K. N. Ajani turns a 100 years young!

11 July, 2018
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1. K. N. Ajani, the well-known manufacturers of nutcrackers, knives, scissors and locks, has turned a ‘100 years young’!2. The founder, Keshavji Narshi Ajani, knew a thing or two about staying young, regularly practicing yoga and displaying charts with various asanas across his premises. 3. His great-grandsons, Sanyam and Yash, have started young, attending to the shop during their summer vacations, under their father Paresh’s supervision. 4. Nutcrackers were the shop’s No. 1 item, in high demand from clients as diverse as the Indian Railways, bridal parties who wanted to test if the groom could cut a betel nut, and sticklers who wanted to check the quality of annas by cutting them.5. A popular Gujarati saying, Maro to suri vache supari jevo avatar che, uses the symbolism of a betel nut in a nutcracker to explain the difficulties of being caught in a no-win situation.6. Sales of pen knives and general knives increase in the mango season. 7. Scissors for general, tailoring or kitchen use, are one of their 4 main products.

Signage: K. N. Ajani (1918)

Shop No. 102, Krishna Gully, Swadeshi Market (formerly Morarji Goculdas Market), Kalbadevi Raod.

Young K. N. Ajani was so inspired by the Swadeshi movement that not only did he relocate his shop from Masjid Bunder to the Morarji Goculdas Market at Kalbadevi, the bastion of Swadeshi, he also switched from selling standard cloth to manufacturing nutcrackers, knives, scissors and locks!

By 1919, M. K. Gandhi was visiting the Morarji Goculdas Market twice a month, presiding over the Swadeshi Sabha held in the Market Hall or inaugurating a new Swadeshi store. Speaking in Gujarati, Gandhi scolded the people of Bombay who took to speculation in shares and did not care to help ‘the real industry of the country’.

By the 1930s, Swadeshi had suffused the Morarji Goculdas Market so much so that it began to be called the Swadeshi Market! And while the other major markets in the area were stuck negotiating the conflicts between their foreign and Swadeshi sections, Swadeshi Market was smoothly selling small Indian industry.

Photos by the tall industry Hashim Badani. Thanks to Farrokh Jijina for his assistance with the Gujarati.

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‘Every Pen, A Pleasure.’

30 May, 2018
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Facades: Bombay Pen Corner

Hornby Road, Fort, presently Dadabhai Naoroji {D.N.} Road.

By the 20th century, fountain pens in Bombay were edging out ‘fickle’ steel pens, promising greater satisfaction, velvet smooth points of solid gold and the best hard rubber holders.

The Crown Fountain Pen appealed to the preacher and teacher. The Blackbird Fountain Pen was for boys. The Swan when the boys got older. And the stylish Parker Vacumatic, when they joined the jet set.

Indeed, it was pens that made boys into men, teaching them about ‘satisfaction’ and ‘safety’, ‘performance’ and ‘pleasure’.

Finding that D. N. Road is now dominated by women, the Bombay Pen Corner has moved on from pens to making name plates and rubber stamps.

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Waterproofs & Whiteaway

29 March, 2018
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Signage: Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co. (1895)

Department Store, 32 Hornby Road, Fort. (1954 onwards, the Khadi and Village Industries Emporium, 286 Dadabhai Naoroji {D.N.} Road).

Waterproofs were Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co.’s capital range of clothing.

When the firm operated from a small, cramped premises at the Esplanade, they marketed their waterproof coats and capes as the ‘Cheapest Waterproofs in Bombay’. Thoroughly serviceable, excellent and durable, their waterproofs were so well priced that ladies were encouraged to visit their store before making a trip to the bazaar.

When Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co. moved into their handsome and commodious premises on Hornby Road in 1895, built especially as a department store for the firm, their waterproofs got even more attention- a special display for ladies’ and gentleman’s waterproofs and a fine show of waterproof carriage aprons, that prepared Bombay’s buggy drivers and passengers for the impending monsoons.

The monogram WL&Co. at the entrance of the premises reminds us of a time when the department store was in capital demand.

Photo by Hersh Acharya.

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Saal Mubarak & Navroze Mubarak

21 March, 2018
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Motifs: Bombaywalla

On Navroze Day we turn 5.

We had a momentous year. Bombaywalla Blog became Bombaywalla Historical Works Pvt. Ltd.! We started conducting city walks which were wonderfully received. We are raring to go with new walks in April.

Simin, Sitanshu, Hashim, Hersh, Dj & Kamna

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So long Strand

28 February, 2018
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1) It was during the intermission of the English films at Strand Cinema, that 23-year-old T. N. Shanbhag hoped, the audience would browse and buy the books at the stall he set up there in 1948.
2) In 1956, Mr Shanbhag acquired new and spacious premises for the book stall at Dhan Nur building on Phirozeshah Mehta Road, while still maintaining the original counter at the Strand Cinema in Colaba. 3) Phirozeshah Mehta Road, was a relatively recent locality, dominated by insurance companies. Irani and other restaurants were present at every corner. 4) Mr Shanbhag and his staff would go for a ‘single’ (tea) to Bristol Grill nearby. 5) He offered the iconic 20% discount right from the beginning. 6) Mr Shanbhag’s son, Arun, joined the family business from America, sourcing titles that had made it to the top of the charts. 7) His daughter, Vidya, launched branches of the store in Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad and Poona, and the mega Strand sale at the Sunderbai Hall in Bombay.

Doors: Strand Book Stall (1956)

15C Dhan Nur, Sir Phirozeshah Mehta Road, Fort.

The iconic Strand Book Stall will shut down today after a 72 year run.

Hersh Acharya captures the last days of the institution.

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