Monday, 30 July 2012

Reclaiming the city!

Recently the Mumbai police have been very active in hogging the limelight thanks to it overzealous Social Security department. The raids on popular nightlife destinations in the city have resulted in a lot of hue and cry across the media. These raids have found both support and protest from different sections of the society. A bunch of Mumbaikars have begun a movement called ‘Mumbai Unite’ to protect the citizens of this cosmopolitan city. They say it’s not about the protecting the nightlife, it’s about fighting to protect the fundamental rights of citizens and protecting them from the khaki clad fanatics.

Mumbai’s image of a cosmopolitan city has taken a hit thanks to these recent events. All of a sudden the police department seems to have woken up from its slumber and it started enforcing laws which are archaic and outdated. The city which is the face of a modern and resurgent India is governed by laws that date back to the days of British Raj! On one side we want to build a world class city, like the Dubai’s and Shanghai’s of world, and on the other side we are still running our city with an old, crumbling legal system. It’s a tussle between the ones trying to take the city into the future and those who want to hold on to the old ways. Such thinking is only dragging the city’s progress and is in a way responsible for the mess the city finds itself in.

The dreaded act that is being used to terrorize ordinary citizens is called the ‘Bombay Prohibition Act’. It is important to understand the provisions of this law to ensure that you don’t become a victim of it. The law enacted in 1949, says that any person in Mumbai who wishes to consume alcohol needs to carry a drinking permit. This drinking permit comes in the form of a Rs.5 one day permit and a Rs.1,000/- lifetime permit. A license holder is permitted to hold 12 units of alcohol at any time. Anyone found consuming alcohol without this permit is liable for a fine of Rs. 50,000 or 5 years in Jail or both! The trouble here is not only the law, but the way it is enforced and the practicalities of enforcing it!

If the objective of this law is to dissuade the janta from consuming alcohol, then we are sorry to say that a Rs.1000/- permit is not a big deterrent for anyone. And how in the world are the police or anybody going to keep a check on the people consuming alcohol in the safe confines of their homes? What about visitors, will they be handed over a permit at the airport? In a corrupt country like ours this is just another, rather powerful, tool in the hands of those who will go to any lengths to exhort money out of innocent citizens. And the Mumbai police have been using this tool very effectively to harass ordinary citizens. If the intention really was to enforce the law then their targets would not have only been the swanky pubs of Bandra. There are numerous places where one can consume alcohol and not all of those are in Bandra!

So how do the people who have gathered under the banner of ‘Mumbai Unite’ plan to fight for the fundamental rights of Mumbaikars? Mumbai Unite, a group formed by concerned Mumbaikars, who have no allegiance to any political party, believes that if the establishment expects citizens to follow the rules then they must first educate people about these rules. After all, before these raids began how many of us were even of such an Act? Raiding places and harassing common citizens is not the way to ensure that laws are followed. Treating women with disrespect by calling them ‘Prostitutes’ just because their way of dressing doesn’t fit into your myopic definitions of culture and tradition, is definitely not the mark of sanity. Doing drugs is definitely wrong, but criminalizing people for it is not the way to solve this menace. It is problem which needs to be solved by creating more awareness among the youth.

Mumbai Unite has come out with a petition asking the establishment to ensure that these raids are stopped and the perpetrators behind these ghastly acts be brought to justice. It seeks to invoke the same law that the Social Service Branch of Mumbai Police refers to, ‘The Bombay Prohibition Act’. Sections of this act clearly specify how the policemen should behave when conducting searches, and from what we have been hearing about these raids, the police’s behaviour is in complete violation of the law. Using these sections of the law, the petition demands action against these so called moral police. In addition to asking people to sign up the petition, Mumbai Unite will soon go knocking on the doors of MLA’s and corporator’s seeking their support for their petition. This move will surely put many a corporator’s and MLA’s in a fix, as they will have to choose sides now. They will have to let people know who they support, the citizens of their wards who voted to bring them to power or the police who have been troubling innocent citizens.

