MATHARPACADY

Photographs by Swayam Mohapatra

Exit Byculla station. Turn into Love Lane. Ask for Matharpacady Road. At the sign for Gunpowder Lane, swing left. You will be standing on Ram Naik Marg.

It looks just like any other city street. Except for this house.

Lion's Den

Lion’s Den (Mr. M J Leao)

This is as far as my directions will take you. If you want to leave Bombay behind, venture into one of the lanes opposite. Narrow, quiet and inviting.

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One May afternoon, I did.

The din of the street was muted by a tattered cloak of silence. The sun was brighter and the air stiller. Our voices, suddenly too loud, were reduced to whispers.

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Matharpacady is an old, old place. Most houses here were built by East Indian Christians of three generations ago. And they all have homey names such as Sacred Heart Chummery, Trilby Cottage and Marian Villa.

Many are older than their oldest inhabitant.

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Yellow walls, white columns, red roofs and blue shutters – Matharpacady homes are a study in contrast. They typically have two storeys and a staircase outside that joins them. Wood was employed widely and liberally, though no two dwellings look the same. And they have shades over doors, windows, corridors, staircases and balconies – everything.

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For a moment I thought it was just us and the houses.

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Lion’s Den (Mr. M J Leao)

But a Sunday afternoon cricket game is in progress somewhere out of sight. I can hear snatches of Marathi and Konkani muttered during siesta conversations. Behind a curtained window, someone is playing the organ.

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Old timers exchange warm pleasantries with a neighbour over the strains of ‘Praising My Saviour All Day Long’ that is playing in the background. Most are busy organising a religious gathering at a courtyard that seems to be the community centre.

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Julia, who lives next door to Anthonio Rest,  is on her way to the meeting. When we ask her to pose for a photograph, her husband ribs her: “They’re calling it ‘Glamour Models’.”

We ask about the vine-framed house’s origins. All discussions are silenced by the appearance of a great-aunt:

“Louis renovated it, men.”

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Lion’s Den (Mr. M J Leao)

An aged couple are staring peacefully into the distance and are tickled pink that my friend wants to photograph them.

“What man, why you take my picture?”

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When you reach Bismillah House and Kusumbai Chawl, you know your sojourn has come to an end.

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Matharpacady has been accorded Grade III heritage status by the government. This means it is illegal to alter any residence without sticking to its original plan and materials.

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Despite this, impoverished owners and the land mafia have seen eyesore apartment buildings such as Mazagaon Towers near Dockyard Road station spring up.

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We of the madding crowd are scarcely aware of the existence of such islets of serenity. Someday, I’d like to buy, and live in a home there. But that would be intruding upon decades of shared births, friendships, marriages, families and deaths.

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Lion’s Den (Mr. M J Leao)

Matharpacady is too delicate to handle such change. But slowly, inexorably, Matharpacady is changing. What about those who don’t want to change? What about those who can’t?

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11 thoughts on “MATHARPACADY

  1. Mrigank, i luv travelling n i luv travelogues(at least d 1s dt r well writtn !).By well-writtn, i mean those dt create a certain romance about d place dey describe,dt compel u visit d place n xperience it. After ur blog, im dyin 2 visit Matharpacady.Luvd ur style of writin..it took me rt in2 those sunny bylanes ver tim hs preservd a bygone era.Also,luvd d photos.I’m glad ur writin,whether intentionally or not, bout Mumbai n its lesser known facets.To end this,keep writin,u mk my numerous trips 2 d world wide web worth it !

  2. Mrigank,

    I lived in Mumbai for four decades but didn’t know where Matharpacady was. You took me round all the lanes there! Keep it up!

  3. Wow.
    I have never been there , never knew the place existed, untill now of course.
    You have immense talent……and with the help of the pictures i could visualize the whole experience….
    Well written and clicked!!

  4. Julia does not live at Anthony’s Rest. It is Anthonio Rest. Julia lives in the house at the side. I know this because Anthonio Rest is my childhood home. Linda

  5. Like Linda, i too am from Matharpacady… Lived there all my life and have fond memories of of a childhood spent with the rest of the children of ‘The Village’- running around the little lanes, playing chor-police, hide-n-seek, just enjoying ourselves!! The Village today has undergone a transformation, most of which like uv rightly pointed out, Mrigank, has been thrust upon the older residents forcing them to ‘put up or shut-up’ … It is lovely that u chose to write about The Village (while it lasts). Im sure i speak for the rest of my friends when i say that the living life amid such surroundings alongwith some wonderful neighbours really gave us memories to treasure. The Village will always be home to me, come what may… 🙂

  6. Hi Mrigank, I’m currently residing at Matharpacady near the cross in the centre of the village… Linda is my cousin & Dyane my childhood friend… thank you for writing so beautifully about our village… this place has been the safest place we know with tons of wonderful memories – people & events… in the good ol days we even used to have carnivals, treasure hunts, barbeque parties, etc etc… as time has gone by most of the young couples have either migrated or moved out and only senior citizens are left…a few of us who are still left there are struggling desperately to hold on to what we have…

    • Hi Shaila,

      I’m Bruce Pinsent’s daughter. My Dad’s family had a place called The Cabin in The Village. I think we are second cousins 🙂 Desiree Pinsent- Hiwale

  7. Hi Mrigank,
    One more speciality of Matharpacady is PRINCE PULICAL !!! A cheater , fraud and thief. He is a swindler and cheats people by not paying their salaries and steals company property. An absolute disgrace to catholics.
    He shows himself to be an entrepreneur and swindles investors money. Please beware of this man.

  8. Beautiful description of a lovely nostalgic heritage village in Mazgaon. Will definitely visit this gem of a village during my next visit to Mumbai. Makes me wish I could live here and bring back memories of the good old days and enjoy the old world charm.

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