When she was working as an exhibition design consultant at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Ruchita Madhok realised there are tomes about Mumbai in the museum libraries. In India, she was restricted to collecting feature magazines with interesting articles in order to know more about her beloved Mumbai, which she would eventually have to discard as they gathered dust.
Madhok and Aditya Palsule, founder partners of two-year-old design studio Kahani Designworks, are set to launch “StoryCity”, an initiative to promote cultural engagement. The first in this series is StoryCity Mumbai: Stories by the Sea, a 40-page illustrated book that highlights 24 landmarks in the city. “The book is our love letter to Mumbai,” says Madhok.
On an intricately-illustrated map in hues of blue, the places recommended in the book pop out in golden comic-styled icons. Each sight — not commonly found in regular travel guides — has a page dedicated to it, accompanied by a funky illustration. “We chose about 60 places initially, but we wanted to filter our stories and relate them to a common theme. The ones that have made it to the book are somehow all connected by the sea, some in a more immediate way, others in a distant way,” says Madhok. For instance, the number 56 bus route of BEST takes one through the five Koli villages of Mumbai.
The book has tidbits about the city, as well. For instance, instead of the Asiatic Library, the book speaks of the statue of Jagannath Shankarsheth, the influential entrepreneur of the 17th century, located at the end of its steps. Similarly, to talk about the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, the duo has described a few exhibits at the museum.
StoryCity is not the first cultural initiative the design studio has undertaken. The partners have a special place for the arts and it shows in their work. Last year, they designed the interactive map for Bhau Daji Lad Museum’s audio guide. They have also made short guides for museums in Delhi and Mumbai. “We take the learnings from the corporate world and use them to connect cultural institutions with their audience,” says Madhok, who is currently at the design conference Unbox Festival in Delhi, where she will conduct a workshop with participants to discover interesting stories at the National Museum.
With Stories by the Sea, the duo hope to receive support from art funds and the like to create more such books. The book is available for free download on the company’s website: kahanidesignworks.com.