Mumbaikars, who are part of Mumbai Unite, do not deny the fact that rules should be followed; in fact they would be more than happy to follow rules. It is all about how suitable these rules are to our modern style of living and the way in which the police go about ensuring the enforcement of laws. There is no hiding from the fact that these rules are outdated and need an overhaul. And if you want to impose such rules then why target certain people, why not enforce these laws on everyone. Why only check cars for permits, why not check the people in the numerous celebrations that take place on the roads of Mumbai? Mumbai Unite just wants to make the establishment realize this simple fact. Mumbai Unite is on a mission to reclaim the city of Mumbai for its citizens and we hope that every Mumbaikar supports their cause.

To read the petition please follow this link -

For Mumbai Unite’s homepage -

Sunday, 22 July 2012

In Chat: Malini Agarwal - RJ and Celebrity Blogger

Over the last fifteen years, Malini Agarwal has established herself as a leader, innovator, and trendsetter in the Indian media and entertainment industry. Starting as a professional dancer while attending Delhi University, Malini soon joined MTV India as a Channel Head, where she was charged with creating engaging television and digital content for a national audience.
She later joined GO 92.5 FM as a Radio Jockey, and although private radio in India was still in its infancy, she quickly drew a large and loyal following. After 8 years in the radio business, where she rose to the position of Programming Director at 94.3 Radio One, she accepted a role as Head of Digital Content for Channel [v], where she oversaw all of the channel’s online content. During this time, Malini founded the pioneering lifestyle and entertainment blog, which has quickly established itself as the leading voice in India’s online lifestyle space. The Huffington Post, the world’s most popular and authoritative blog, has called Malini Agarwal “without a doubt, India’s most famous blogger”.

Here are some excerpts from Discovering-Mumbai’s interview with Malini Agarwal

Malini can you please shed some light on your personal background?
I’m a bit of a tumble-weed! I was born in Allahabad and then grew up all over the world (courtesy my dad who was in the Indian Foreign Service) as a diplobrat in Germany, Somalia, Greece, Lebenon, Ivory Coast and Bulgaria. After college I was a professional dancer for many years with Ronica and the Planets in Delhi and then moved to Mumbai where I created the Mid Day website content framework and eventually moved to MTV India online to run their romance channel. Eventually I joined Radio and was an RJ for 9 years after which I moved to Channel [v] to run digital content. That’s when I started my blog as a hobby and within 6 months realised that is what I want to do full time!

So how did you get around to becoming an RJ? When you started off private radio stations were quite young in India, what changes have you seen in Radio over the years?
I was with MTV at the time and a friend of mine suggested I go for an audition, since it was close by I went and luckily got offered a spot right away! I started as an RJ when private radio had just come to India so it was all very new and exciting. We made a lot of it up as we went along and really created the first ever commercial radio experience for the Indian ear. Over the years I’ve seen radio change a lot, sadly because the initial license fees were very high a lot of stations collapased or switched to Bollywood to survive. As a result there is very little variety on the air right now and it seems to have lost a lot of it’s flavor and soul.

What was your first show? What was it like going on air for the first time? What were the feedback that you got from people and your close ones?
My first show was the nightshift on WIN 94.6 from 9pm to midnigh. I used to go do my show live every night after working all day at MTV but I loved it. I was quite nervous the first time and my hands were shaking! Over time though it became my favorite moment of the day, when I’d put the faders up and say hello to my listeners. My friends all listened to me and were very supportive, it was an even bigger high to know that the ones you love are listening and I’d always give them a shout out!

Keeping the listeners engaged for hours must be a tough job? How do you manage it?
The key is really to be yourself and be engaged in what you’re doing. Don’t fake it because it shows. The best advice I ever got was imagine that you are speaking to just one person and that creates a bond between you and every single person who is tuned in. I also loved researching trivia about the songs I played and coming up with games to play on the air. In fact I even started a radio network called Going Solo where some of my listeners and I would actually meet every week and do something fun!

How has your style evolved over the years?
Over time radio has become second nature to me and I switch on my “radio voice” pretty easily. My style is peppy, up beat and conspiritorial. Like I’m telling you something I wouldn’t tell anybody else!

