New photo book to mark the pitstops for a Mumbai olfactory tour

Updated: Oct 29, 2018, 09:32 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

If a dirty nullah signals Mithi river to you, cured only by the whiff of jasmine at Dadar, a new photo book will mark the pitstops for a Mumbai olfactory tour

Fish hung out to dry
Fish hung out to dry

With a backpack carrying a Canon camera and a laptop strapped to his back, adman Gopal MS sets off every day, traversing through cramped lanes of Mumbai, absorbing and documenting the city's assorted moods. As he takes us behind his lens, a photograph of a group stuck knee-deep in an almost black Mithi River catches the eye. The brain does an immediate recall of the stench stemming from the neglected river as it passes through Khar, Bandra and Mahim.

It's this brain-eye-nose reflex that Gopal's latest digital photobook titled, Matsyagandha, hopes to cash in on. Set for a self-published online release next month, this is the fourth book from Gopal's — the adman who runs the MumbaiPaused twitter handle — stable.

Desi liquor shops featured in the book
Desi liquor shops featured in the book

In this book, smells become the gateway to the city of Mumbai. When asked why he chose a complex subject pertaining to smells for his project, he shares, "For different people, rich scents are associated with the city. From a slightly acrid smell on the edges of everything to the dried Bombay Duck, the aroma near the recently-shut Parle factory or the whiff of leather in Dharavi; we Mumbaikars recognise all of these. What better way could I have found to pay a tribute to this island that has always been linked to human sweat, frying oil, rotting sea, decaying marine life and accumulated garbage? Giving a title wasn't tough as Matsyagandha, originally Satyavati who plays a prominent role in the epic Mahabharata, was known to emanate smell of fish, something that every Mumbai person relates to."

The Navi Mumbai resident adds, "Under the dome of odour, where 20 million people live, are the individual smells and aura that make the city unique. The book aims to open your eyes or nose to these scents as well as help you understand Mumbai better."

Gopal MS has been working on the project for seven years. Pic/Sameer Abedi
Gopal MS has been working on the project for seven years. Pic/Sameer Abedi

Speaking about what it took to put this book together, Gopal, a former photo journalist, says earlier this year he asked friends and acquaintances on social media to describe smells to him. Among the interesting responses he got were the dying mangrove forests that are home to many species, peculiar fish stench at koliwadas. There is also the smell of star dust — which emanates from the debris from movie sets. The whiff from Lijjat Papad's over a dozen branches in Mumbai, odour of gamchas that daily-wage workers are seen donning. But among these, the divine smell in Magazine Galli at CST is his most favourite.

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