Category Archives: Structures

Back in baby’s arms

14 June, 2017
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Statues: Esplanade House (1887)
Waudby Road, Fort.

When Busy strayed on Sunday evening from the Breach and Sailor with the white star on his breast went missing at Khetwady, their owners turned to the Bombay press.

‘Dog Lost’, ‘Stolen or Gone Astray’, notices were published on the front page. A handsome reward was promised on the dog’s return.

Yet often in the notices no address was given to which the dog could be returned. Only the owner’s name was mentioned. Why so?

The world encompassed by the daily press of the 1860s was so small, the citizens that featured so familiar, that the front page of the paper read like a Facebook feed. Newspaper offices themselves often served as the first port of call so that Busy was as likely to be escorted back to the Bombay Gazette office as she was to her owner Mr W. Trevor Roper’s arms.

This post is in memory of Oscar Parmar who strayed at midnight on 31st May from Babulnath Road.

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Have you seen my wife Mr. Jones?

19 May, 2017
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Furniture: Jones Lodging House

Rachel Lodge, Merewether Road, Colaba.

Lesser than a hotel and more than a boarding house, lodges were a popular form of accommodation in Bombay in the early 20th century.

They offered something of the privacy of a hotel, without the convenience of in-house catering, and were preferable to the intimacy of the boarding house, where Bombay’s landladies embarked on bouts of excessive drinking with their boarders and even died from an overdose of alcohol.

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Crossing to Colaba

4 May, 2017
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Boundaries: The Island of Bombay (1838)

Even 30 years after the Island of Bombay was connected to Colaba by a causeway, Colaba was far from a fashionable locality.

Sanatoria and asylums, warehouses and store rooms, printing presses and cotton presses commanded the precincts of Lower, Middle and Upper Colaba.

A strong military presence in the locality meant that the options for an evening’s entertainment were limited to viewing H. M.’s 103rd Royal Bombay Fusiliers perform “The Artful Dodge” at the Colaba Theatre or attending a temperance meeting where the evil effects of the Canteen system were set forth.

**Lower Colaba, also called Small Colaba, was the area that comprised the Old Woman’s Island.

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A Colaba Man In Hot Blood

29 April, 2017
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People: Commander Nanavati (27 April 1959)

An excerpt from Bachi Karkaria’s new book hot on the trail of India’s most dashing naval commander-

“Nanavati comes out of Setalvad Lane, but doesn’t know the location of the nearest police station. He’s always been a Colaba man on the southernmost flank of South Bombay. Instead of turning left to go the way he came, he turns right, and goes up Malabar Hill. Near the rather obviously named ‘Teen Batti’ traffic signal he sees the ornate gates of Raj Bhavan, the Governor’s mansion. He asks the sentry, and is told about Gamdevi Police Station. Deciding not to go round in circles trying to find it, he heads for familiar territory: the home of the navy’s ‘head cop’, the Provost Marshal.
Commander Michael Benjamin Samuel, like the socialites of Setalvad Lane, has just stirred out of his afternoon siesta, but he’s shaken wide awake by what he hears from one of the navy’s highest-rated officers: ‘I think I have shot a man.’
‘Because he seduced my wife.’
Commander Samuel picks up the receiver of his phone, and says sombrely into it, ‘John? This is Provo Samuel. I’m sending Commander Nanavati to you. He has had a quarrel with a person, and he has shot at him.’

At Crime Branch, the Central Investigative Department’s two-storey building in the compound of the Bombay Police Commissionerate at Crawford Market, another phone on Deputy Commissioner John Lobo’s desk jangles. ‘Sir, this is DI Gautam from Gamdevi PS. There has been a shooting in our jurisdiction. A Mr P. Ahuja has been fatally injured. We are proceeding to the spot and will revert.’
The deputy inspector has followed procedure in such serious cases, alerting both the deputy commissioner of the division and the deputy commissioner, Crime Branch, CID. This ensures a pooling of resources to nab the culprit ASAP.
But the ‘culprit’ has already presented himself.
A strong voice outside demands, ‘Lobo sah’b ka kamra kahaan hai?’ (Where is Lobo sahib’s room?)
The orderly checks with the boss, and ushers in the impressive naval officer dressed in slacks and a shirt.
‘I am Commander Nanavati,’ he says in the same authoritative tone. He appears to be impatient to get a weight off his chest.
‘Yes,’ replies the deputy commissioner. ‘Your Provost Marshal called. What is the problem?’
‘I have shot a man.’
Lobo puts his sinewy arms on the table. Every inch of his small-built frame indicates a man who knows his job, and will do it. He looks the naval officer in the eye and says, ‘He is dead. I have just received a message from Gamdevi Police Station.’
A muscle tightens perceptibly on Commander Nanavati’s chiselled jawline.
The DC offers him a cup of tea, not a gesture normally shown, but this is not a run-of-the-mill accused.
When he declines the tea, and asks for ‘just a glass of water’, Lobo pours out one from his own flask. Several eyebrow-raising courtesies will be extended to this man over the next five years.
Having shown him this consideration, Deputy Commissioner Lobo gets down to business. He says, ‘Commander, I will have to do my unpleasant duty. You have killed a civilian in his flat and the law will have to take its course. I’m calling in my officers, Superintendent Korde and Inspector Mokashe, to question you.’
They stride in, their uniform as smart as their salute.
They go with Nanavati to retrieve the weapon and unspent bullets from the glove box of his car parked outside the commissionerate. Lobo tells Nanavati, ‘We will now begin our formal investigation. Let me assure you that it will be conducted with complete fairness and impartiality. To start with, we are placing you under arrest, and will keep you temporarily in our custody.’
Again, because he is no ordinary undertrial, Nanavati is not marched into a police lockup, but is kept in one of the office rooms of the Crime Branch. The lofty officer wryly consoles himself that dusty files are preferable to scruffy felons. But Navy Headquarters and his own Parsi connections will ensure that he is soon spared even this company.

