Matunga Convergences, Coincidences and Walks

Multiple incidents this week have almost made me start believing in divine intervention and coincidences (I believe in neither!) and made me write this piece rather than the one on Starbucks and Horniman Circle that I had planned earlier.

After checking out Starbucks last Saturday morning (bad caramel machiato, bad service, great decor), I met with a journalist who is planning to do a feature on Matunga. Among other things we also discussed the possibility of walking / food tours in Matunga. When I mentioned this conversation to my wife over dinner, we wondered what an ideal walking tour in Matunga would include and whether a Tamil movie at Aurora would be part of the tour. Then two days ago, I received an email from Ria, a Matunga/Parsee Colony resident who is planning to start similar tours soon. And then yesterday, Jehangir too, brought this topic up.

Things happen in pairs and triplets.

Earlier this week, Mehroo emailed a .pdf file created by Mr. Ashwin Panemangalore, in which he has compiled a list of old Bombay names and their origins and meanings. There are small, interesting snippets on “King’s Circle”, “Matunga” and “Vincent Road”, part of 116 entries on various parts of Mumbai. Then Jehangir called me about a treatise on Matunga written by Ms. Ruchira Banerjee in “The Bombay Explorer”, published by the “Bombay Local History Society”. Neither the society nor the journal is online, but I was able to find out that the society is headquartered at St. Xavier’s.

Thanks to Jehangir, I managed to get hold of Ruchira’s article, all of 31 pages with pictures, tracing the history of Matunga and the Greater Matunga area, starting with its conception after the Great Plague of 1896, through the displacement of the East Indian villagers in the VJTI – Five Gardens area, the relocation of the Marubai temple, the growth of the Kutchis and upper caste Tamils, the development of Parsi Colony and Hindu Colony on the outskirts of Matunga and the rise of Vardarajan, up to the current situation where the older buildings are giving way to high-rise condos and the area is becoming more and more homogenized.

Well-researched and referenced, Ms. Barnerjee’s piece is a terrific read, especially if you have even the slightest interest in anything to do with Matunga and its surroundings. There are some gaps, for example, related to the Udipi restaurants and their rise within a predominantly Tamil and Kutchi dominated locality, but none of that detracts from this article. Unfortunately, there is no online access, unless the Society or Ms. Banerjee makes this piece available for the general public.

So much Matunga stuff in a week almost makes one giddy!

So what would an ideal Matunga walking tour be like?

One possibility! Start at Koolar at 8 AM for tea and bun-maska; walk to Aurora along the Circle; go past Marubai temple and Don Bosco up to the UDCT gate; go into the lane behind VJTI, up the VJTI gate; back up on R P Masani lane; go onto Adenwala road to Five Gardens; go straight up to the Fire Temple; take a right onto the main road and walk back to the Ruia signal and cross it; go past Ruia, Podar, Matunga Gymkhana, Matunga Market and the Post Office on Bhalchandra Road; get onto Telang Road; turn back on Bhaudaji Road towards King’s Circle; stop at one of the Udipis for idlis, etc.; go past both “derasars”; end at Savla School / Shishuvan. I guess this would take around 3 hours or so!

23 Comments

  • Sign me up for this walking tour. I was born in Matunga in 1955 at Dr. Dandekar’s nursing home.
    Brings back nostalgic memories.

  • V.Subramanian wrote:

    As some one who had spent 28 years of pre marriage life at Matunga, i.e exactly half my life till now, I would like to add as a part of the tour places like, the B.I.T colonies, both the 2 room and the 3 rooms,the changing landscape at the B.I.T cottages, parallel to the railway tracks,the earstwhile Bhramhanwada road with SIES school,the periphery of Indian Gymkhana,where the famous All India Ramu Memorial Basket Ball tournament was an annual feature,Shankara Mutt where tamil “Vadhiyars” (Bhatts) used to congregate prior to the invasion of mobile phones. One also fondly recollects the small gardens where one used to play underarm friendly cricket matches some of them with prize money as low as Rs.10.
    They include,the Gujarat Seva mandal ground,Booth Bagicha (Behind Shankara Mutt), Samosa Garden(Behind 5 Buildings),Napoo garden, Triangle garden, also known as khosla garden,just behind the Raj Khosla Bungalow at Telang cross road. For overarm cricket matches, the venue used to be either Indian Gymkhana or Matunga Gymkhana.Thanks to perceptions of Terror threats, many of these open grounds have all been enclosed with huge boundary wall and gates.Another important feature is that almost all the Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals that used to organise the 10 day festival, do continue to celebrate even today albeit at different scale,the prime example is that of, Varadabhai’s pandal at matunga station. There indeed seems to be a need for either a Government agency or an NGO who can continuously chronicle and capture the changing scenes of various localities in important cities for posterity.

  • Great idea! This could also include a mini tour of the various trees found in 5 Gardens.Sign me up anyway.

  • Oh it would be nice to have the Bombay of the 50’s thru the late 70’s…..Clean and lovely, less crime (negligible)and what have you now filth,traffic….

  • sriganesh wrote:

    I will join you at every food stop! :-) Please add the stops for prasad that you will get at every temple in Matunga.

    I recall my walk in Andheri, Parsi Panchayat Road in 1962 through the jungle areas and Cricket that we boys played on Western Express Highway under construction.

