Interiors: Afghan Church (1858)
Church of St. John the Evangelist, Colaba.
Whenever Britain went to war in the 19th century, Bombay’s various communities would gather to pray at churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and fire temples.
‘O Almighty God! We pray to you that the Queen of this country be granted an honourable victory in the present fighting. The King of Kings should grant her army and navy special strength and wisdom, bless the Queen with a long life, and ensure the prosperity of her empire.’
Prayer gatherings offered avenues for a leveled participation in the Empire. They required no monetary contribution, only an emotional earnestness, and if the war was won, all could claim to have played a part.
An Acharya. armed only with his camera.
Interiors: Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue (1884)
Forbes Street, Kala Ghoda, Fort.
Not quite native and not quite European, Bombay’s influential Jewish community adopted a host of strategies to configure themselves as a legitimate population in the city in the 19th century.
Hotel proprietresses Carolina Goldstein and Mrs. Schwartz named their establishments Mazagon-Europe Hotel and Europe Hotel respectively and Abdoolla David Sassoon decided to change his name to Albert.
Photo by Abhishek Mande-Bhot for whom (sur)names are all in the wonderful game, that we know as love.
Interiors: Iranian (Mogul) Hammam
(Bathhouse) Imamwada Road, next to the Mogul Musjid.
A scrub at the Iranian (Mogul) Hammam is an intense, destroying, dissolving experience, from which the strictly male bathers emerge reincarnated and ‘ready to mingle with the girls’.
Zubair Poonawala, once a regular at the Hammam, describes the experience to the Mumbai Mirror:
‘You had to bring your own soap which for us would be the red Lifebouy bar or Pears. We used to pay Rs 125 each.
Then you strip down to your underwear and lie on the floor. The attendants would throw buckets of water on you and start scrubbing you with the soap till the bar dissolved.
The heavyset attendants would even stand on the thighs of the prostrate clients to give them a thorough rub down. When the pummelling ended, the bathers would relax in the lukewarm water of the hammam. After 15 minutes of relaxing in the water, you came out with red and glowing skin, ready to mingle with the girls.’
Bestie Badani made sure his camera stayed dry.
Interiors: Olympia Coffee House & Stores
Rahim Mansion, Colaba Causeway.
Goans dominated the professions of the waiter and butler at the turn of the 20th c so much so that no household had legitimately arrived on the social scene in Bombay unless it had a butler boy from Goa.
Interiors: Café Samovar (1964)
Jehangir Art Gallery, Esplanade Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort (presently Mahatma Gandhi Road).
Samovar’s single chai (tea) priced at a reassuring Rs 5 has comforted a clientele of artists, writers, musicians, tourists and researchers over the decades.
After a hard day of reading and maneuvering at the Maharashtra State Archives across the road, researchers make their way to Samovor at 5:30 pm and are happy to find prices that have some resemblance to those on the documents they study.
Hashim Badani gets a waiter’s attention.