Bonding over heritage walk through 175-year-old Khotachi Wadi
This place was recommended by my sister Surbhi, when we visited her in Mumbai this August. She had been to Khotachi Wadi during one of the festivals in September, a couple of years back and had loved it. She also thought it would make for great travel blog :). No pressures when you have a travel blogger in the family visiting, right ?
We figured that heritage walks are organized in this area and we checked if we could enroll into one. We zeroed in on Breakfree Journeys but unfortunately, they didn’t have a planned walk. So, we decided to go solo and discover the place at our own pace.
After breakfast, we bundled the kids and ourselves in 2 cars and headed towards Southern Mumbai. No sooner had we started, the skies opened up and we were a little skeptical about the walk. We parked near Charni Road and decided to walk it. Thankfully the rain gods answered my silent plea and the skies paused the downpour, as suddenly as it had started.
While Khotachi Wadi is located near the busy Girgaum Chowpatty it is easy to see how this place has managed to stay hidden (still!) from the local residents of Mumbai. We continued walking through chaotic lanes and by-lanes, crossing colorful flower and inviting fruit shops to reach Khotachi Wadi.
As we entered the nondescript lane, it was as if we had walked into an entirely different era – centuries old Portuguese style colorful houses, a quaint Catholic chapel with benches, cobbled narrow winding lanes, street art, colorful mosaic décor and the camaraderie of different religions coexisting. There seemed a sudden drop in decibel levels of traffic as we found ourselves leaving the hectic pace of life behind and becoming more relaxed !
This coastal village was founded in the early 1800s by Khot, a Hindu Brahmin who sold his plots of land to the East Indian Christians and the local Marathi residents. The current population comprises of a few original inhabitants, Goans, Marwaris and Gujaratis. There used to be 65 of such houses which have now been reduced to 28 as old buildings are being pulled down to make way for new skyscrapers 🙁 .
The house above, No 47G, belongs to James Ferreira, one of the most famous residents of Khotachi Wadi. A celebrated fashion designer and an activist who is fighting to preserve the essence of this centuries old settlement. He is said to be very friendly and is open to receiving visitors to his 200 year old house. Unfortunately, we could not spot him when we visited.
While exploring the by-lanes, we bumped into William Felizardo (aka Willy Black, a name of his choosing) – a very warm and interesting personality.
We got talking and he shared how the older residents of this area and the catholic culture has started to dwindle. He invited us home and we were taken in by the décor and amazing set of curios in his house. He is a keen collector and tries to add to them when he finds an interesting piece.The mosaic decorating his place has been laid by him, an art he learned in Dubai.
He narrated stories reminiscent of the time when there were more Catholic families around. He has adapted though. For local events, he employs current popular Bollywood tunes to teach music to kids in the neighborhood ! Take a listen
Interestingly, the newer generation appears to have an affinity towards Australia and have moved there for better opportunities. The lack of younger generation was evident while walking around the quaint neighborhood – we heard ‘Abba’ playing in the background and the aging residents in the open verandahs and overhanging balconies, probably thinking of the time when this place was more than a heritage village.
In line with the tradition and heritage of the place, I also sighted these trunks (sandook) bringing out priceless memories of these being used by my grandmother.
There were many benches to sit around and rest, which you can see were thoroughly utilized 🙂
Another interesting observation was the abundance of cats in the area. The girls had a great time chasing some and being chased by others !
Our walk took us past Ideal Wafers, an over 70 year old establishment. While we were indulging in freshly made wafers, we discovered that the rents here are frozen in the 1940s. Imagine that the rent here are a meager Rs 250 a month and Rs 450 on the higher side !
As our exploration came to an end, with a last lingering glance back at the colorful houses, latticed wooden staircases, open verandas and overhanging balconies and a sigh– we merged into the crowd that makes up the Mumbai traffic.
Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)
- Mumbai has excellent connectivity with most of the major cities in India and around the world, making it the second busiest aviation hub in the country.
- To and from airport : The airport is 28 km from downtown. Use the prepaid taxi counter to minimize hassle.
- There are various other travel options by boat, train and road.
When to visit
- November to February: The winter months are the most pleasant in Mumbai. The humidity is lesser and the days quite pleasant for exploring.
- June to October: This is the famous monsoon season in which Mumbai sees around the clock rainfall, particularly in the months of July and August. Many travelers actually plan monsoon getaways in and around Mumbai, to enjoy the Western Ghats – also known as Sahyadri. Traveling during these months can be difficult but you can appreciate the city that never sleeps much more.