Finally, last Sunday, about 10 of us in a motley group, did a four hours Matunga precinct walk!
The 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 challenged me to arrange such a walk and we fixed 23 Dec as the date. My knowledge being sketchy, I got Ram and Deepa to help!
To digress a little, as we do during walking tours! This year will be the first year when all 52 pieces have been published without any interruption…each week, each Saturday morning, without a break. Whoopee!
So anyway, we gathered at 8:30 AM outside Aurora. I distributed a route map and some information about the institutes we were going to see and then started a running commentary as we walked past the Jain Upashray, Matunga Gujarati Club and Marubai Gaondevi Mandir into Don Bosco, also touching upon the possible origins of the name “Matunga” and a history of how the suburb came to be. At least 5 members of our group were Matunga virgins and I proudly showed them around Don Bosco High School. Fr Edwin then graciously took us to the crypt in the shrine basement and explained its origins and history.
We then spent a few minutes inside Khalsa College and then walked towards the old College Rd behind VJTI. Ram took over, explaining the history of the still standing, non-developed buildings, including the infamous D’Souza building…and the tanks on the VJTI front lawns.
Amit who lives in Mont Blanc was on his morning walk. He asked to join us and then gave us additional information about some of the buildings (e.g. why Band View is called Band View) and pointed out the bats in the trees…if you look up, you see thousands of them, awake, even in the mornings. And given how small Matunga is, he turned out to a close friend’s cousin!
We interrupted a wedding at Palamkote Hall to see old Parsi portraits and then turned back on Adenwala Rd. We stopped to have brun maska with chai at Koolar with a second round of honey brun maska after Ali berated us for not eating as heartily as the Iranis do. And while waiting for the food, we had fun deciphering the cheesy Mountain Dew / Koolar slogans all along the walls, e.g. “Omelette se bhookh mitao, Mountain Dew se pyaas bujhao”.
Deepa joined us in Koolar. At 11.00AM, we then started the BMW-Guggenheim Lab segment of our walk, in the Tamil part of Matunga. While walking towards Asthika Samaj, explaining the significance of Abbas Circulating Library, I ran into the 1961 Bosco batch that was on its own Matunga tour, and was about to end with coffee at Amba Bhavan. Matunga was buzzing!
Deepa’s tour was food based…the nee-payasam and vadai of Asthika Samaj, the coffee of Mysore Concerns, Mahalaxmi’s atta, the indigenous vegetables of Matunga and Mumbai…partly aimed at the foreign tourists who had joined this segment.
Slowly, our original motley group kept shrinking because of the heat and fatigue and we ended the tour around 12:30 PM just before Matunga market.
Last Sunday morning turned out to be so much fun that given the experience gained, I am sure we can do a more concise and comprehensive walking tour of most of the Matunga experience within 3 hours or so…the institutes, the Kutcchi and Gujju parts, the Tamil enclaves, Koolar and the Udipis. Hopefully we will do a few in 2013.
Wishing you a Happy, Prosperous and Terrific 2013!