MAZAGAON DIARIES

Photographs by Swayam Mohapatra

I’d never been to Mazagaon before. I’d never been to Byculla. I’d never even been east of Bombay’s Harbour Line.

Last Sunday, I became a tourist in my own city.

If names are something to go by, Mazagaon is metaphorically cosmopolitan. At the junction of Ambedkar Road and Sant Savata Marg, towering over Miya Ahmed Darvesh Chowk, stands the black edifice of Gloria Church.

Gloria Church in the background

A lone watchman, probably accustomed to gymnastic photographers and eccentric writers, was kind enough to let us in.

Gloria Church

Gloria Church

The three o’clock sun shone bright on the cathedral’s sturdy British architecture and cast long shadows on the Antonio de Souza High School crouched behind it. Begun in 1938, this five-storey institution is built around a cobblestoned quadrangle that is overlooked by corridor balustrades and stained glass windows.

You can just picture the sexagenarians of today as snot-nosed kids, waiting for the final bell, to rush down the wrought iron spiral staircases, now forbidden.

spiral staircase

Back under the noisy flyover, we pass Nowrosjee Wadia Trust’s Bai Jerbai Baug with its imposing arch, and the ubiquitous Udipi restaurant. The twin towers near the tracks at Bombay Central are visible in the distance.

This is the last we see of the Bombay I know.

Mazagaon is old.

A street corner

We turn left onto the quaintly named Love Lane which curiously, is embarrassed with a Shiv Sena shakha at its corner. The Byculla Police Station opposite is a ground-plus-one villa that was probably requisitioned from a displaced British Sahib. Even DCP Punjabrao Ugle’s official residence is a not modest lime-green bungalow, screened by ancient trees.

DCP's residence

Gloria Church

We stop at the century old Roshan Bakery and are permitted by its bemused workers to capture its old-fashioned oven on my friend’s new-fangled camera.

bhatti

Gloria Church

The Motishah Lane Municipal Urdu School is on the upper floor of an unpainted grey building with the unlikely name of Casa Piedade. Some of the older structures have beautiful wooden staircases that lead up to unlit first floors.  You can see that there are lesser owners and more tenants here.

stairs

We halt again at a nameless bakery which sells us hot nankhatais and the softest bread we have ever eaten. The manager tells us they’ve been in business for 30 years.

bakery

Mazagaon is also new.

A sullen mechanic monotonously rotates the shaft of a well-greased machine. A bhelwallah from Jaipur, probably a recent immigrant, shyly asks for his picture to be taken.bhelwallah

Outlets of Thomas Scott and The Loot have appeared and failed to blend in. Many of the older homes from forgotten decades have made way for newer, ugly buildings.

mansion

Mazagaon has begun selling out. Even the signboard at Gloria Church has accepted the harshness of the times. It says:

‘They who give have all things

They who withhold have nothing.’

* * *

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5 thoughts on “MAZAGAON DIARIES

  1. The post is interestingly written, informative and the pictures are a very good add on. I ditto Sunil’s response, experiment thus:-)

  2. Well written and very informative! Your ‘friend’s new-fangled camera’ captures neat pics! Keep writing!

  3. I like ur style of writing, mrigank… Moreover, i like dat uv tried and successfully captured the old-world charm of Mazgaon thru ur words and pics… I am a proud Mazgaon-kar, have been so all my life.. No place quite like it… !! 🙂

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