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Have you ever walked through the Fort area and wondered about the past of the structures there? You can get answers to many of your questions through a start-up called Khaki Tours, which has started a venture called Urban Safari. “A safari is usually taken in an open jeep in the wild, but since we provide the experience in the concrete jungle, we have called it Urban Safari,” says Bharat Gothoskar, founder of Khaki Tours.
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In an open jeep, the Urban Safari, starting from the Asiatic Society, takes you on a 15-km ride through the Fort precinct, acquainting you with over 100 heritage structures. The tagline of Khaki Tours is ‘The untold stories of Mumbai’, and the tour includes stories about the city’s people, food, music and architecture. As the jeep drives past known and unknown buildings of the area, Gothoskar recounts interesting anecdotes lost somewhere over the years.
Pointing to a restaurant, he says, “That’s where the Indian Constitution was written. It was called The Wayside Inn back then and Ambedkar used to write the Constitution sitting there.”
Gothoskar believes that a city’s heritage resides in its stories, not in its monuments, and when those stories are forgotten, the monuments are as good as invisible. Terming it ‘heritage evangelism’, the former marketing professional wants to make Mumbaikars aware and proud of their heritage.
“But for this, you have to make heritage attractive. The jeep makes a heritage tour more interesting and I have made efforts to make the jeep eye-catching. My 16 years of experience in marketing helps me in that,” he adds.
Christened Nana after the popular Jagannath Shankar Sheth, one of the founding fathers of the city, the chic jeep with a rugged look attracts many eyeballs on the street. At a traffic signal, a woman in a taxi lowers her window to tell Gothoskar: “Great jeep!” While he also conducts heritage walks in different parts of the city, Gothoskar says the jeep helps people enjoy the experience without tiring them out.
“Mumbai’s weather is not suitable for long walks. On a jeep, we can cover up to 13 kilometres, which is not possible walking. However, a safari is not a replacement for a walk, as we get to do a more in-depth study while walking,” Gothoskar says.
Recently, Khaki Tours also began SoBo by Night, a weekend post-sunset jeep ride that gives you a glimpse of the illuminated buildings in South Mumbai and ends with a complimentary beer. Gothoskar plans to soon start rides such as BandraBlast, BycullaBylanes and DadarDrive.