Gitanjali writes a wonderful blog on Bombay Architecture. She has profiled 7 Bandra bungalows so far. This is an opportunity to understand these magnificent houses and people who inherited them. I asked Gitanjali a few questions to find out why she writes on Bombay Architecture.
Gitanjali Chandrasekharan is the Deputy Editor at Sunday Midday.
How many bungalows have you written about and which were the most challenging to get into?
I have written about a total of 18 homes since the first blog in January 2012. None of the houses that have been featured on the blog have been challenging to get into, per se. The difficult part is knocking on someone’s door, telling then you write a blog and convincing them to welcome you in and give you the kind of access you are looking for. The owners and residents of the houses that have been featured, have of course been welcoming.
I have also been told curtly that the residents don’t want their homes features. In one case someone was downright threatening. It’s understandable because you are in someone’s personal space and they may not want you there.
The easiest person to convince for the blog was Heta Pandit, who lives at Turner Road’s Tehmi Terrace. As an author of heritage architecture, she was not only welcoming but also shared much knowledge about the various features of the house.
Why do you love these old bungalows and what’s with an entire category for Bandra?
Look at today’s architecture. It’s all multi-storeyed buildings with glass facades that are not needed. There’s no character. But, one can look at these old bungalows and make an easy assessment of the time in which they were built (according to the style). The owners, because they were built for families, put in much effort to ensure that the job was well done. Different communities had different architectural features. The residents’ history talks so much about the city’s own journey. They are also quite aesthetic.
There’s an entire category for Bandra, because it was while walking on Turner Road in early 2009 (on a day when I was feeling low), that I stopped and noticed this bungalow, Victory Villa. It has this balcony on the first floor and I was mesmerized. I knew then that I wanted to write about the houses in Bandra and their history and residents. Initially, I thought I’d make a book out of it, but that seemed like a very consuming process, so I eventually turned it into a blog.
But, I do hope, some day soon, to write about Khotachiwadi and Vile Parle too.
Are there any bungalows which you really want to write about but couldn’t get permission?
Victory Villa, because eventually when I did approach the owners of the store on the ground floor, they refused. And also Mannat which used to be Villa Vienna. There’s also a building in Khar, the front of which is so narrow, you could hug it, that I haven’t got permission to cover.
I will add that I started off very lucky on this blog by getting access to Kekee Manzil on Bandstand and I am grateful to Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy for taking the time out for it.
What do you think are the fate of these Bandra bungalows?
Why Bandra? Every where. Khar has a great heritage of Art Deco buildings that are fast making way for high-rises.
I know, having met many of the owners of the bungalows for the blog, that they are house proud and don’t want to see their home and heritage being replaced.
But, while as outsiders we want to preserve the aesthetic, we don’t realize what all the owners have to contend with. These houses need special care, especially during Mumbai’s unforgiving monsoons. It’s expensive and then there are tenancy laws to contend with. It’s really not easy on either party.
Could you tell us one memorable anecdote from your meeting with these?
My favourite anecdote is from Dadar’s Dhuru bungalows. I’d gone to the bungalow right next to the road in the morning, post 10 am. I couldn’t see any people around, there was one dusty car outside. The doorbell was on the side entrance. I rang it, and the door opened. Only, there was no one behind the door.
I thought this is it. There’s a ghost and I am going to die. But then, a girl walked down and said that I needed to walk upstairs to meet the owner. A chat with him and I realised that the Dhurus had invented a method of opening to the door with a switch from the first floor, so that they wouldn’t have to walk down each time.