    Little did I realize that I will settle in the same jungle in Andheri 25 years later!

  • Nitin Tamhane wrote:

    i have studied at UDCT for my engineering and traced the path you have suggested please recommend place for good pongal and strong filter coffee is of course available at most of the good udipues and for less bucks that too!
    These places are the real stars.
    There used to be Yezdiyar restaurant in the Parsi colony for good chilled beer and hot special fired potato chips wow!

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    How boring!

  • Reshal Shah wrote:

    This is an amazing thing that can happen..A Matunga walk.I usually have this sort of a walk you’ve mentioned calling it as the ‘me’ time…and these lovely places are like roots…recently studying at IIT B, I live on campus and every weekend I feel I breathe air only when I step out in this place and again go out roaming around…It is like a weekend ritual with a cup of filter kappi :)

  • Bhavin:

    Great article, as usual. Great read. Is it possible to get the PDF file or the list by Ms. Ruchira Banerjee’s 31 page article, a scanned pdf file ? Sorry if
    I am asking for the moon but your writing evokes the nostalgia for unknown old Matunga. Mail me if you can. Else let me know how to go about getting or buying these ?

    Salute. Sugata Sanyal

  • A well charted route. I live at R.P.MASANI and MAtunga tour would be incomplete without walking down this quiet lane lined with coconut trees where the birds chirp and butterflies flutter in to sniff at your flower pots as high as the 6th floor. Anyone touring the lane is welcome to drop in a at MPS -Casablanca bldg

  • this sounds great! i would love to join whenever this walk takes place! :)

  • Bhavin, I am game for a walk if you are planning on one. BTW there are gastronomic tours of Matunga like this one http://goo.gl/6dJ8i but maybe we can do our own walk down memory lane. 45 years and counting in Matunga and never left it for studies either. By any chance if you have Ruchira’s article in soft form, would appreciate it on mail.

  • Dick Ahiya wrote:

    Gr8t count me in would love to be there even if I stay at Sion Matunga is like a Dai Ma for me all cuse of Bosco’s

  • Avani Shah wrote:

    Matunga!!! first image i get is that of “flower lane” a.k.a “phool gali” . Freshness of those flowers , those vibrant colours would always cheer me up no matter what time of the day. I am born and brought up in Matunga… Please count me in too, whenever such tour is being planned. Aslo can i get pdf file or the list by Ms. Ruchira Banerjee’s 31 page arti­cle.

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    Hi Bhavin, you have jogged up my memory too going back as 1961 when my present husband and I were dating! I had just entered 1st year college and he was in VJTI. We were meeting at a bus stop near the Circle and then go to the Udipi for tea/potato toast! My mouth is watering! Between us two we could aford only these 2 items. I loved potato toast as it was eight annas (50p) and tea 4 annas (25p). Remaining 4 annas also known as Char anna was kept for the bus fare, for me to return to my home as he was stayig in the hostel of VJTI !!
    Theatre Aurora, I will never forget as I stood at the bus stop opposite the theatre for all 3 hours till the movie got over as my dear boyfriend forgot our appointment and went to the theatre. In those days there were no mobiles nor phone at our houses and so I had no other way to find out about our next meeting!!! At last the movie was over and he came to the bus stop! Lucky me! I do remind him now and again just to irritate him!! Ha, Ha!
    Wish you all a happy walking tour, as we are now in Santacruz West enjoying the westerly winds!!!

  • jamna varadhachary wrote:

    You need to add the flower sellers and the garland makers near the post office.They are the best. proof the Ganpati decorations their truck has.
    Vegetable market. Vegetables here simply the best here thanks to the large number of gujjus and tambrahms. I can not walk three hours but would love to join you at different points.
    New high rises. I dont know if the togetheness a sense of community is there any more. It could also be because now the wives, most of them also work.
    Actually the trees in Parsi colony such walks are being held

  • Please come on my Food walk through Matunga :) :) We have been running it for 2 years now and it is very interesting.

    http://www.mumbaimagic.com/matunga_mark.html

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Will do Deepa. Will contact you next week.

  • […] back-story! I did a piece in this col­umn in late Octo­ber on the his­tory of Matunga and what a pos­si­ble her­itage walk might include. Jehangir […]

  • Reshmi Shekhar wrote:

    Great reads! It’s my third time in this city n I’m in love with it.
    Was hoping if I could get in touch with you, would love to read the article on Matunga by Ms. Barnerjee! Do let me know.
    PS- Are these walks active at the moment?

  • Reshmi Shekhar wrote:

    Great reads! It’s my third time in this city n I’m in love with it.
    Was wondering* if I could get in touch with you, would love to read the article on Matunga by Ms. Barnerjee! Do let me know.
    PS- Are these walks active at the moment?

  • I stumbled onto this blog while trawling on the net I was born in Matunga Jame Jamshed Road and spent my formative years there…Five Gardens, Don Bosco and its environs from Aurora cinema till Dadar TT were my life till 15 I returned at 21 stayed on till 27 to go away forever so it seemed but I kept visiting back evry few years when nostalgia gripped me Incidentally, I also uploaded the compilation of names of places and streets of Bombay which has been referred to in this blog

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Ashwin. Thanks for the compilation.

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