Façade: David Sassoon Library & Reading Room
(1870) Esplanade Road (presently Mahatma Gandhi Road).
David Sassoon was the foremost Jewish sethia in 19th century Bombay. The term sethia refers to the class of merchant princes who were among the most powerful citizens. Their wealth, acquired through trade, was spent on public philanthropy and institutions as well as on maintaining lifestyles often befitting a prince.
Bombay’s leading sethias were a cosmopolitan mix – Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy (1st Baronet), a Parsi, Jugonnath Sunkersett, a Marathi of the Sonar caste, Mahomed Ally Rogay, a Konkani Muslim.
Photograph courtesy Hersh Acharya.
Façades: Elphinstone Circle (1872)
Fort (presently Horniman Circle).
Elphinstone Circle was the first colonial urban design scheme in Bombay. Previously any design plans for the south of the city had to consider and work around the presence of the Fort settlement; which was a military rather than modern form. Once the Fort walls were demolished in 1864, planners had an open city centre to play with.
Today the Circle hosts the French fashion houses of Hermes and Christian Louboutin, high on design, as on price.
The photograph is shot by Dj Murty on Kodak 400 ISO film.
Facade: BB&CI Railway Administrative Offices
(1899) Churchgate (presently Western Railway Head Office).
The celebration of the 160th anniversary of the Indian Railways has occasioned some wonderful examples of railway kitsch. At the Bombay, Baroda & Central India (BB&CI) Railway Administrative Offices, green spotlights compliment the signs in red and neon and the locomotive, all recent additions to the structure and setting.
The green lights, though close and tangible, could well be the one(s) Gatsby believed in, the orgastic future that makes us ‘run faster, stretch out our arms farther’.
A host of Bombaywallas pose by the locomotive, some as precariously as they would be placed on a daily commute (see our gallery above).
St. Thomas’ Cathedral (1718)
Church Gate Street, Fort (presently Veer Nariman Road)
St. Thomas’ Cathedral, initially called Bombay Church, was located at the heart of the Fort, the walled settlement within which the city’s early inhabitants lived. Church Gate, one of the three gates of the Fort, was named after this church, consecrated into a cathedral in 1837.
The Fort walls were demolished in 1864.
The Red Building
Parsi Bazaar Street, Elphinstone Circle, Fort, (presently S. A. Brelvi Marg, Horniman Circle)
The Red Building houses the offices of The Bombay Samachar (1822), Asia’s oldest newspaper. Formerly the premises were also used by the Bombay Chronicle (1913-1949); after whose editors, Benjamin Guy Horniman and Syed Abdullah Brelvi, the Circle and Street, have been renamed.