Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chawls of Mumbai. Revisited.

In the Overview section in The Chawls of Mumbai: Galleries of Life (ImprintOne 2010), Sandeep Pendse, Neera Adarkar and Maura Finkelstein remark that “the current rulers [of India shining!] certainly prove themselves to be more ‘colonial’ in mentality than the white British. They too wish the ‘natives’ were not there, as citizens; that they would quietly perform their tasks and disappear into the woodwork”. The quote is lifted from Eunice de Souza’s 11 February Mumbai Mirror book review The “born in the USA” flunkeys of the present rulers emulate their masters unflinchingly. McDonalds and Dominoes, for instance, refuse to home-deliver their exorbitantly priced junk to denizens of the chawls in Girgaum at least to the best of my knowledge. This is ironical considering the fact that the delivery persons probably hail from a chawl or, even worse, a zoparpatti. Apart from “warehousing people”, meaning ordinary folks, the Mumbai chawls have also been accused of “warehousing criminals”. For instance, there is the Dagdi Chawl, literally a chawl built with stone, at Saat Rasta, Byculla. It used to be the fortress of Arun Gawli, formerly an MLA and currently a resident of the Arthur Road Jail. As far as “warehousing future cinema stars” is concerned, there is “Jumping Jack” Jeetendra – who claims to have been a Diwali kandeel (lantern) making champion in his childhood – from the chawl abutting the Girgaum Portuguese Church near Central Cinema and Rajesh Khanna from a chawl in Thakurdwar. Contrary to the rumours you may have heard, Lohar Chawl is not a building where ironsmiths reside but an area close to Crawford Market where you can shop for mainly electrical goods but also a lot else besides. The Purple Foodie confesses to having found her blow torch at Saria Steel in Lohar Chawl, in fact.