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.