Thursday, December 7

mumbai - forever in love

I found these prose abt Mumbai on a travel website and found it really interestng. check the blue font

“If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home, from the very earliest days when man began the dream for existence, it is Mumbai!” These words of Romain Rolland say it all. Mumbai is the nagaria of dreams. People come in from all over the country to make their life here, some succeed and move to the tallest and posh-est of homes others are reduced to nothing and pass their nights on railway platforms. It is also a city of contrasts. Huge contrasts. A strong regional movement turned the name of the city and its institutions around, Bombay became Mumbai, Victoria terminus became Chattrapati Shivaji terminus and a lot many more…but the heart of Bombay has not changed. It will take you into its folds no matter what your status or signature.

The city of Mumbai is actually nothing but a collection of seven islands, and a lot of reclaimed land! It’s true, whether you believe-it-or-not. In the yester years Bombay consisted of islands –Colaba, Mazagao, Old Woman's Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel, and Matunga-Sion. Through the years these passed through various hands – the Hindu rulers, the Mohammedans, the Portuguese (A lot of structures like the Afghan church, Mahim Mosque have been built in this era. In fact some say Bombay got its name thanks to the Portuguese who called it "Bom Baia" which in Portuguese means "Good Bay". The truth behind the name is still not very clear, most original Bombaiites (kolis) believe the name origins from Mumbaidevi, the goddess of Mumbai).

Anyways, the islands were then gifted to Charles II of England in 1661, as a dowry for his Portuguese wife Catherine de Braganza. These were in turn then leased out to the British East India Company in 1668, for as little as an annual sum of 10 pounds in gold! Yes that’s what Bombay meant to them. A mammoth engineering project began in 1817 to merge all the islands into one. The kolis, the original folks of Bombay moved out to smaller areas mainly Backbay reclamation, Mahim, Bandra, Khar, Bassien and Madh island where they continue to live.

Over years, the city grew into a major urban centre archaic and gothic building dotted the face of Bombay and in 1930, Bombay got its current world famous BSE building. Bombay has played a very important role in the independence especially at the time of the Quit India Movement. Post independence Bombay was the capital for both Maharashtra and Gujarat as we know them today. Post 1950 however Bombay became the capital of Maharashtra and continues to grow and glow by the day. Some time in the late 90’s Bombay became Mumbai.

A note from history “As a result of a mysterious fire which started in the docks of Bombay, on Friday April 14, 1944, the ship "Fort Stikine" (7420 tons) blew up here. At the time the ship was about to unload a lethal combination of cargo of dried fish and cotton bales (loaded from Karachi), timber, gun powder, ammunition, and gold bars from London (the latter to stabilize the Indian Rupee, which was sagging due to the Second World War and fear of invasion from Japan). The gold bullion was valued at approx. two million Pounds Sterling at that time. The two explosions were so loud that windows rattled and/or shattered as far away as Dadar, a distance of 8 miles. The destruction in the docks and surrounding area was immense and several hundred dock workers were killed instantly. The population of the city was panic stricken as rumours spread rapidly that the explosions signaled the commencement of hostilities by the Japanese on the same style as the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour in the Hawaiian islands in December 1941. The Japanese were in fact nowhere near Bombay since they were engaged in fighting a losing battle with the British army in Burma at that time. Nevertheless, the Bombay Central (BB&CI) and Victoria Terminus (GIP) stations were packed to capacity with terrorized people fleeing the city in whichever train they could board for their villages with all belongings they could carry. At the time of the explosion, one of the gold bars crashed through the roof of the third floor apartment of a Parsi named D.C. Motivala more than a mile from the docks. He promptly returned the gold bar to the authorities. Almost all of the other gold bars were subsequently recovered from different parts of the city; the last ones to be found were hauled up from the bottom of the sea in the docks. However, during normal dredging operations carried out periodically to maintain the depth of the docking bays one or two gold bars were found intact as late as the 1970s and returned to the British government.”

-- excerpted from Ardeshir Damania’s note on Bombay