Who are the RJs you look up to and what do you like about their work?
I look up to a lot of International RJs. I like Ryan Seacrest and find Shock Jock Howard Stern very entertaining even though he’s almost 100% talk radio which is very hard to do! I loved listening to Jaggu & Tarana, Genesia, TMan Nadir, Savio, Glenn… all my old Go 92.5 FM co-stars!

What’s the best thing about being an RJ?

I guess the best thing about being an RJ is the fact that you’re creating a live connection over the air with so many people all at once, and the fact that it’s the theatre of the mind and you can create a magical world with your words and music that each person experiences in the way they chose to. (This is why most people picture their favorite RJs as drop dead gorgeous even if they might not be!)

You have interviewed a lot of people on air. Tell us some of your best memories from these interviews?
Some of my favorite memories are from Pirate Radio, which I started at 94.3 Radio One with Imran Khan, I’d get Bollywood celebrities to come hang out in the studio with me for a few hours and play any music they wanted and just chat, no agenda no rules. It was SO much fun and I loved doing it! I also remember getting super star struck around Abhishek Bachchan once and asking him if he’s ever been in love!

A lot of people call up on Radio, have you had some bad experiences with callers on air? How do you handle such a thing?
Well I had a weird radio stalker for many years who thought he and I were in a relationship. I had to take him to the police station and his mom came and slapped him in front of everyone there!
Most of the time though you get to screen your callers so you know if they’re going to say something crazy you don’t put them on the air.

What talent does one need to be a good RJ? What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a RJ?
To be a good RJ you need a great personality more than a good voice. My best advice to anyone who wants to be an RJ would be to be yourself, remember to talk to just one person in your head (picture your best friend is setting opposite you and talk to him/her) and have fun, it’ll show!

You also started a networking club called Friday Club, can you tell us something about this club?
Yes I started Friday Club 7 years ago and it’s still going strong. It’s basically a group of fun interesting people from Indian and other parts of the world who like meeting new people. I’ve always felt that after school or college people stop trying to make new really close friends but at Friday Club we’ve forged amazing friendships and even though it’s not a “singles” club as such several people met their life partners, including myself!

When did you start blogging and what was the thought behind starting your own blog?
I started blogging in 2008 as a hobby at a friend’s suggestion. I did it for fun because I love writing and at the time I had stopped doing my column in Mid Day for a short while and was missing writing it. I had no idea at the time that it would soon become my whole world!

How has your blog evolved over the years?
My blog has evolved into a one stop entertainment destination for all things Bollywood, Fashion and Lifestyle realted with a desi girl twist! Now I have a team of writers and photographers who cover events and write about everything relevant to my audience. So it’s more of a proper online brand now from the single person’s musings it used to be.

You also write gossip column in newspaper. How different it is from writing a blog? What things do you consider when writing for a newspaper?
Newspaper columns are less interactive but there is a charm to print writing that will last forever feel. My column in Mid Day is usually about upcoming celebrity events and hot happenings whereas the blog takes you inside those parties and events and gives you a fly-on-the-wall perspective!

So what next for Miss Malini?
Like I always say to my team, it’s to the moon! MissMalini is definitely going places so stay tuned

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Falling In Love With India

This is the story of how one foreign national fell in love with the rich history, culture and traditions of our country that she could never go back to her homeland. This is about her journey across India, discovering the diversity and exploring the numerous treasures that India has to offer. From the banks of the Ganges in North India to the majestic temples of South India, she has travelled and seen more of India than most Indians themselves! Along the journey she made many friends, found the love of her life and rediscovered herself. India left such a mark on her heart and soul that she could never return back to her country. Discovering Mumbai brings to you the story of Sharell Cook. Sharell writes and manages India travel page, she is settled in Mumbai with her Indian husband.
Sharell grew up in a middle class family in rural Australia. Like most Australian teens she worked at a supermarket to help herself financially. Her family lived on a five acre plot which was full of animals like cats, dogs, ducks, geese and goats; she even had an aviary full of birds. A typical Australian family, they enjoyed pool parties and barbeque in summers and went skiing in winters. Sharell spent the first 21 years in her hometown before she moved to Melbourne for her job. She graduated in Business and got an accounting job in Melbourne. However, she never really enjoyed her job much, apart from the report writing part of it. Her travels to India inspired her write about India. She started submitting these articles to an article library website. One fine day she received a call from a stranger, who liked her articles, about a vacancy at They were looking for someone to write and manage their India travel website. After a few gruelling tests she was hired!

