aamchi mumbai by nandini mullaji

What’s New in the Scrapbook

December 17, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Some of the things I added to my scrapbook:

– 3 reflections on the design process in the Front Page section

– My commentary on the various map precedents in the Mumbai Maps section

– How my website connects to course themes in the Course Ideas section

– A bibliography

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So What Did I Do?

December 17, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Here is a link to my final project: https://aamchimumbaiblog.wordpress.com/ 

My goal was to build a website that could serve as a complete guide to what to see and not see in Mumbai. Everything from how to get a dinner reservation at Mumbai’s best restaurants, follow the Mumbai Marathon routes on your morning jog, and visit the exact places where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed, to the trains and areas that solo women travellers should avoid at night, the common places for cops to set up nakabandis, and the date spots that Mumbai’s moral police watch over.

Given that Mumbai is the city that never sleeps, I decided to divide the website into 24 sections, each highlighting a particular aspect of the city for every hour of the day. Each section includes a map and descriptions of the relevant sites, as well as useful tips and tricks for travelers. I really enjoyed coming up with what the 24 themes would be, and how I wanted to order it. (I was particularly proud of the fact that PRAY and PROTEST were next to one another, and that SHOOT was the last and final section). I’ve used material that already exists – maps and lists of places to go and things to see, and also included my own experiences. The ‘Elite 8’ list in the EAT section is entirely my discretion. In writing the descriptions of the maps, I tried to be meta. I wanted the map to (1) tell you about that particular action/aspect and (2) act as a window to a larger social issue.  For instance, while the DINE section does indeed have a list of restaurants, the description tells you about the Indian consumer’s mentality as well as the new entrepreneurial spirit of Bombay society.

The hope is that through exploring the different aspects (each with their rich histories, personalities and flavors) viewers will get a sampling of just how diverse Mumbai, and Mumbaikars are, as well as an actionable way to interact with the city.

My audience is primarily tourists, both domestic and international, though I do think that residents of Mumbai might also learn something from going through the website.

Deciding on the format of the website was a tiresome process. I spent hours trying to use Squarespace, trying to figure out which template would let me scroll from left to right. Turns out none of them have that capacity. Once I found my WordPress theme, I was pretty happy – I think the panels and scroll through have the desired effect of seeming like time zones.

In terms of incorporating existing representations, my project takes two approaches. First, it references popular film and literary representations in the maps themselves (ACT is based on Luck By Chance, a phenomenal movie on the Bollywood industry). Second, the entire project is a reflection and analysis on existing cartographic representations of Mumbai. After analyzing various existing maps and tours of Mumbai, I have taken the best practices and created a series of (hopefully) more impactful, cohesive representations of Mumbai that existing representations were not able to accomplish.

If I had more time, I would have liked to improve and deepen the descriptions for some of the maps, as well as the icons on the map. I would have also liked to include more original content – such as taking my own pictures for the VIEW and MUNCH sections. On the creative front, I wasn’t delighted with the picture quality on the website, or the formatting in some sections, but I unfortunately do not know enough HTML to tweak WordPress’ code. Finally, though I used Google Maps, as it accomplished the same task in less time, I wonder if Carto DB would have been a better choice; for instance, I would have liked to embed the maps directly into each page, as opening it up in a new tab makes it clunky to use on a mobile device.


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Personal Reflection

December 17, 2015 · Leave a Comment

I loved the process of putting together this website – it made me fall in love with Mumbai all over again. Though I have lived in Mumbai my whole life, I am not very familiar with the history of the city, so researching the mafia, the political history, or the architecture of the city was hugely educational. (Writing the section on the mafia was my favourite; I ended up researching a whole lot more than I intended to as I was so interested in this side of Bombay, which is why that map description is by far the longest.)  On the other hand, doing the food sections was really tough because I genuinely had so many recommendations that I wanted to include – I really had to restrain myself! This website also gave me the opportunity to try new things – for instance, I went to the Governor’s mansion last week to watch the sunrise, as I wanted to document it for the VIEW section of my project.


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So What Am I Doing Part 2

November 9, 2015 · Leave a Comment

Based on the feedback I was given, I realized that my project’s scope was a little too ambitious for the semester as it depended on understanding various different operation systems, and data that wasn’t readily available; as well as the fact that it focused on creating new representations of the city, without including or analyzing existing representations.


As I thought about where I wanted to go next, I thought about the key elements or principles that were essential to my project.

