Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Colony

The Colony

Hindu Colony! As they say in Hindi, ‘Naam hi kafi hai’. Those who have stayed here for long, will certainly have pleasant memories of the canopy of trees, the quaint little two or three storied houses with their wooden balconies, albeit a long time back and the many educational institutions like I.E.S. School, N.G.K’s Academy and the well known colleges like Ruia and Poddar, in nearby Matunga. Hindu Colony is also known for giving India, its colonel, Dilip Vengsarkar and Madhav Mantri, who was an Indian Test cricketer but whose nephew, Sunil Gavaskar captured the hearts of the entire Nation and Madhav Mantri became more commonly known as the Mama of Sunil Gavaskar. Our building too, hosted the Mumbai Ranji team’s  middle order batsman, Avi Karnik, who used to represent the Mumbai team in the seventies.

I used to stay in a corner building on the third street of Hindu Colony where the Bhagini Samaj was also located. This had a small ground also, luckily still existing,  where our cricket World Cups were played out in all seriousness. Overarm tennis ball cricket was played here but equal weightage was given to underarm cricket as well. Those of you who have enjoyed playing super fast underarm bowling will appreciate the special batting skills required to negotiate the express underarm deliveries, especially when the pitch on which underarm cricket  is played, is much shorter than that on which overarm cricket is played. In those days, the cars parked on the side streets were much less, almost negligible, and enthusiastic cricketers had the streets to themselves to show their awesome cricketing skills. It was on these narrow streets that straight drives were honed to perfection, since any deviation meant broken glass windows. And all the pot holes in these streets, those days, were all cricketer made, since stumps were made to stand in the tar roads on a daily basis.

The Dadar railway station was a few meters away but the outstation going train platform extended all the way to the front of our building, and though it was not clearly visible due to trees and the boundary wall, it made its presence felt through the high pitched announcements and the shrill horns of the passing trains. And when the steam engines passed, it left its memories by means of the coal soot and ash, which deposited itself inside our homes. But one of the advantages of having the railway tracks, was the open space available in front of our galleries.

One of the most endearing sights of Hindu Colony was the continuous canopy of rain trees, with their huge trunks grounded on the footpaths below. Chirruping squirrels bounded from one branch to another, one tree to another, since all the trees were touching each other. Many different types of birds, from the common crows and sparrows to exotic ones like the green parrots and the invisible owls made the trees their home. Owls were invisible due to the fact that they were always heard but never seen. The parrots used to take refuge in a hollow in a tree trunk just in front of our balcony, and when they had their little chicks they used to raise a big cacophony with their high pitched cackles. The third floor flats were at the same level as the highest branches of these rain trees and we were treated to live feeds of the Natural Discovery channel. And who can forget the pesky pigeons, who competed with the humble human race to occupy the flats, making themselves comfortable on the attics and balconies, treating the house as a free Sulabh Shouchalay.

Not everyone had the elitist possessions of those days like the TV, car, or even a lowly telephone. In most  of the households , the pride of place went to the big antique radio and I remember my father and especially my mother sitting in front of our radio , fiddling with the huge knobs to catch AIR stations for talk shows or songs and rarely radio Ceylon. There was a thin wire going from the radio to the gallery, where it was wound on a wooden strip, which acted as an antenna. The first TV came to our neighbors house, and I remember making umpteen trips to their house, for catching the weekly Chaya geet and the Sunday Hindi movie. Finally a TV came to our house, and my father made elaborate arrangements to house it in a cabinet which had sliding doors for opening and closing, so that the TV could be kept free from dust during the entire day when there were no programs on it. Yes, the TV programs used to start only from 6.30 pm. onwards  till the then unearthly time of 10.30 pm. Lot of time used to be spent in trying to catch the best reception, by changing the angle of the antenna mounted on the terrace and all this happened by signalling and shouting, which was the only mode in those days to get yourself heard across significantly long distances. After a few years, my father bought an indoor antenna, which finally brought some comfort to the task of catching the elusive TV signals.  And what can one say about the other very important instrument, the telephone. A black beauty, which used to make a big noise just to dial the required phone number, was kept covered with a beautiful decorative tablecloth, again to prevent it from getting dusty. But the real test of using the telephone was when one had to reach out to relatives and family friends staying in another city and you were required to place a trunk call. I think the trunk of an elephant would have reached them earlier than the trunk call.

Today, shopping complexes are dime a dozen, but in those days, Dadar was THE Destination, where the people from the suburbs converged, to do their yearly or festival based shopping, the Ranade road in Dadar West being the most preferred shopping zone. With time, Dadar TT and neighbouring Matunga too, became the go-to shopping zones.

If you wanted to indulge your sweet tooth, you had a choice of Dayaram Damodar, Chandu Halwai, Mahim Halwawala in Dadar East whereas in the west, you had the Iconic laadu Samrat and Panshikar’s. Good thing is, some of these are still thriving. And if you needed something spicy, you had Mama Kane, Shri Krishna Wada pav, Tambe’s Arogya Bhawan, etc. My mouth is watering, just mentioning it here.

And finally, Hindu Colony  in the Monsoons! A sufficiently heavy rainfall ensured that you became confined to your home due to the inevitable flooding in front of the building. A sustained spell of heavy rains saw the flood waters continuously rise, causing great distress and some losses to the people living in the ground floor flats. But for us children it was an opportunity to wade through the murky waters and shout with joy when buses passed by, which caused temporary waves to rise in the waters. Or if you were not allowed to go outside, the time was spent, sitting in the balcony, watching people wading through the waters and cars trying to run through the flood, their engines making loud whining noises and sometimes coming to a grinding halt. Of course, these flooding episodes were also reason for mothers to make steaming hot bhajiyas and wadas.

Dadar chowpatty and Parsi Colony 5 gardens were the common weekend gateways in those days which were enjoyed with the entire family. You could enjoy playing in the chowpatty sand in those days with Bhel and ice creams at close calls, which is now no longer possible, which is a shame.

So friends, I hope you enjoyed my recall of those days of Hindu Colony and Dadar.

Yatindra Tawde

Mumbai - 2025

Mumbai - 2025 I am wandering through the lanes of my place of birth, Dadar, getting nostalgic about the days gone by. Hindu colony and my ...