Her first encounter with India happened in the year 2000. While returning to Australia, from her first overseas trip, she did a stopover in Bangkok where she realized that eastern countries were much more fascinating than west. Even some of her friends were raving about their experiences in India. Finally she got brave and decided to travel to India. The decision was not easy for her. She was daunted by the thought of visiting India, having heard so many stories about people getting sick, getting robbed and whole lot of other such stories. Like many foreigners her perception about India was also the ‘land of snake charmers’. Sharell spent hours on research trying to make sure that nothing would go wrong on her maiden voyage to India. On her first trip she travelled through the northern parts of India – Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Rajasthan. The depth of the culture, the history and architecture of the country left her astonished.

An obsession for India was born out of this first trip, she couldn’t stay away as there was so much more to explore and experience. Two years later she returned to spend some more time. Her second trip would be through South India. This was followed by another trip three years later but this time her reasons to travel were a lot different. Her life was going through a rough patch; she decided to come down to India to do some community work to take her mind off the things troubling her. Also she wanted to get herself out of her comfort zone, become more independent and assertive and she felt that India was the perfect place for this. While in India, an Australian friend offered her to take care of her guesthouse in Kerala for the tourist season, this made her stay back in India. It was also during this journey that she unexpectedly fell in love!

She has a lot of great memories to share from her trips like the wacky camel fair at Pushkar, spending time on houseboats in Kerala’s enchanting backwaters, driving a rickshaw from Chennai to Mumbai as part of a charity event, a village to village yak safari in high altitude Spiti and having dinner with the Maharaja of Udaipur at his palace! However, her most meaningful experience has been attending the Ganga Aarti at Haridwar, it was a very strong spiritual experience for her; something which she had never experienced before. India has played a major role in redefining Sharell, it has made her more flexible, spontaneous and assertive.

India, is the place where she finally found her true love, they decided to get married and are now settled in the city of Mumbai. They met in Kolkata, she asked him to accompany her to the guesthouse in Kerala which she was managing and after that they did some more travelling. They fell in love and finally they got married, but only after the entire horoscope matching was done and his parent’s approval was obtained! Coming from a small village in Australia she finds life in Mumbai too intense! Initially she saw Mumbai as an Indian city trying to be western. But over time she has fallen in love with the city. She loves the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai and also the fact that it is the safest city in India for women. She finds peace in the beaches of Mumbai. Sharell also loves the Ganesh festival’s grandeur. What she does not like about the city is the poor and shabby state of its infrastructure. Also she feels that the city’s nightlife is being threatened by fanatical policing. She also dreads the city’s traffic and feels that it takes too long to get anywhere!

Sharell writes a blog titled – ‘Diary of a white Indian housewife’. When she was deciding on moving to India, she scoured the net looking for blogs by people who were in a similar situation as hers. She didn’t find many such blogs and so she thought that she should start her own blog to share her experiences with others. Lot of people ask Sharell about moving to India, about her experiences. She believes that anyone who has a genuine interest in India will surely enjoy their time here as India has so many things to teach you. “India can be challenging, but if you have a greater sense of purpose here, then challenges matter less”, says Sharell. She also advises people not to replicate their western standard of living in India. “Anyone moving to India must be ready to make a lot of adjustments”, she believes. For Sharell the journey has been an enriching experience. From travelling India to writing about India, finding the love of her life and getting married, India has given lots of good memories to cherish. And she too has very kind words for the country that has given her so much. “To sum it all in one line – India is a remarkable teacher!”
You can check out her India travel page at -
and her blog 'Diary of a White Indian Housewife' at -

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Digital Artist

The dawn of computers has rapidly transformed our lives in the last two decades. Things which we can do today were only dreams a decade ago. Remember the first time you used a computer? How excited you were to lay your hands on this machine and if you were a kid then you definitely must have spent hours on a painting application colouring a digital canvas with lots of colour and creativity!

