We all live surrounded by history. The street I am on, once housed the Bhulabhai Desai Memorial Institute, honouring the jurist-philanthropist who has the road named after him too.
Nestled in the Art Deco-designed Desai family bungalow called Hasman, at 89 Warden Road, in the 1950s the institute brilliantly represented classicism and modernism of the Indian arts in the widest sense.
On featuring it as the city’s mid-20th century crucible of culture and forerunner to the NCPA, I received this interesting photograph from my friend Soonoo Taraporewala. It shows the violinist Yehudi Menuhin and his wife Diana appreciating a yoga session by BKS Iyengar’s pupils. While their Guruji is seen standing behind the Menuhins, Soonoo and her little brother Irach are seated on the floor.
The strings maestro faced severe muscular issues which Iyengar addressed. In early 1962, the Menuhins visited Mumbai. He performed a concert at Birla Theatre and attended this class at the institute. Various asanas were demonstrated by students, among them Iyengar’s daughter Gita who later became an eminent yoga teacher.
“From the 1950s, my parents went to Guruji’s classes on Hasman’s terrace stage where musicians and dancers taught, and artists like Gaitonde and Ara had studios,” Soonoo wrote in a note attached to the lovely image.
The institute moved to Akash Ganga building in the same compound, so establishing the National Centre for the Performing Arts before its famed theatres rose at Nariman Point.