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How many of you know of Mumbai’s four rivers? Of its breakwaters and quiet corners, decades-old communities and vibrant villages—the original Mumbai, beyond the glamorous toil of Fort and Bandra? Have you ever taken the time to find out more?
If not, we understand. And so does Go Hallu Hallu, a project that aims to reintroduce Mumbai to its residents. In an age where productivity is gold, it seems almost radical to knowingly take time off for yourself. Championing the pleasures of observation and indigenous immersion, Go Hallu Hallu is a new slow walking venture that hopes to teach visitors to adjust their hurried pace, soak in unseen sights and people, and perhaps eventually readjust their priorities. This is not your typical photo- or heritage-walk; in fact, none of the trails have labels.
“The idea is to slow down, be yourself and allow a city or a part of it to reveal itself to you. There will be someone leading a walk, but there’s very little talk, no facts getting rattled off, no gyaan,” says Aslam Saiyad, a photographer and one of the co-founders of Go Hallu Hallu.
The ‘no gyaan’ part is important. Every experience is tailor-made and curated these days, and it often restricts people from picking out exquisite details and making their own inferences—from meaningful analytical thought—that might help a person connect and remember what’s in front of them. Thus, with co-founders Gangadharan Menon (a reputed nature writer and photographer) and Gopal MS (you might recognise him as the delightful @mumbaipaused), Aslam aims to broaden the tunnel vision that often clouds curious minds from discovering what’s hidden in plain sight.
Go Hallu Hallu’s first walk was on October 2 along the Dahisar river, venturing into the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali; the party soon returned a month later—on popular demand—for a longer dive into the area. Participants observed the greenery and local wildlife, and met with Dinesh, a Warli artist and the first graduate from the Naupada tribal settlement along the Dahisar. He took a class in the art form’s designs, with everyone joining in with their own interpretations. Another walk soon after, one with no photography, was called ‘Point and No Shoot’. Trailing through the suburbs of Mankhurd—a place that’s rarely a first option for those wanting to unwind—participants were encouraged to take in its unconventional beauty, instead of simply scouting for picturesque moments they could show off later.
Aslam, Gopal and Gangadharan are long-time explorers in the city, and much of Go Hallu Hallu’s potential walk locations—such as the Deonar goat mela, and the tiny strip called Geeta Nagar, near the Navy Nagar cantonment area—stem from the areas they know best. For photography, meeting new people, or even just introspection.
The team is also beginning to branch out to adventures across state lines. Janwaar, in rural Madhya Pradesh, is home to India’s first and largest skatepark for kids. Set up by German author and futurist Ulrike Reinhard in 2015, the ‘Janwaar Castle’ is a life-changing sports project that seeks to build self-esteem and confidence in the Adivasi and Yadav children. Recognising this as a unique opportunity at the intersection of sports, documentary and indigenous welfare, Go Hallu Hallu has teamed up with Ulrike to offer a three-day trip (starting November 24) into the remote area.
To address the elephant in the room—'hallu hallu' was a phrase once used by Saiyad, meaning “slowly slowly”, that stuck for good. The logo, of course, is a cheerful tortoise, nudging you to take a break from today’s hare-paced world.
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