Saturday, April 20, 2013

OLD Dadar-a wilderness dotted with a few red-roofed cottages, methi fields that stretched to the beach and a headless ghost who ventured out after dark.

Tigers, tailors and headless ghosts

Sunday, Feb 24, 2008, 3:06 IST
There�s something about Dadar, finds Radhika Raj, as she catches up with a group of old residents whose book captures the rich heritage of the suburb.
There�s something about Dadar, finds Radhika Raj, as she catches up with a group of old residents whose book captures the rich heritage of the suburb  

A long time ago, before Gokhale Road

  1. Gokhale Rd, Mumbai, Maharashtra
    Gokhale Rd Mumbai, Maharashtra
 turned into a bustling junction known for its epic traffic jams, it used to be a sylvan hamlet complete with its own resident ghost. At least that is how Bhalchandra Kavli, 82, remembers Dadar  � a wilderness dotted with a few red-roofed cottages, methi fields that stretched to the beach and a headless ghost
who ventured out after dark. His terrified mother frantically dragged him home every evening.

�After sunset the maan-kapya (headless neck hunter) was supposed to behead lone wanderers. The only police station in the vicinity was in Mahim, and the police, even then, were no use. That is how this place got its name � Shaitan Chowki,� grins Kavli. Tucked away in the middle of Shaitan Chowki�s busy lanes, is Kavli�s home � the oldest cottage in Dadar dating back to the 1850s. �My great-grandfather built this house with sand and stone,� he says. �There was no cement during those days.�

The story of this episode revolves around a place named, Shaitan Chowki in Dadar. A beheaded ghost is believed to be haunting the people living in the locality. In the past a woodcutter named Mangal, who was believed to be a devotee of the devil, was killed by the villagers. Watch latest "Fear Files" Episodes on

Stretching on a creaky wooden chair in his verandah, Kavli says that he knows more about Dadar than any other resident in Mumbai.

No wonder his house was one of the first stops made by Prakash Kamat when he started work on Bahurangi Bahudhangi Dadar (Muliticoloured, Multifaceted Dadar). The book, which was released recently, documents the many moods of the suburb.

�The Dadar Sarvajanik Vachanalaya (Dadar Public Library) turned 100 last year and the committee decided to mark the occasion with a book,� explains Vivek Kulkarni, chairperson of the library. �One of the first things we did was to chalk out a list of the neighbourhood old timers and spent hours listening to their fascinating stories,� adds Kamat, who has edited the volume.

For four months, Kamat and his team of ten reporters worked out of a tiny room in the library, subsisting on endless cups of tea and working through the night to document the interviews they collected. None of the team members are trained researchers, but they share a deep affection for their neighbourhood.

�For days I just wandered aimlessly through the streets,� laughs Vikas Patil, one of the reporters. Soon, however, he started unearthing some well-kept secrets. For instance, the fact that Dadar used to be full of lakes and ponds until the mills started coming up in the 1920s.

The coke and carbon produced there was dumped into these lakes, which were turned into maidans.

For Patil, working on the book was also a journey of discovery about his surroundings.

�I have lived around the Khanke buildings for years and I never knew that they had such a great history,� he says. An old resident recounted the fascinating story to him.

�Khanke was an ordinary shimpi (tailor) known for stitching school uniforms in the
1930s,� says Patil. �One afternoon a British officer offered him a contract for stitching uniforms for British soldiers fighting in the Second World War.� The war stretched on for years. When it finally ended, the corner tailor had made enough money to
construct ten Khanke buildings.

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According to Bahurangi Bahudhangi Dadar, much of what makes Mumbai special can be traced back to this locality, like the first Navratri utsav, the first rangoli competition and even the first coaching classes.

�Pinge�s classes, which are now so famous, started right here,� says Ashok Jadhav, researcher. �He used to charge Rs5 per subject in those days.� Jadhav has also researched the links between the Big Fat Maharashtrian wedding and Dadar.

�Back in the 1900s people used to conduct marriages at the girl�s home, but as the city started developing, people started looking for other options. Vanmali Hall in Dadar was the first such marriage hall in Mumbai,� he says. With weddings came caterers, and that is why Dadar has Mumbai�s oldest catering service too.

�Maharashtrian couples came all the way from Vasai to get married here,� says Jadhav. �That is why Dadar has everything you need for a wedding � right from saree shops to the pandits even today,� he smiles.

The book also documents the rise of another made-in-Dadar icon � the Shiv Sena. Patil talks about the initial days of Balasaheb �Tiger� Thackeray�s movement for the Marathi manoos. �Two theatres opened in the 1930s in Dadar � Kohinoor (now Fame Nakshatra) and Plaza,� he recalls.
  1. Plaaza Cinema Dadar

  2. Address: Near Tilak Bridge, NC Kelkar Rd, Kasar wadi, Dadar West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400028
    Phone:022 2430 4704
�In 1960, Kohinoor screened Songada,

  1. माळ्याच्या मळ्यामंदी कोण ग उभी (सोंगाड्या)

    दादा कोंडके हे एक अष्टपैलू व्यक्तिमत्त्व होते..... व्हाईट कॉल
 starring Marathi film legend Dada Kondke.� The movie played for a week to a lukewarm response until the theatre owner changed it for Tere Mere Sapne, starring Dev Anand.

Tere Mere Sapne - YouTube
Jan 31, 2013 - Uploaded by horace rumpole
The moral and ethical issues raised by this excellent moviePatil remembers watching a charged young Balasaheb standing on a truck,

asking people to protest against the owner�s action. �The movie was changed the soon. Songada ran house-full for thirty-six weeks after that incident,� he says.

Unfortunately, as the book�s contributors point out, many of the things that gave Dadar its unique character are disappearing under the onslaught of the urban sprawl. �Dadar used to be known as a cultural hub of the city.

Jhankar Orchestra, the first orchestra in Mumbai, was born right here and there were several theatres and natak companies in the area that showcased Marathi theatre,� says Patil. As a child, he remembers going to watch open-air plays in large maidans that have now been swallowed up by buildings. �Now, due to the rising prices Maharashtrians have moved out of this area and with them Dadar�s rich culture has disappeared. Soon, it will become just another crowded suburb, like Andheri or Mulund, with no character of its own.�

For Jadhav, the change is most evident in the way people in the locality relate to each other. �Dadar was all about tiny wadis and chawls where people used to live together and share their lives. The wadis are being replaced by building complexes and small theatres are turning into massive multiplexes. Dadar is �developing�,� he says, with a sense of resignation.

�Though I want to hold on to the Dadar I grew up in, there is nothing I can do about it.� Even Kavli�s 150-year-old house, which represents the old grace of the neighbourhood, will soon be a thing of the past.

�The owner is already working out a deal with a builder because he can�t maintain it any more,� says Patil. �Soon, it will also be torn down.�

Despite the sense of loss, the group plans to  work on the second edition, complete with old pictures.�Four months of research isn�t enough� says Kamat. �We need to work more on a place with such a rich heritage. This book was just a trailer. Picture to abhi baaki hai.