Fast forward to 2012 and the humble paint app has been overtaken by serious, technological marvels like Adobe Photoshop, Corel and a host of other applications. These mean machines and software’s have spawned a new generation of artists, armed with a tablet computer and an electronic paintbrush; these artists are charting into new worlds through their work and in the process have created a new form of art – the digital art. Discovering-Mumbai (DM) came across one such upcoming, extremely promising, unbelivably talented artist - Vasundhara Prakash.

Vasundhara who is a script writer by profession and is currently working on a movie which is supposed to go into production by end of this year, did not start off wanting to be an artist. She is also working on two more scripts. Vasundhara did her Bachelors in Philosophy from Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi and Masters in Arts and Aesthetics from JNU, Delhi. With her thirst for knowledge not satiated she set sail for the distant land of America for her PHD in communication at the University of California, San Diego. However, things didn’t turn out the way she wanted and she came back to India. It was at this point of time that the lure of Bollywood started to beckon her and she decided to pursue a career in Bollywood.
Vasundhara's manipulation of her own picture

Her first assignment in Bollywood was working as the Assistant Director on a film; she also worked on an Indo-French documentary ‘India by Song’ which was aired on TV and also went to Cannes. Later she went into advertising, again as a Director’s Assistant, but she didn’t really enjoy the stressful world of advertising. This is the time when she started writing movie scripts. So how did Vasundhara, the script writer, become Vasundhara the artist? It happened two years ago when she was pondering over a very peculiar issue; the question was how to make her Facebook profile pic stand out. This led her down a path which resulted in her discovery of softwares like Dotmatrix, Pixelmator and Photoshop. Initially she was a bit intimidated by these softwares but she quickly worked her way around them and started churning out some great pictures. She started out working on her own pictures and later she also tried her hand at manipulating pictures of her friends. When her friends saw her work they were amazed and started using her works as their profile pictures on Facebook. Soon what had started out as a pastime started to develop into a passion. Her initial attempts were simple manipulations of photographs. Later she started adding different elements along with the photos and her distinctive style started to develop.
One of her works, displayed at The Bagel Shop, Bandra

Vasundhara’s digital artworks are a blend of photographs and drawings, and a host of other elements. She mixes these elements elegantly to create stunning visuals. Her works are peppered with lots of bright colours. A female subject is central to almost all of her paintings. When asked to explain one of her works she replied, “My paintings are very instinctive, I do not think about a particular theme when I draw. I don’t even label my works as it makes them very restrictive and makes people think about the work in a particular way”. Vasundhara has made almost 160 pieces of digital paintings so far, out of which she is displaying 15 at her first solo exhibition at ‘The Bagel Shop’ in Bandra. The exhibition runs till July 15th. She is visibly excited about her exhibition, because when she started out, the thought that one day she would be exhibiting her work to the public never crossed her mind. A lot of her excitement also stems from the positive response that she has been receiving from people. So far she has been successful in selling eight of her fifteen works and a lot of requests for reprints of these sold works. A lot of people have told her that her works are actually underpriced!

Friends and family were the ones who motivated her in going public, they also happen to be the ones who constantly give her the feedback she needs. Her brother, in particular, is one of her biggest critic. The first time she displayed her work was at a fair at Mocha Mojo, Bandra. She had displayed three of her works at Mocha Mojo alongside a host of other artists. One of her works has been used as the cover of a book and she has also designed one specifically for a book. Post her solo exhibition she has got an offer from a lady in Denmark who organizes online art exhibitions. She is also looking for other venues in Mumbai to display her works but she admits that she would not really like her work to be put up in some art gallery. As an arts student she knows that it can get very intimidating for people to go to a gallery. She is grateful to 'The Bagel Shop' for providing her the opportunity to display her works with such openness and warmth.  There are very few genuine places in Mumbai, like 'The Bagel Shop', which provide a platform to upcoming artists for presenting their work

