There was a time, when most of our cities had lung spaces, parks, public spaces where we could go to “shoot the breeze”, have a “walkabout”, set up a cricket field or play football.
Cut to today. Most large cities in the country have lost their lung or public places. Delhi still has some inside-locality parks, some large parks and lawns near India Gate. Mumbai has nothing. Calcutta has little to talk about except the one lake and the maidan. Bangalore has one constantly shrinking and being encroached upon Cubbon Park. You get the picture. The story isn’t too different in other places.
So, where would people go? You guessed it right. Malls – the large air-conditioned, non-interesting walking spaces filled with same-old same-old retail stores, cineplexes and food courts. What happens in the malls tells you what people are looking for. The footfalls are high, the conversion to sales (except food, and movies) is abysmally low. Why? Because people are just looking for public places where they can spend time, and not necessarily bunch of money. What better than being in an air-conditioned space (especially in our kind of weather), grab a bite and maybe catch a movie?
What if going to a mall isn’t your thing and you don’t want your kids getting stuck on malls? There actually are some choices in every major city. You might not be able to go there too many times, but even one time each is better than none.
If a city thought about it, places to send folk to would be museums and galleries. Most large cities, or locations of historic importance have museums and galleries. Our country has a bunch of them as well. India’s largest and the oldest museum opened in Calcutta in 1814. And over the past two hundred years, many more have opened. Some are just museums, and some are galleries displaying art of various kinds.
The problem is that people don’t visit galleries or museums. At least most people do not. It might really be about culture and what we perceive to be important for us and our children. But then, concerts do get audience in auditoriums and bar atmospheres. But, have you seen most of the museums in our country except the super famous ones? Exceptions are places like The Railway Museum, Dolls Museum in Delhi, Prince Albert Museum in Mumbai or some of the galleries where the rich and the famous want to be seen at.
A museum is an institution that cares for (conserves) a collection of artifacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance and makes them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary .
Allow me to name a few places which are either brilliant or hold a tremendous value in terms of novelty.
National Galleries of Modern Art – there are at least three of them. One in Delhi, in Mumbai and in Bangalore. The first two are large establishments, but the one in Bangalore is relatively smaller. It is housed in a much smaller Manikyavelu Mansion on Palace Road. The place is green, serene and beautiful. Besides the permanent exhibits which are worth a visit, the place always has temporary stuff, film shows, talks etc. Entry Rs 10, and Re 1 (for children)
Chitrakala Parishat galleries – CKP, of course. People go there for the annual festival, but when I went we were the only visitors. Besides many others, there is a Roerich gallery and a bunch of Jamini Roys there. Entry Rs 10.
Naval Aviation Museum, in Vasco – this is located sort of behind Dabolim Airport in Goa. Some local folk know about this, most don’t. This is a decent sized museum, houses a history of naval aviation and over 20 aircraft.
Government Sculpture museum – in Bangalore, the red building next to Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum. Over 200 pieces, at least 700 years old; all local, primarily from Karnataka. This place has decent amount of footfall though. Entry, Rs 2.
The Philatelic museum – at the Bangalore GPO. It isn’t large, is in a largish hall on the first floor. Get to the philately museum and ask the Deputy Post Master (currently Deputy Post Mistress). The ever smiling lady is delighted to have the museum opened up for you to visit. Did I say “opened up”? Yes, because no one visits it. Entry Free.
Naval Maritime Museum in Cochin – located at INS Dronacharya in Fort Cochin. This is again small, but relatively new and very well maintained. Check out Naval guns, beautiful scale models, Radars, Uniforms, Side arms, and a photo history of the navy and a Sea King helicopter. Fantastic. Use google maps to get there because locals aren’t even aware of it. Entry fee, Rs 5.
How many of these have you been to? All these are way more fun than any mall for sure. Do you want to take your kid to the mall every time, or maybe once to these places too? You decide.