In the 10 years that Shriti Tyagi has been leading tours in Mumbai, her offerings have diversified to the extent where those curious to explore Mumbai can choose between watching film shoots, visiting salt pans, hopping through art galleries and walking down the same paths as characters have done in books that have chronicled the city best.
Tygai worked at a magazine before turning entrepreneur and starting Beyond Bombay, dedicated to walking tours and opening up the city, both to locals and tourists.
She first began taking walkers around galleries displaying contemporary Indian art before introducing the bookworming tour, designed specially for lovers of the ‘Maximum City’ by Suketu Mehta and ‘Rediscovering Dharavi’ by Kalpana Chawla — two iconic books about the city.
“My passion is towards art. I want to provide a unique experience to my customers. During the walks, we use literary, mythological, historical and poetic contexts to explain about a particular place to make the experience more exciting. I love my job and personally take my customers for the walks,” says Tyagi.
The ‘Rediscovering Dharavi’ walk takes readers to locations that find a mention in the book, allowing them to observe first hand the life in Asia’s largest slum. Similarly, Mehta’s descriptions of Dariya Mahal, Sikka Nagar and Jogeshwari’s Radha Bai Chawl come alive in Tyagi’s ‘Maximum City’ walking tour.
Tyagi said that when she introduced a walk around the city’s most famous landmarks, she sometimes had as many as 35 people on the tour. She said that some tourists carried checklists to make sure they covered all locations. The tours are usually scheduled and customised to the demands made by the tourists.
Tyagi later introduced other walking tours like Thali Tripping, which is all about street food and includes visits to legendary Irani cafes, Rasta Shopping where the tourists can shop at street bazaars, the 1896 Plague Walk, where tourists walk through areas that were affected by the outbreak of the epidemic.
Tyagi hires freelancers to lead the tours, which comprise mainly of foreign tourists, employees from embassies and also local residents. Beyond Bombay has its peak season between October and March, with the highest number of tourists signing up between December and January.
Tyagi adds a lot more locals have been signing up for her tours in the past four years. “People have told me that they have been living in Mumbai for many years and have never appreciated the details behind a place and after experiencing the tour their mindset has changed,” she says.
Dr Leisha Watsa, who lives at Shivaji Park, has been on two walking tours so far. “I had gone for the 1896 Plague Walk and Lanes of Lalbaug walk with my family. Both the tours were amazing. It was a unique, fun and interesting experience. Shriti is very knowledgeable and made sure the tour was interesting.”
Andheri East resident Sushma Kaushik says that she enjoyed walks based on the Gregory David Robert’s book ‘Shantaram’, and another to the fishing village in Worli Koliwada. “The walks were a unique and exceptional experience. Shriti makes sure that your experience is interesting,” she says.
Tyagi is currently developing two more tours, Wandering in Worli and another in the art district of Kala Ghoda based on the works of the writer and poet Arun Kolatkar.