The artist, who was never really interested on a real paintbrush and canvas, says that in India digital art is not given its due credit. A lot of people still don’t take it as a serious form of art. People do not understand the time, creativity and hardwork that goes into making a digital painting. But such perceptions are not going to let her down, for sure.  Post her successful exhibition, her confidence is sky high and all that she is thinking about is taking her passion for painting to the next level. Vasundhara wants to continue doing both scripts and digital paintings, she really can’t choose between the two. With her movie ready to go into production we understand the excitement that she is going through. Her successful exhibition must have taken that excitement to cloud nine levels. We wish her all the best for her movie project and hope to see more of her works soon.
You can check out more of Vasundhara's works on her flickr page -
or at the Bagel Shop at Bandra before her exhibition ends on July 15.

In Chat: Fukkat Gyan

Recently while scouting the net we came across a weirdly named blog called – ‘Fukkat Gyan which intrigued and impressed us a lot. It is wacky blog which makes fun of journalists through cartoons which talk about the happenings in their daily lives. Well, it’s a great insight into the exciting work life of journalists.  We were impressed by their idea and their cartoons and we decided to get in touch with these guys. Here is our chat with the founders of ‘Fukkat Gyan’. To check out their hilarious cartoons just click here – Fukkat Gyan. Subscribe to them and get your dose of gyan absolutely fukkat! We’re sure you will love them!

Hello guys, tell us something about your personal and professional background?

We’re journalists. Our favourite colours are cyan and cerulean. Our star signs are Libra and Scorpio. And our political views are ultra left of left of centre.

Can you tell us something about the world of journalism? What is a typical journos day like?

A typical day at work involves getting to office at noon, having lunch, having a digestive chai, chatting, making some calls if we feel like it, chatting, having coffee, having an evening snack, chatting, occasionally writing, chatting, rounding off the day with chai.

So how did the idea of Fukkat Gyan strike you guys?

We were snacking on Mentos one day and as the ad claims, lightbulbs flashed inside our heads.

Why the name Fukkat Gyan?

Because we’re dispensing our gyan for free.

When did you decide to go online with it?

We started the blog on May 26, 2010. Took a long break and resumed earlier this year.

What are the cartoons about and do you have prior experience in cartoons?

The cartoons make fun of journalists and the goings-on in the newsroom. We were cartoon novices when we started.

You have associated with Mumbai Boss, how did this come about?

They asked. We said yes.

What do you guys do apart from making cartoons?

One of us does cross-stitch as a hobby. The other is a kho-kho champ.

What is the response that you have received to your cartoons? Can you share some feedbacks with us?

We’ve got some great responses. Journalists deserve to be made fun of and few do it online.

What are your views about the city of Mumbai?

We love it and hate it like everyone else.

What are you waiting for, go to fukkat gyan right away -

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Trabblr!

Ever heard the story of the man who gave up a well earning job at a global corporate to go roaming around the world! Crazy? No! The man is on a journey of self-discovery. Away from the machinations of the modern life that person is trying to find the reason for his existence, the answer that will make the purpose of their life clear. And when they find that answer, it changes their life forever! Discovering-Mumbai (DM) met one such interesting individual who travelled across the world in search of his true calling! Did he find it? Yes, he did! His name – Hersh Kumbhani and he is the co-founder of Trabblr a truly innovative company that lets you explore your city in a unique social way!
Trabblr co-founder Hersh at the Koli Seafood Festival in Versova

