There we were — a friend and I — walking along the Central Avenue in Chembur last Sunday animatedly discussing forthcoming travel plans when we met this family.
Naturally, we stopped to say hello. The Junction Box Family, that was their name, had taken up residence in Chembur earlier this year during the Chembur Festival.
“We like this place,” said Mr. Junction Box.
“Oh yes, we do,” repeated Mrs. Junction Box looking adoringly at her husband.
Roadside shrines are a common sight all over India. They can be anything from a tree, to a stone with eyes painted on it, to small stone idols placed under a tree, to a framed picture of a god or a holy man/woman, a cross, a grave of a pir… In my experience, the concentration of such shrines is the highest in cities, and Mumbai is no exception. I am no longer surprised when I come across them in the most unexpected of places; I do, however, get surprised only when I don’t see any.
But today morning, I came across a shrine that surprised me, stopped me in my tracks, made me have a good look, and then come home and write about it. Do let me tell you more about it.
I have been having some work in the Gandhi Market area, near King’s Circle in Mumbai this entire week. Once my work is done, I walk to King’s Circle to take a bus home. It is a short walk and I pass three well-maintained roadside shrines to reach my bus stop. The sharp contrast between the well-maintained and clean shrines and the squalid dwellings of the pavement dwellers who look after the shrines is what I have been noticing day after day.
Today, I noticed something else as well at one of the shrines – I saw that the tree trunk of one of the shrines was painted. And how !
The painted tree
It was the golden hour before sunset a couple of weeks back and I was on a walk with my friend Rama on Mount Mary Road. We were generally chatting about that and this and as we approached the steps that leads one down to Hill Road, I noticed a half-buried stone plaque/marker on one side of the steps. A closer look revealed this:
The half-buried stone plaque/marker which reads: “Presented by H. Bomonjee Jeejeebhoy to Bandora Municipality ~ 1879″
Wow ! A 135-year old marker? And Bandra as Bandora? I was immediately intrigued and once I reached home turned to my good friend Google for helping me find out more about this slice of history.
And here is what I discovered :)
Deonar Bus Depot is a major bus stop in Mumbai on a route that links Navi Mumbai to Mumbai via Chembur. A few important bus routes originate from this stop and many other routes pass through the bus stop. At last count, 19 bus routes have this as a bus stop. And considering the number of bus routes that plying by Deonar Bus Stop, it is a fairly crowded one, especially during office hours. So, one would expect that being a major one, Deonar bus stop would have some seating space and shelter.
Wrong. This is what the bus stop looks like:
The wait for a bus. Oh for a bus ! This photo was taken around noon
And then there is this bus stop on Marine Drive in South Mumbai. This bus stop services just two bus routes and I have rarely seen it crowded.
Photo: Nita Jatar Kulkarni. Please click on the photo to go to the original page.
Both the bus stops are constructed and maintained by the cash-strapped and corruption-ridden Transport Division of BEST. That still doesn’t explain why two bus stops in the same city maintained by the same organisation have to be so different and get such differential treatment.
Why? Oh why?
Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.
It is Ganeshotsav or Ganpati time in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra and . And depending on how one looks at it, this is a time for holidays, modaks, new beginnings, traffic jams, crowded market places, laddoos, discounts, devotion… For me, it is an explosion of creativity.
From the time Bal Gangadhar Tilak turned the annual family level Ganeshotsav to a community level event in 1893, Lord Ganesha became everyone’s favourite deity. This also meant that, over the decades, the Ganpati idols got more creative with each passing year and the Ganesh pandals became opportunities to highlight social issues, or creative talent in presenting Ganeshas made from ice, different types of grasses or cereals, vegetables, fruits, papier-mache, etc.
It is not just Ganpati Pandals that get creative; shopping malls and departmental stores get into the act too. It was at a well-known departmental store that I saw one of the most unusual and creative Ganpati idols last year.
The moment I enter St. Thomas’ Cathedral in the Fort area of Mumbai, I am transported to England. Everything about the Cathedral from the cool white-washed interiors to the simple wooden pews to its polished brass memorials and wall plaques, and its many stained glass windows reminds me of the Anglican churches of England.
St. Thomas’ Cathedral is the first Anglican church in Mumbai and is also believed to to the oldest British building in this city. Though construction of the Cathedral of St. Thomas began in 1676, it was abandoned and remained neglected for nearly 40 years, when it was “adopted by an East India Company Chaplain in 1710. It was opened for worship as a church on Christmas Day in 1718″ (for details click here). St. Thomas’ was consecrated as a cathedral in 1837 and was selected for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific heritage conservation award 2004.
I love stained glass windows and spend quite a while admiring the many windows in the Cathedral. But the one window that completely captivates me is one that I almost missed. It is to one side and in a niche: a stained glass window of St. Thomas, flanked by two archangels St. Michael and St. Gabriel in a single frame.
The stained glass window at the St. Thomas Cathedral, Mumbai. From L to R St. Gabriel, St. Thomas and St. Michael