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The secret to understanding a teeming metropolis lies in exploring its neighbourhoods. It is in these slices of life that a big city’s fast pace slows down and its true nature is revealed.

Mumbai’s first set of world-renowned Jane Jacobs walks (organised in memory of the American author and urban activist) attempts to encapsulate this experience through sojourns to three parts of the city – Mazagaon, Bandra and Juhu – where residents and visitors can see how the local community functions.

Held around the time of Jacob’s birthday in early May, the free walks are a programme promoted by the nonprofit Center for the Living City. Honouring her vital work on urban studies and saving neighbourhoods, anyone can host a Jane Jacobs walk; the only requirement is passion for the city they live in.  

The 12 May walk Metamorphosis of Mazagaon, organised by Kavita Gonsalves for the non-profit Urban Design Collective, took walkers around the evolving Mazagaon area of south Mumbai, where colonial Bombay grapples with contemporary Mumbai in its pre-Portuguese-era homes, Goan community clubs and glassy skyscrapers.

The upcoming 19 May Markets of Bandra walk, organised by entrepreneur Shormishta Mukherjee, will delve into the smells, sights and sounds of the bustling community markets in north Mumbai’s Bandra neighbourhood. “Markets are places where people meet and interact and I wanted to share the vibrancy of these spaces,” Mukherjee explained.

Starting at St Andrews Church at 6 pm, the stroll will explore the traditional fishing village of Chimbai, pause for a taste of delicious mince puffs and nankhatais (Indian cookies) at the old bakeries on Hill Road and wind its way into the 400-year-old East Indian Catholic village of Ranwarwith – its Portuguese cottages roofed with Mangalore tiles. The stroll gets eclectic on Chapel Road, where the artsy Wall Project – an innovative graffiti collective – took root, before heading towards Bazaar Road, where a thriving local market, a mosque, temple and church coexist in the same space. Limited to 12 people, registration is via email.

The motive behind the 16 June Juhu walk, according to organiser Pallavi Srivastava of non-profit Urban Vision is “the need to improve the city’s walkability, encourage cleanliness and provide freedom from car-centric mobility in Mumbai”.

Open to everyone, including those on bicycles, in wheelchairs and seniors and children, the walk will begin at 5:30 pm and end around 7:30 pm at Juhu beach, turning into the broad avenue of Linking Road and cutting through laidback Khar, a leafy suburb adjacent to Juhu. The last leg will take participants to the Bandra (Bandstand) and Carter road promenades, which buzz with a colourful mix of skaters, fisher folk, musicians, vendors, young couples, runners, bikers and perhaps even a Bollywood star. Participation is limited to 20 to 25 people and you can sign up on the Facebook page.

Sharon Fernandes is the Mumbai Localite for BBC Travel 

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