Mango mazaa from Mazagon

Mango mazaa from Mazagon

As a May summer is always the perfect season and reason to make us mango-mad, here’s a deliciously different take on everyone’s favourite fruit. It came to me while interviewing Captain Ramesh Babu, the marine engineer authoring My Own Mazagon: The History of a Little Island in the Bombay Archipelago.    Having served the Indian Navy – as chief engineer of INS Mumbai and first Captain Superintendent of the ship repair yard at Karwar – and Mazagon Dock for twenty-five years, he has documented evolutionary centuries of this harbour hub. Useful maps and sketches in…Read more
Salute to the real sloganeers 

Salute to the real sloganeers 

As the countdown to election day draws close, we pause to think how sloganeering has changed over the decades. Far from aggressive and self-serving, the brand of politics which patriots engaged in during the pre-Independence era reflected mostly the larger good, doing right by all people. Yet, it’s interesting to see memorable lines associated with the Independence struggle sometimes wrongly attributed. Joseph (Kaka) Baptista (picture credit: Wikipedia) Take the example of “Swaraj is my birthright”. It actually originated in the small hamlet of Matharpacady, the predominantly East Indian gaothan producing such giants as All India Trade…Read more
Not mutiny but unity   

Not mutiny but unity   

So, Mulund is in the news now for a reason most citizens oppose – the iconic Mahalaxmi racecourse is mooted to be transplanted there.   Few realise that this north eastern suburb of Bombay has had quite a history of courage under distress. It is vitally associated with the insurrection, which the British dubbed the naval mutiny, a year before Independence. The HMIS Hindustan, involved in the 1946 naval uprising. Credit: Pic/Wikimedia Commons  While national figures like Gandhiji and Vallabhbhai Patel advised restraint, local leaders, including Aruna Asaf Ali and Achyut Patwardhan, supported the brave signallers, stokers…Read more
Ring out, twin bells   

Ring out, twin bells   

Today, January 6, is the Epiphany – according to tradition the twelfth night after Jesus was born, when the three wise men of the East arrived in Bethlehem – signalling the official finale ending the Christmas season. Garima Gupta’s illustration of the twin bells at The Church of our Lady of Salvation, Dadar Though the twinkling stars and fairy lights of Xmas have beamed brightest for at least a month, Bombay’s gleaming church bells fortunately ring all year long. An unusual set of two present some interesting history. They are paired like tall twins,…Read more
Burn bright, eternal flame 

Burn bright, eternal flame 

The story behind Lady Jamshedji Road in Mahim is a warm one. Distraught after miscarrying babies, Lady Avabai Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy, the wife of First Baronet, Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy, prayed at Mount Mary’s Basilica. Local Kolis rowed her there in a boat between Salsette and Mahim islands. When a child survived, in the 1840s she donated Rs 1,57,000 to construct the Mahim Causeway, bridging the dangerous swampy distance and connecting the city. Seth Edulji Rustomji Soonawalla Fire Temple, Mahim; image courtesy Marzban J Giara, Global Directory of Zoroastrian Fire Temples  A robust cosmopolitanism marks LJ…Read more
Parsi panic in tinsel town

Parsi panic in tinsel town

On a street essentially retaining its colourful character, the saddest exits have been staged by epic single-screen theatres. Cinemas on and around Lamington Road are left demolished or as purveyors of soft porn flicks behind rusted iron gates. Once 1000-seaters, they flashed House Full boards, red velvet carpets, silver jubilee bashes and industry blue blood like Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor at glittering premieres. In the World War I years rose Imperial, West End, Minerva and Precious. Swastik joined them in the 1930s. Picture courtesy : Cinemaazi Archive Jawaani ki Hawa released at Imperial in September…Read more
First Miss India in free India

First Miss India in free India

In the month of our Independence anniversary and, by further coincidence, on the weekend of her August 6 death anniversary, here’s celebrating Esther Victoria Abraham. Better known by her screen sobriquet of Pramila, the stunningly beautiful actress-producer was crowned Miss India in 1947 – aged 31 and pregnant with her fourth child – in days that rules were not yet set, this was a rating by popular vote. Esther Victoria Abraham (Pramila): Miss India 1947, screen star and pioneer woman film producer. Photo courtesy/Haidar Ali Born to a Baghdadi Jew family in Calcutta,…Read more
Magical monsoon tour

Magical monsoon tour

What’s good about being caught in the rain without an umbrella? It frees captive eyes to observe things mindfully, minutely. You could be pounding the same streets daily without really noticing the most delicious details. But, forced to slip below creaky shop awnings for shelter from a shower, is to wake to whole hidden universes… from architectural gems in the urban chaos of grotty building facades scrubbed clean by the downpour or seemingly dead earth underfoot come alive with wild flora if you’re luckily stopped nearer green patches. Turmeric flower. Cup and saucer.…Read more
Who were les Filles de la Croix?

Who were les Filles de la Croix?

This is back-to-school month for most kids. Time to tell the story of the origins of my alma mater in Bandra. The beautiful, red brick St Joseph’s Convent hails the order of the Daughters of the Cross (Filles de la Croix), whose nuns were sent to serve across the globe by Mother Marie Therese. St Joseph's Convent chapel “In this Sign, thou shalt conquer… to consider others as your brothers and sisters” was their guiding principle. The sign is said to have suddenly appeared in 1833, to Jeanne Haze and Virginie Sorage, as…Read more