Wednesday, April 16, 2014

...and the Mumbai was born

As a boy, born and brought up in North India, Delhi was always the greatest City for me in India. Everything, from first mall to first McD, it has always in Delhi. On the other hand, Mumbai always fascinated me but the only information I had was through friends or books. Finally last weekend, I got a chance to visit Mumbai with one of my friend and I started the journey with Colaba region of Bombay.

Previous two generations of my family worked in Bombay (when it was not Mumbai). From them I have heard a lot about this area, Colaba. Colaba is the heart of Bombay. Its history is as old as Bombay.

Almost 350 years before, when there was no Mumbai, just one small island of Bombay. In 1661 King Charles II of England married Princess Catherine of Braganza. The marriage dowry given to English was the island of Bombay that the Portuguese had no use. Charles himself didn’t care much about these island. But British East India Company realized the importance and developed Bombay as perfect natural harbour. Deep enough to accommodate 150 ships and with a natural fortification as mainland India, Bombay was perfect for the company’s operations. And with the Company renting the islands from the Crown, for £10/- annually, Bombay’s illustrious history began.

Most important place in Colaba is “The Gateway of India” that was constructed for welcoming King Charles II on India’s soil. He must have not realized that one day it shall be one of the biggest tourist spot of Current Mumbai. You may always find Couples sitting spending time together, kids taking pictures of the Gateway and family queuing for ferry rides around Elephanta Caves. So, as a traditional we took pictures and queued up for the ride.

Just in front of Gateway, there is mighty Taj Mahal Hotel. It was the first Taj Hotel to be opened in India and in my opinion it is still the best one. We decided to walk along the periphery of the ‘front’ bay and re-chart the birth of Mumbai. We walked through Apollo Gate and Front Bay covers the northern part of the old ‘Fort’. This was the area where the first signs of habitation were seen on the island of Bombay. Bombay is not a city of locals, Maharashtrians. It was always a City of Immigrants that was founded by British and developed by Gujjus, Parsis, Tamilians and now by North Indians.

Charles II wedding gift, the seven islands of Bombay were in control of East India Company and it was British who thus began the herculean task of developing the Company’s newest asset. After completing the task of fortifying the town from sea borne invasion the next job at hand was to stamp their authority on the local inhabitants and what better way to do so than by constructing buildings that epitomized might, authority, imperialism and power. Soon structures began popping up all over the ‘new’ town to serve some purpose or the other.

 By that we walked towards the Fort area of Colaba. Fort is the area which has Renaissance style buildings scattered all around the place. You can see the famous Town Hall which houses the Asiatic Society Library of Mumbai and the Horniman Circle Garden and the spectacular surrounding buildings. It has a lot of Parse’s inhabitant in the area and you can find a lot of Parse’s restaurant and Fire temples in the surroundings. Most famous of them is Britannia restaurant which is more than 70 years old and is only place in the country which serves “Berry Pulao”, an Iranian delicacy prepared with Chicken and Berry’s.

 In the Fort, we pass through Bombay stock exchange, Tata’s head office and many big offices which still has British effect on them. In the entrance of Fort area is CST (Victoria Terminus) which apart from being a railway station is a tourist spot in itself. You will be in love with the place in just few seconds and will realize that contribution of British in developing India is beyond comparison. If we claim that they have taken money from India, then above this they have also invested ample amount of their wealth in this country which is easily visible today’s time in form of railways and hundreds of bridges that they had developed at their time. But apart from other facts, their contribution for Bombay is not comparable and you may realize it only if you walk through the lanes of Fort.


  1. I'll admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Mumbai, but perhaps I failed to appreciate the history of the place. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  2. I spent my childhood at wodehouse road colaba , later strand cinema , mumbai just grew on you.. I now stay at Bandra and Colaba is a distant dream,,nice blog take care thanks.