A statue, a school and a moment cool
With the school year changing, I’m reminded of a conversation about one of Bombay’s pioneer educationists, on Clare Road, Byculla. The north end of this street – named after John Fitzgibbon, 2nd Earl of Clare, Governor of Bombay from 1831 to 1835 – is marked by the Khada Parsi statue.
I chatted with Vali Mohamed, sitting at Patel Newspaper Stall since 1971. As I was writing about the area, he excitedly called a neighbour selling rexine next door. On his phone, that shopkeeper showed me stunning archival images of this junction in earlier years.
Once my Oohs and Aahs subsided, Vali Mohamed pointed to the monument beside us, saying, “We’ve shared nice photos. Now you tell us something. Who is this ‘Khada Parsi’ here?”
Seth Cursetjee Manockjee, I explained. The memorial was built by his son Manockjee, who championed women’s education. Manockjee Cursetjee offered thirteen girls the first English school in 1859 from his home, Villa Byculla, near this Y-flyover junction. That started The Alexandra Girls’ English Institution we know today, at Fort.
“A great man, to educate ladies,” the friend appreciated. Brief but special moments, when two street hawkers and I had swapped historic snippets about a city meaningful to us all.