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Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra

An old book on Bombay Place Names | About Mumbai Meri Jaan

A great online book about Mumbai for all Bombayphiles!

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Browsing through the book transported me back in to another point in time & place.

It reminded me of my days when I was 15 and worked as a sales promoter every summer in different places far away from home (upto 10 km!!!!!).

As I would rush to be at work on time, I’d be one of the large crowd at Bandra station or V.T. station rushing to be somewhere.

Imagine walking briskly – almost running – amidst a thousand people, each one on a mission trying to get closer to their destination (& their dream) quickly, more quickly, rushing & gushing with energy – each one in deep thought charting the plan for the day (and life). Being amidst all that concentrated energy was infective. They rushed and so I rushed. They were focused and so I became focused. Men & women, struggling & winning, sweating & smiling, sometimes tripping but being helped, without anyone ever slowing down. There was always place for one more on the train. All it needed was a little shifting and and a little adjustment. Because everyone understood that the guy being left behind could well be them the next day and would need the help of the others to step onto the train. And so everyone shared, everyone adjusted and everyone arrived.

Those days, the summer jobs, being exposed to and being one with the whole working class of Bombay in such large proportions was deeply completely intoxicating. It give me my first whiff of self-worth. I had now acquired the ability to earn. Rupees 36 a day. The most significant rupees of my life.

Only a handful of other events in my life have resulted in such high increases in my confidence level!

And it was in those crowded streets & bazaars that  I found the spirit of Bombay. And it is these experiences that defined my spirit.

This book, took me on a walk into the past and brought back that atmosphere from 35 years ago.

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Browsing through the book, I realised that if you knew one of the 3 languages – Hindi, Marathi or Gujarati it was easy to guess the origin of many names but this book confirms  the guesswork.

I stopped to read about names like Chowpatty, Bori Bunder, Chira Bazar, Colaba, Mahim, Walkeshwar and Panjrapol that have interesting explanations! These reveal not only the history of the name but also the lifestyle of the people at that time.

For instance “Panjrapol” was a place to house useless animals. Such a location name also seen many cities of Gujarat implies that the residents of the city looked after the animals that were no longer useful. We may not have had an SPCA but perhaps the constructs were stronger and more integrated into society. I recall us leaving food for street animals and ensuring that they ate before we ate. But I digress….

Some names were based on the occupation of those who gathered there and therefore the business conducted there – Suthar Lane, Palki Street Dhobi Talao and so on.

Other names came to be because of the description of the original place e.g. Chira Bazar, & Mugbhat Road.

And finally the boring names are those that honor some wealthy merchant. Or worse, they honor the narcissism of some British ruler who named a street after himself.

Actually…..come to think of it –  that’s not so bad – I can easily imagine setting up a little queendom in a place I would call “Jaina-wadi” or “Jaina-gaon” 🙂

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The link to read the book online is here.

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This little artwork created by someone on Tumblr sums it up!!

Salaam Bombay!

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jaina mishra

April 10 2015

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