Hersh moved to India at the age of 13 after having lived in USA and Dubai. He went to Mahindra United World College of India (MUWCI) post which he went to Cornell University for a degree in Applied Economics and Management. With a keen interest in finance, he thought that a career in Investment banking was the best choice for him. He worked as an I-banker for almost four years before he finally decided to hang up his boots and go travel the world! Ashish, his business partner and co-founder grew up in Mumbai. The two met at MUWCI. Ashish has done his MSc in Advanced Computing from King’s College, London. Having worked for over a year as a software engineer for a financial analysis company he soon realized that entrepreneurship was his destiny. He started a bill and expense sharing web-app called WeSplit, post which he helped Hersh set up Trabblr.
Trabblr co-founder Ashish
Trabblr was created with one goal in mind, to help people discover unique experiences around the world while building new relationships with real people”, says Hersh. Both the guys believe that even though we live in a world defined by online social networks, all the ‘likes’ and ‘tweets’ cannot replace the fun of tangible things like meeting new people and sharing some good moments. Trabblr is for people who are bored of going to the same place with the same people. It offers them an opportunity to try out new things, discover their city in an entirely new way and with new people. It makes the idea of trying out new things a little less intimidating. For travellers it offers a means to make their trips more meaningful and immersive. They can meet other travellers or engage with locals which will give them an altogether different experience, helping them understand the local culture better. We think this is a revolutionary idea! All you have to do is log on to Trabblr create an event or just join those created by other users to go meet new people and try out things you’ve never done before.
Trabblr was born out of the experiences Hersh had during his days of globe-trotting. While travelling around the Balkans in 2010, Hersh, who had by then travelled extensively through South East Asia and Western Europe, realized that visiting the main sites and dining in famous restaurants simply did not excite him anymore. He wanted a deeper experience, he wanted to explore the places in a different and more engaging manner; and that he knew could not be done through any guide book. The only way to get such an experience was to interact with locals. But how does one find such people who are ready to meet strangers and show them their city and culture? Hours of internet search resulted in futility. He could not find any existing platform which fit the bill perfectly. “That’s why Ashish and I built Trabblr - to help bring people together to explore cities around the world in a way that is transparent, safe and fun”, says Hersh.
Armed with the idea Hersh went about setting up Trabblr. His biggest challenge – he didn’t have the necessary skill sets to design a platform like Trabblr. This is where Ashish with his software engineering skills helped out Hersh. The fact that Ashish was as excited about Trabblr as Hersh went a long way in helping to bring Trabblr up and running! The guys were equally excited and nervous the first day when Trabblr went live. How would people react to it? Will they even use it? These and many more questions haunted both of them as they eagerly waited for the first feedbacks. The first event on Trabblr was when a large group, including Hersh, went to the Koli Seafood Festival in Versova in January. Initially the guys used their friends to generate some traction but soon Trabblr started receiving a lot of users who were seeking new experiences and looking to meet new people. Today Trabblr is a growing community with lot of requests coming in for starting Trabblr in other cities too. “We’ve been lucky to have users who continually give us feedback.  That means that we’re doing something right because it shows that people care enough to take time out of their day to contact us to share their ideas and suggestions” says Hersh.
Pics from Trabblr events
For Hersh, the journey has all been about following his passion. Giving up a well-paid job in an investment bank is certainly not an easy decision. “I didn’t really have a plan for what I wanted to do next.  All I knew was that I wanted to get out and see the world”. For Hersh the logic was clear and simple, he was sure that travelling around the globe will give him more clarity about what he wanted out of life both personally and professionally. He travelled to some well-known tourist trails like Spain and France; he also went on the less travelled path to countries like Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cambodia. All of these places have had a significant impact on his life. The best part was that his notion that travel would give him more clarity in life turned out to be true and his backpacking finally led him to setup Trabblr! That journey came to an end with Trabblr, but now a new journey has begun for Hersh. His sight is set on achieving great heights with Trabblr and we would like to wish him all the best for all his future endeavours!
You can check out their website and all the events that are available for you to join at -

Saturday, 7 July 2012

A walk around town...

