The 8th UnSchool Emerging Leader Fellowship launched in southern Mumbai on November 11th at the majestic gates of the Mumbai Rani Baug. Nearly everyone was on time despite the quintessential Mumbai traffic. Amongst the beautiful greenery and the symphony of car honking, we started off in true UnSchool fashion with a one-legged stand that allowed us to quickly learn each other's names by colluding memory with physical effort.
Walking a short distance to our first adventure, we were delighted by a visit to the magnificent Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum (originally named the Victoria & Albert Museum, pre-independence after Prince Albert who co-founded the museum with Dr. Bhau Daji Lad). We were guided by wonder woman Anita, an incredible volunteer educator who shared her extensive knowledge on the influence of history on arts, crafts and design. The cohort was exposed to the contrasts between function and form, conceptual art and symbolic art. With Anita’s wonderful narrative of the museum’s authentic artifacts, we gained a historic context that fired up our neurons and began the UnSchool-esque unravelling of what we think we know! Did you know that Mumbai was originally a cluster of 7 islands!? Well, we didn’t! There is more to Mumbai than meets the eye!
From the museum we walked through Shoonya Ghar, a wooden installation by contemporary artist Sudarshan Shetty, symbolic of the poetic contrasts within the artist.
At the museum’s Educational Center we shared our 3 minute 9 slide life stories, Pecha Kucha style. And Pecha Kuchas never disappoint! We learned about the group’s compelling projects, diverse domains, unique qualities, and brilliant brains. After agreeing on the consequences when the don’t-be-late rule is broken (oh, what it is? Hmmm, it’s a fellowship secret!), we settled into an always eye-opening core knowledge session on Sustainability with Leyla, and of course, good brain-building snacks.
As evening fell over Byculla, we piled into cabs and started a mini challenge. Through a game of 20 questions, each group had to discover a secret word which served as the lens with which to complete the observational challenge. Through the windows of the cabs and with the prescribed perspectives - such as happiness, creativity, contrast, community - fellows went through a rapid fire observation session while traversing the streets of Mumbai. In sharing observations and insights many rich discussions were had about the power of seeing the world through different lenses.
Next stop was the Flora Fountain (disappointingly covered in scaffolding as it is being restored), our starting point for a short walking tour of some of the incredible architecture and monuments of Mumbai. We compressed into a tight group to cross the road in a pack of humans (thanks to fellow Umang for suggesting this nice little life hack) and meandered through the sensory overload of sounds, sights, smells and excitement of bustling south Mumbai. Through the side streets of Mumbai's burgeoning and eclectic local design scene, we saw many creative sights and soaked in the beautiful chaos of Mumbai while building up a healthy appetite.
Finally we reached our final destination: the creative vegetarian restaurant, Chetana, where we sat down UnSchool-family-style to enjoy a colorful Indian Thali feast, a variety of dishes curated on a delightfully diverse platter, just like the UnSchool fellowship.
Everyone savored the perfectly combined flavors of the deliciously colorful dishes. Toasts were made. Trivia challenged. Stories shared. With new connections and full bellies, Leyla reminded us of the early start for day number 2 (and to not be late, or…).
A fabulous Day 1 of the Mumbai Fellowship!