This post from a blogger I follow regularly prompted me to write about a part of the city that had a huge impact on me.
Nare Park: My first job was at an NGO located in three classrooms of a municipal school, looking onto the huge maidan ringed by magnificent trees. I would get off at Elphinstone Road and walk through the hundred year old chawls, cross the maidan and reach the run down building that housed my office. While muddling through the confusions of a first job I failed to register why Nare Park was so significant in the city's history. In a public meeting held here Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar announced his decision to adopt Budhism. Thousands cheered and joined him in Nagpur a few months later.
The landscape of working class chawls and ghostly mills has been buried under a rash of glass and chrome and cozy gated communities.A lot has been written and said about it, the latest one written by an architect who has been passionately involved in raising her voice against the rapacious takeover by the builder lobby.
Bombay, Mumbai, Bambai generously gave me the privilege of touching and sensing its magnificent history.My deep connection with this city was formed through my regular treks from the railway station to the various things i did through those years.
Marine Lines to Mahapalika Marg,Xaviers College-for my BA
Grant Road to Peddar Road, Sophia College- for a one year course
Bombay Central to lanes, bylanes, tea shops all around- catching up with boyfriend,now father of child
Mahalakshmi to Nehru Centre- Fim Festival, NFDC offices, and ofcourse Famous Studio where every assistant has spent hours n the sub zero temperatures of closet sized studios.
Lower Parel to Wadia Baug and a lot of loitering around the area- with close friend
Elphinstone to Nare Park- first job
Dadar to Bhaidas Hall- rehearsals and shows of first play i acted in
Matunga to Karnatak Sangh- rehearsals and shows of first play i acted in
Mahim to Dharavi- second office of the organisation where I got my first job
Bandra to Bandra East,Chetna college -rehearsals of all the plays I did after the first one
Bhaidas Hall and Karnatak Sangh were important sites in the history of experimental marathi and hindi theatre in the city. The significance of that would add to the dreadfully large number of skittish butterflies in my stomach. St. Xaviers stands tall even after 150 years.At Sophia we were in the ugly annexe of an erstwhile pink palace but we hungrily devoured scratched 16mm prints of world cinema every thursday.Chetna college was around the corner from colonies that housed great writers and poets and theatre directors, who also have as a neighbour, a certain cartoonist who needs platoons to protect him so he can keep making outrageous remarks that can make the city burn.
My western railways map does not include the unplanned excursions around Crawford market, Byculla, Dongri, Horniman Circle, Colaba, Banganga, Malabar Hill. And the combing through Parel looking for chawl windows overlooking millscapes during location hunting for a breathtakingly beautiful film called Kaali Salwar. Through those several months of knocking on people's doors asking to look through their windows and balconies I was offered endless cups of te and biscuits and batata wada or kaanda poha.
Many of the areas have gone through radical transformations from grungy grey bursting with colourful storys to the dazzling sheen with a homogenised meta narrative of glamour.
Dharavi and Matunga are yet to become unrecognisable, but the race is on. And ofcourse Peddar road and Mahapalika Marg will only see cosmetic changes because the policy makers reside and work there!(and nightingales dont want a sore throat)
Sitting in a smug enclave of non descript apartment blocks, i think of the villages fringing a forest that I never visited. The transformation was complete before I had a sense of the past. I imagine the stories and attempt to connect my child to this part of the city.