather than judge, things around and being a listener to so many known, yet unknown strangers, while unlocking so many doors! Sometimes all you needed was to be a good listener rather than a good speaker! The project took the office to places one would always plan to visit in the city. As the stories eventually materialised, the group fearlessly started exploring the city and eventually started being accompanied by the Burhan, Tabrez and Anas -"the Dhoom riders" and also by some ‘known’ strangers. It’s kind of interesting how mostly people in Mumbai get the subtitle ‘wallahs’ unintentionally, from ‘dabbawallahs’ to ‘panwallahs’ to ‘doodhwallahs’ and so on. At times, even after office hours, the thought of this inspiring bunch of ‘Mumbaikars’ lingered on in thoughts and actions!’ says Vanessa.

Many stories were finalised, edited, restructured and edited again and so on. It was so much fun to have a full house at office, with everyone filling up every corner and Chai breaks became noisy bazaar meets.

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