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!