Bharat Gothoskar, who left his corporate job to start Khaki Tours that organises tours across Mumbai exploring its heritage and history talks to MOHAMED THAVER & ZEESHAN SHAIKH about the tourism potential of the city, the need for organisations to explore the city’s heritage and why he left his job to start Khaki tours.
What got you into starting Khaki Tours?
While growing up, I was interested in the history of the city and surrounding areas. History is not something far away but it is at walking distance in your backyard. I would read books on the city like the ones by Sharada Dwivedi and Pune-based botanist PK Ghanekar, who has authored around 60 books on various locations around the city. It also hurt me that while people in the city knew so much about tourist spots in say London or Paris, they did not know their city. The first tour I conducted was to Banganga and was free of cost on a request by someone I knew. Then slowly it became a regular feature over the weekends. Eventually, there was so much demand that I decided to take a plunge and start Khaki Tours officially in 2016.
How important is it to have organisations catering to the heritage aspect of the city?
See heritage is not only about structures, it is also about what you eat, wear, rituals etc. It was Sharada’s (Dwivedi) job to do it in her era… You need to create an organisation that will continue the legacy. Look at Bombay Natural History Society. At some point, Salim Ali brought it up and now even though he is no more it continues to do good work… Hence creating organisations is more critical than an individual. Many people research the city for 50 years but do not believe in sharing. The more you share… the more you get. One compliment dear to my heart is I have been told I got heritage out of drawing rooms of south Mumbai to the common man.
What role do you think these walks play as far as sensitizing government to take more steps towards conserving heritage?
Since day one, my logic was to sensitize. So, I have invited different government officials for our walks from secretary rank people to sweepers in BMC. There was a junior engineer, who after a walk told me that he regretted demolishing a water fountain opposite Bharatmata. He said he had demolished it as he saw it only as a structure and had someone sensitized him, he would’ve seen its value.
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