Mumbai, the vibrant and dynamic city, renowned for its art-deco style of architecture and the grandeur of the Gothic and Victorian structures built during the time of the British. Born out of colonial era, the southern part of the city also popularly called the ‘Town’; harbours some very old and astonishing pieces of architecture. The old city holds within itself so much of history which todays common Mumbaikar is totally unaware of. In today’s modern life, Mumbaikars preoccupied with their daily routines are losing touch with the city’s rich past. Well, the good news is that there is one organization which is trying to change this; it’s called ‘Raconteur Walks’ and it is trying to make Mumbaikars understand their hometown better by walking them through its history.
Born out of a need for better tourism infrastructure, ‘Raconteur Walks’ (RW) is a theme based walking tour company that aims to provide a professional touring solution for both tourists and locals. Their aim is to take tourists and locals on a journey to uncover the hidden secrets of Mumbai. Their tagline says it all, ‘Live the city’!
The famous Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
Viraat Kasliwal, the founder of RW, is only 24 years old. He was born in a family of entrepreneurs; in fact he is the fifth generation entrepreneur in his family! A graduate from HR College, he was born and raised in South Mumbai. Growing up among the beautiful buildings of town, he developed a attraction towards Mumbai’s history. The architecture of certain buildings like the University campus and the Town Hall captivated him since his early days. Viraat is a true blue Mumbaikar who deeply loves the history of his hometown. It is this love for the city that makes him the apt person to run a tour company that enlightens people about Mumbai’s past. “This city means the world to me and nothing would want to make me leave it.  It’s always been home for me and there’s a warmth that emanates out of this city and her people that makes everyone always feel like they’re at home”, says Viraat.

The idea to start RW struck Viraat after a few trips to the US and Switzerland made him realize that India is actually a treasure chest of history, but due to the poor tourism infrastructure India was not a big tourist destination globally. He saw an obvious lack of good quality tourism options in India and thus RW was born to fill this gap. He says a lot of tourists come to Mumbai after hearing stories about the grandeur of India, but due to the poor tourism facilities many of them return disappointed! Through RW he set out to change this major lacuna.

Having an idea is one thing, but starting up a company is a different ball game altogether and Viraat too went through those tough early days that all entrepreneurs have to go through. The first thing he did was to meticulously research about the city’s history. He started out his research in September 2009 and it lasted almost till December 2010. During this time he researched 40 books, 55 magazines and periodicals and countless websites. His vision was clear, to start a good quality touring company he would need at least 100 times more knowledge than what a guide book like lonely planet can provide! His family was always there to support him both emotionally and financially. He would turn to his father when in need of some financial advice and his mother always stood behind him like a rock. His biggest challenge however, has been the perception that people in India hold about tourism companies. People failed to understand the difference between RW and any other local guide at the ‘Gateway of India’. Changing this perception has been one his biggest challenges.

A walking tour at the Flora Fountain
As of now RW organizes three walks based on history theme, all of which are conducted in the Fort region of South Mumbai. A walk is about 2.5 Kms and lasts about 3 hours. A walking group consists on no more than 10 people. Viraat is very cautious when it comes to hiring his guides. The parameters which are of paramount importance for a person to become a guide at RW are command over English, charisma, extrovertness and self-confidence. He tries to keep his team youthful, in fact at 24 he is the oldest member of his team! Most of the guides are young college students who are either pursuing education or have just passed out. He also looks out for part time actors from English theatre. “Language and formality will never be a problem if you walk with us”, says Viraat. Walking groups are not allowed to be larger than 10, so that the guide can give personal attention to each tourist. The company strives to ensure that it’s not just about walking, it is about creating an experience for your customers, and it is about making people really live the city!

Viraat enlightened us with some really interesting facts about the city’s history. The name Bombay was derived from Bom Bahia (The good bay), a name given by Portuguese sailor Francis Almeida in 1508. Neither the Portuguese nor the local rulers had any major interest in the area which is today know as South Mumbai. It was only the British who realized the importance of Mumbai Harbour and began developing the Bombay island. Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling who wrote Kim and The Jungle Book was born in Mumbai. Such pieces of info assured us as to how little the average Mumbaikar is aware about the history of the city he calls home!

The next step for RW is to increase the number of walks it organizes from 3 to 15 and also add newer themes to the walks. The bigger aim, however, is to take the company pan India. Viraat wants RW to become a household name in tours. He wants to provide people across India an honest, professional and organized touring option. “The quality of our walk and the smiles on our guest’s faces are what is most important to us”, says a candid Viraat. Given his dedication to his work and his passion Discovering-Mumbai believes that RW will surely achieve the goals that it has set for itself. We are all praise of our true blue Mumbaikar Viraat Kasliwal and we wish him all the very best on his future endeavours. May you keep enlightening the people of Mumbai about their history!
You can check out more about them and their latest walk on their website