  • Showing the sides of Mumbai that aren’t seen in most Western representations – move away from the slums and stars perception
  • Demonstrating the politics of difference at play in Mumbai and all the different identities and communities that co-exist together (for a most part, peacefully)
  • Include information and representations that only insiders/residents know about the city
  • Use maps (so that it wasn’t just something to view, but also something to use and explore)
  • Make sure that my project includes multiple representations of the Mumbai rather than one, since I don’t think Mumbai can be summed up by just one.


I also thought about particular representations that were inspiring:

  • INTERACTIVE MAPS (I dedicated a whole section to this in my scrapbook)
  • Maximum city – its an oft used name for Mumbai and its my favourite way to describe it. I was curious to see if I could create an interactive representation of the city.
  • NYT’s 36 hours – I’ve been using these travel itineraries for years now, and I love how they are compact, timely, and feel very local.


Ultimately, my new plan for my multimedia project is 24 different interactive maps – one for each hour of the day – that are ‘authored’ by 24 different groups of people in the city. For instance, at noon, I will have a map tracing the route that the dabbawallas take to deliver home cooked lunches to office goers. (Dabbawallas are a Mumbai institution – between 175,000 and 200,000 lunch boxes are moved each day by 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas who collects hot food in lunch boxes from the residences of workers, delivers the lunches to the workplace, predominantly using bicycles and the railway trains, and returns the empty boxes to the worker’s residence that afternoon). Some of the other groups I’m considering – roadside hawkers selling food during the evening commute, film studios and schools catering to wannabe starlets, all the gold and jewelry stores of the Gujarati merchant community.


I think this refined project will capture the varied dimensions of the city, offer a chance for residents and tourists to interact with these dimensions, and showcase just how dynamic, how energetic the city is at any time.




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So What Am I Doing?

October 22, 2015 · 1 Comment

It has been an interesting journey from my original idea to my current plan.

When we collected our first set of representations of the city, I was intrigued by the internal and external representations of Mumbai. The representations created by outsiders, or for outside audiences (Shantaram, Slumdog Millionaire, Behind the Beautiful Forevers) all showed Mumbai in a certain light – a city of extremes: massive slums and poverty juxtaposed with the glitterati of Bollywood. That is not all that Mumbai is. The internal representations, written by and for Mumbaikars were able to capture the essence of Mumbai a lot more – its massive diversity of culture, language, regions, cuisine; its role in the world of finance & real estate and the underworld’s hand in it; its colonial heritage; and the opportunity and energy that it constantly exudes. You can learn more about this in the section Representations.

Based on this, my initial idea was to convey this Mumbai to tourists and visitors.I wanted to create an app that allowed tourists to take different routes around the city as suggested by locals. These itineraries would be created by real Mumbaikars, each of whom would have profiles on the app, which app users could find an itinerary that best captured their interests.

When I started my preliminary research, I realised that there were several similar platforms that existed. Some of the best ones are captured in the section of my scrapbook entitled Mumbai Maps. As I read through these, I was surprised to find that I had actually not seen/heard of a lot of the sites – so the notion that I, a true Mumbaiker, born and bred, knew my city was clearly not true. So I switched perspectives and thought about creating something for residents of the city.

When thinking about residents of the city and what their needs were, I came up with three categories of apps that I could/was interested in building:

  1. educational – teaching citizens about the city, its history and its diversity
  2. social – helping a variety of people meet, do, consume better and together
  3. public – serving unmet needs of the city

As I am very interested in urban public utilities/social infrastructure, the third category really spoke to me. I started brainstorming what the unmet needs of Mumbai were:

  • traffic app similar to waze
  • easier way to report catcalling and street harassment
  • which train stations/bus stops are safe at night
  • what food places are open late at night
  • what is the best prices for groceries across the corner grocery stores across the city

The list was endless; therein was my solution.

I couldn’t solve all of Mumbai’s problems, but I could empower people to solve Mumbai’s problems. I wanted to build a platform that was part Idealist, part Kickstarter, part Carto DB – crowdsource pain points across the city, design data driven solutions, and vote and implement community backed solutions.

open data + crowdsourcing + social media = change for the city, by the city

The app/platform in question is called aamchi mumbai. aamchi means ours; I chose this name as I really believe that the core of this project is in renewing the urban commons and the two most important principles of this design are creating open source data for Mumbai and crowdsourcing ideas, funding and implementation.

To look more into these two features, I have begun to research Data precedents in terms of countries/cities/organizations that share data, and different ways to intelligently and efficiently use data; as well as Platform precedents, to see how to structure the crowdsourcing aspect.

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Evolution of Concept

October 22, 2015 · Leave a Comment


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