Once upon a river

Updated: Oct 30, 2019, 10:56 IST | Vinitha | Mumbai

They have now set up Halluhallu, a walking experiences service with a focus of discovering the city through slow, off-beat trails and walks. So, when they announced a river walk in Dahisar, I jumped at the opportunity

VinithaDahisar River Walk, (Outdoors)

Once upon a time, Mumbai was not just an archipelago surrounded by sea, but also a network of rivers. When I ask people around about rivers in Mumbai most of them look at me blankly. So, it seemed imperative to meet a river.

For years, Aslam Saiyad and his buddy Gopal MS have been documenting the rivers of Mumbai and the people living around it. They have now set up Halluhallu, a walking experiences service with a focus of discovering the city through slow, off-beat trails and walks. So, when they announced a river walk in Dahisar, I jumped at the opportunity.

We meet outside Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SNGP) on a Sunday. I follow nine-year-old Dhruv into the park to get a sense of the topography of the space. SNGP's canopied roads are a dream, and before we pass the river we meet a stag (and later a group of deer). When Aslam enquires if we know names of the rivers in Mumbai, most of us can name only two. We are stunned to discover others like Ulhas, Mogra, Govandi, Irla, Vakola, Tansa, Tasso and Oshiwara.

Dahisar River Walk, (Outdoors)

We meet members of the Warli community, who have been living by the Dahisar river for years. Here, most homes barely get electricity. Many members of this community work as caretakers, guards, and daily-wage labourers at the SNGP and the only practicing Warli artist in a community of 4,000 people is Dinesh Barap. We meet Barap, who takes us through his artworks and conducts a session on the art form. Palettes made out of leaves and brushes are distributed so we can make our own Warli art.

Barap tells us about the natural materials and colours he uses, like earth and cow dung. It is fascinating to find out how elephant pods and pumpkin bittergroud can be used to make art. We then proceed to the river and walk into it mid-stream. The water is cool and clear. We can see the bed. Barap shows us homegrown methods of catching fish. It's a marvel how in five minutes he has managed to catch a dozen using a bowl and small dollop of wheat flour.

Once back, we sift through photographs of the river taken by Aslam and Gopal, who then acquaint us with the challenges this community is facing because of the encroachment on the river. When we return after the four-hour walk, we are richer, in terms of knowledge and tingling with energy.

Safety tip: Wear shoes with a grip. Carry a hat and stay hydrated.

Fact file

Where: SNGP, Borivali East.
Best for: Girls and boys aged 8 years and above.
How to reach: We met at the entrance of the park. Alight a train to Borivali East Railway Station and hail an autorickshaw.
Timings: Timings depend on the travel group. Morning is ideal.
Budget: Rs 600 (kids), Rs 980 (for adults).
Food: Total cost includes a hearty breakfast with tea at a Warli home and sampling traditional Warli vegetables You may carry dry snacks.
Water: Carry water.
Rest Room facilities: At the start and the end of the walk.
Where else to go: This is a good four hour, evenly paced walk. At the end of it, you can explore trails inside the park. You may also hire a guide at the NIC office inside the park and head for a trail or pay for the safari which is exciting. Or, carry your bicycle and explore the park on wheels.

Parent Poll: Plenty to learn and absorb.
Rating: Rating
Kids' Poll: Loved it, want to return
Rating: Rating

What's Good: It was wonderful to mingle with Warlis and experience their way of life. The walk was well-paced with plenty of halts.
What's Not So Good: We picked plastic from the riverbed and were disheartened to find out how much we litter.

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