Façades: Allbless Widows’ Chawl
Murzban Colony, Gilder Street, Tardeo.
Early modern housing for widows in Bombay was custom made to their conjugal condition. Widows were accommodated in single rooms in structures called ‘chawls’ and paid the lowest rent on the plot. In contrast the rest of the housing project consisted of multi-room flats in ‘buildings’ that were designed to facilitate working class family life.
‘Widows’ were listed along with fitters, mechanics, clerks etc as the professions of the householders on the plot. Investing ‘widows’ with the social meaning of occupational activity was one of the few, feeble ways through which their presence was assimilated into the housing landscape.
Facades: Gloria Church (1913)
Guest Post by Naresh Fernandes.
Gloria Church contains a memorial stone to an almost-forgotten Bombay character: the Goan opium trader Sir Roger de Faria.
Faria made his fortune shipping opium to China, but lost his wealth rather suddenly. His decline had its roots in an event in 1834, when the Liberal government in Portugal appointed the first native-born Goan, Bernado Peres da Silva, as Prefect of Portuguese India. Within weeks of taking charge Peres was deposed by the territory’s whites and mestiços. He eventually made his way to Bombay, where his friend and host, Sir Roger, agreed to finance an expeditionary force to help him recapture office.
The five-ship force sailed out from Bombay harbour towards Goa on May 27, 1835 – and ran straight into the advancing monsoon. Two gunboats were wrecked and the rest of the sorry armada limped back to Bombay with heavy casualties. Peres was unable to pay back his debts to Sir Roger, tipping the opium trader into bankruptcy. He lived out the rest of his life on a pension granted to him by his friend Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy.
When Sir Roger de Faria died in 1848, his funeral, writes Teresa Albuquerque, was attended by many beggars, “the poor, the aged, the halt and the blind”.
Naresh Fernandes is the editor of the digital daily Scroll.in and the author of City Adrift: A Short Biography of Bombay and Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age. He is the conscience of our city.
Photo by Byculla boy Badani, whose first job was under Sir Fernandes’ editorship of Time Out magazine.
Facades: St. Mary’s School (1864)
Nesbit Road, Mazagaon (presently Sardar Balwant Singh Dhody Marg).
The Annual Exhibition was the most important event in a school’s calendar in 19th c Bombay. The Exhibition included the distribution of prizes, student performances, reading the school’s annual report and on occasion, depressingly, an on the spot examination of the student’s work.
Proud Marian Hersh Acharya goes back to school.
Facades: Bombay Stock Exchange (1980)
Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers, Fort, (presently Dalal Street).
For many of Bombay’s inhabitants, the defining event of the 19thc was the share mania of the 1860’s. Several fortunes were made and lost as citizens speculated in the share market with the windfalls they had made exporting cotton to Britain.
The American Civil War had interrupted the supply of cotton from the American South to Britain and the latter turned to the Bombay cotton trader for relief.
The title of this post is inspired by a Jamaican Eating House and bar on Cowley Road, Oxford, that undergoes similar dips and spurts in fortune.
Hersh Acharya captures the curves in façades of the BSE building and the Elphinstone Circle.
Facades: Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (1903)
Merewether Road and Strand Road, Apollo Bunder.
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel continued the long established discourse of offering moderately priced accommodation in Bombay. At the time of its opening in December 1903, room rates on a per day basis were Rs 6 and upwards, comparing favourably with the rates of smaller hotels, that had as early as 1871, charged between Rs 4 to 5 per day.
Hersh Acharya captures the original Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the New Taj, which stands on the site of W. B. Green & Co.’s four-storied Apollo Bunder Restaurant and Café and the glorious Gateway.