Letters from Readers
Remembering Bombay’s glory days
I really enjoyed reading the interesting cover story in the March issue (“Bombay Deco” by Deepali Nandwani). It resuscitated some fond memories of my college days in India’s immediate post-independence days. It was my first visit to Mumbai, or Bombay as it was then called, from Nairobi, and moving from a comparatively small city in Kenya to this big city in India was an intoxicating experience for me. I am not an expert in architecture, but I was fortunate to see and admire some of these architectural structures that find mention in the story.
The population of Bombay at the time was about three million. I lived in a hostel in Manek House near Kemps Corner. In the evening, after early dinner, my college friends and I used to walk to Kamala Nehru Park, or Hanging Gardens, as it is popularly called, on top of Malabar Hill, from where we could enjoy “the Queen’s Necklace,” its bright lights resembling a string of pearls on Marine Drive below. From my hostel I walked to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, a building with a mix of Bombay Deco and Hindu Temple style, to watch plays and listen to concerts and talks. During summer vacations, we used to take a leisurely stroll, munching roasted peanuts, along the three-mile long Marine Drive—which gave us a lovely view of the Arabian Sea—from Nariman Point to Chowpatty, where we stopped to relish bhel puri.
The other side of palm tree-lined Marine Drive had many spacious and ritzy Bombay Deco buildings and hotels, where some of the rich and famous lived and dined. India’s former Prime Minister Morarji Desai also lived there with his son Kantibhai in an apartment in Oceana building. My friends and I often went to Eros, Liberty and Regal cinemas, and practiced cricket and played inter-college cricket matches with some of India’s top Test cricketers—such as Sanjay Manjrekar, Polly Umrigar and Nari Contractor, to name a few—on the iconic Oval Maidan. My college, next to Sir J.J. School of Art and opposite Victoria Terminus, now called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, was built in Gothic Revival architectural style.
As the story mentions, the Rent Control Act of 1947 did affect the upkeep, maintenance, renovation of properties as well as inhibited the construction of new and innovatively designed structures, but that is a different story.
How we have been making the best of stay-at-home times
We are a family of eight, including four senior citizens out of which two have severe health issues. Keeping family creatively busy during quarantine has been a rather interesting task.
Every week, our family has looked forward to craft sessions which show appreciation for various Covid- 19 warriors. As a token of gratitude to nurses and doctors, we created custom-decorated LED candles, canvas paintings for heroic first responders, and paper flower art for teachers working hard during digital learning. Furthermore, we worked on Zentangle and string art projects for animal rescuers and grocery store employees. Although we are practicing social distancing, we haven’t forgotten about our responsibility to the community. Since the pandemic resulted in the temporary closure of animal shelters, the shelters needed assistance with fostering animals. We fostered four adorable puppies and nurtured them till they were adopted.
With the help of friends and family, we raised enough funds to buy food for 100+ needy families by supporting local food pantry “Meals by Grace.” These times call for selflessness and keeping the less fortunate in our thoughts, which is what we are committed to. I didn’t realize that I was motivating creativity and compassion all around the world and not just my own family. I have been getting texts, messages on Whats-App, phone calls and emails from people around the world who were inspired by these ideas.
What’s on YOUR mind?
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