Sunday, 15 April 2012

Kusumbala's Fountain

Mumbai is a unique city because just when you think you have figured it out completely, it tends to surprise you. The eastern part of Bombay is such a mystery which co-exists amazingly with the present day Mumbai. There are several stories which tend to get lost due to the frantic lifestyle of residents and some of them suffer from lack of representation. 

Kusumbala's fountain in Reay Road is one of those stories which have suffered from lack of representation. Kusumbala was the daughter of a cotton broker Lowji Meghji. She was a sickly child and suffered from a terminal disease. At a young age of 13, she succumbed to her disease. The death of his daughter left him devastated. 

In the olden days, water charity was considered as a noble deed and often water was donated in the name of a deceased family member. It was believed that donating water would allow the soul of the dead to rest in peace. This fountain is also an example of a water charity donated by Lowji Meghji and the fountain was constructed within a year after his daughter's death. As Mumbai's history is inextricably linked with cotton, the fountain in its heyday was used by cotton loaders and brokers, bullock cart drivers who transported cotton to the neighbouring docks for exports and visiting traders. 

Systemic studies on these fountains help us in understanding the social fabric of the city. In other words, these fountains help us in understanding and recreating an era which created their own space in the artistic space in the town planning of the city. In most of these fountains, there are plaques related somewhere which narrate the reason behind the establishment of the fountain. The plaques and the surrounding data collected from both archival and oral sources become essential pointers to the information of various communities that immigrated to Bombay. Most of these fountains not only indicate the religious and cultural leanings of the donors and they tend to blend with the style and architecture of neighbouring buildings. 

As India gained Independence and the neighbouring warehouses were acquired by the Food Corporation of India, the fountain fell into disuse. The lonely fountain today is defunct as the taps are stolen and is surrounded with weeds, empty alcohol bottles, plastic bags, cigarette and beedi ends and supari packets. It is amazing to see how dignified the fountain looks despite it being in a sorry state of utter disrepair. 

If you happen to go towards Mumbai CST on the Harbour Line, you would see this fountain with an incongruous design on the left between Cotton Green and Reay Road station. Though there was a tiny plaque commemorating the fact that the fountain was erected in Kusumbala's memory in 1924, there was absolutely no information on how it came to be built. The most striking thing about this fountain is that it manages to retain its grace and dignity despite vandalism and neglect. It is one of those fountains which has been a silent witness to the growth of the Harbour Line from the British era to the present day. Do look out for the fountain next time you're passing through Reay Road.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Malabar Hill

Rohan Joshi

I was born and raised on Malabar Hill, or as the rest of Mumbai calls it "town" and as the Malabar Hill-ites call it, "Wait, there's 'rest of Mumbai'?"  

* In the 28 years I've lived there, only two exciting things have happened. Once, at 2 am, a driver fell asleep at the wheel and flipped his car. But it was a Mercedes, so nothing happened to him. 

* The other time, the IT department raided a wealthy neighbour's house. Such a raid is only exciting in theory. In practice, it's a bunch of serious middle-aged people looking around a house for nine billion hours. It gets old pretty fast.

* There are three parks in a two kilometer radius. One features a giant ugly boot, which has become a tourist attraction. The park next door should get a giant sock and see what happens.

* Malabar Hill is predominantly vegetarian. And they've systematically turned the non-vegetarians out of the area. So despite living in one of the highest tax paying brackets in the country, I have to go 10 km to get a chicken sandwich.

*The Chief Minister and other VIPs live in the area. If you work in the Fort/Colaba/Mantralaya/Nariman Point area, you should time your morning commute with their trip to Mantralaya. That way you can get into the slipstream of their security convoy and skip all traffic lights en route to work. You're welcome.

Sunday, 1 April 2012


I recently came across a newspaper sheet in which the city's top stand-up comedians decoded some of our neighbourhoods by taking potshots at them. I think sharing this on my blog would help in lightening the spirit of the blog which is otherwise known for its "serious" content. Please do not take these jokes seriously and most of the points made are not relevant anyway. These posts are meant purely-for-laughs. Since I live in Chembur, Mumbai, I thought it would be ideal to begin the series of Mumbai's suburbs.

Sourabh Pant 

* Chembur has been "the next big thing" in Mumbai's property scene since 1924. It isn't.

* Housemaids in Chembur are not called "bais", they're called "Chembur maids".

* Hip locals usually call Chembur, "Che". This confuses many Argentineans. 

* Literally translated in the original Marathi text, Chembur means "definitely not Bandra", irrespective of how many times you try to pitch that.

* The municipality in this land is the only one that is instructed to allow flooding during rains. It allows the locals to get the feel of the actual sea.

* The most popular celebrity in this area is Payal Rohatgi. By law, Chemburkars are allowed to bludgeon to death any outsider who makes a joke about Respected Payal Madamji. Most people don't, because, they aren't sure what she does exactly. (Gets bludgeoned).

* Local resident Vidya Balan's entire wardrobe in The Dirty Picture was inspired by swimwear worn at the Chembur Gymkhana. 

* Resident Shankar Mahadevan sang his song "Breathless...", because he was stuck in traffic at Chedda Nagar.

* RK Studios does not stand for Ranbir Kapoor Studios. If it did, it would be in Bandra.