And what of the two others of that love triangle? A stunned Sylvia has been picked up from Metro and bundled off to her in-laws’ house.
The lifeless Prem has been lifted off the floor and put on his bed by the servants, too shocked to remember not to disturb the scene of the crime. Mokashe’s team arrives. Their observations and investigations will be triumphantly presented by the prosecution and vehemently countered by the defence. But let’s not jump the gun here, or with the findings of the coroner’s court. Let’s wait to hear these hotly disputed details when we come to the trial which ignited a legal, political and social forest fire.”

Race to buy the unputdownable In Hot Blood (Juggernaut Books).

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Get Me to the Church on Time: Being a Practical Guide to Locating Bombay’s Milestones by an Enterprising Lady

25 April, 2017
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Inquiring minds should proceed to the Victoria and Albert Museum and Agri-Horticultural Gardens, beautifully laid out in Byculla, to spot this milestone. Formerly located near the Arthur Crawford Markets on the Esplanade, the milestone has been carefully relocated to the Museum for safekeeping.
Avail of H. D. Johnson’s Hansom Cab service at the Byculla Railway Station and direct the driver to Gamdevie, to that piece of ground bounded on the South by the House of Krishnarao Goregaonkar, on the North by the Railway Tracks and the West by the Public Road. Herein lies the second milestone marking ‘The Limits of the Town of Bombay’.
Explorers are encouraged to attend the public lecture on ‘REFORM’ at the Budhi-Varshak Society on Kalbadavie Road before proceeding to the southern end of the Road to locate the milestone marking ‘I Mile from St. Thomas’s Church’. Newly reformed, explorers will refrain from consuming intoxicating drinks at the Sunlight Restaurant & Bar, a nuisance in the locality.
Having journeyed through the native town on foot, explorers may hail a hack buggy and enjoy the sea breeze as they ride through Chowpatty to Tardeo Road to find the milestone ‘III Miles from St. Thomas’s Church’. The bungalows opposite the milestone have been lately occupied by two Parsee families, the Jessawallas and Adenwallas, whose ladies are well known for their beauty and daring.
Walk a short distance from Tardeo Road to Gowalla Tank to identify this milestone marking ‘3 Miles from the Cathedral’ a peculiar specimen with all the signs of being a later entrant– giant proportions, burnished in the sun and a number instead of a Roman numeral!
European explorers can stop and rest at the Byculla Club and native explorers can enjoy ICES! ICES!! ICES!!! at the Byculla Refreshment Rooms before making their way to Chinchpoogly to locate the milestone ‘IV Miles from St. Thomas’s Church’. The works of lighting Bombay by gas are proceeding very rapidly at Chinchpoogly, and pipes are being laid for the purpose along the main Parell Road, so that in a few months explorers will realize the long cherished hope of finding milestones IV and V at Parell Government Gate Road, by night.
The explorers may have the good fortune of receiving a carriage from His Excellency Sir Bartle Frere to proceed as a party to Dadur to spot three milestones in quick succession- ‘VI Miles from St. Thomas’s Church’ opposite Chitra & Co., photographers and general merchants lately developing motion picture technology; another ‘VI Miles from St. Thomas’s Church’ on Dadur Main Road and ‘VII Miles from St. Thomas’s Church’ outside Mr. Antonio Da Silva’s Anglo-Portuguese School.

Gentleman are requested to wear their Sola Hats and ladies their Straw Bonnets for the final leg of the excursion to Sion, the limits of the Island of Bombay, where the milestone ‘VIII Miles from St. Thomas’s Church’ is situated.
On achieving this milestone, the whole party is invited to celebrate with a pic-nic at Sion Fort.

Boundaries: Island of Bombay

Miss Bombaywalla begs to return her best thanks for the assistance she has received from Messrs. Aadil Desai, Vistasp Mehta, Dj Murty, Atul Gandhi, Bittu Ahmadullah & Miss Nergish Sunavala in locating the milestones and examining photographic impressions of the specimens. She also wishes to thank the PUBLIC at large for their timely assistance when she was knocked down by two youths furiously and negligently driving a two-wheeler on the wrong side of a public road.

** Mr. Forjett, Deputy Commissioner of Police, confirms that milestone ‘II Miles from St. Thomas’s Church’ has been destroyed by the chief leaders of the notorious Dhobee Tulao Thalimkhana gangs, who have extended their reign of terror northwards to the junction of Parell Road and Sandhurst Road.

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