The Indian Express · 1 day ago
A family history behind naming of Pasta Lanes in Colaba
Author Meher Marfatia met a descendant of Goculdas Pasta, who told her the title had been conferred on Goculdas’ ancestor Sheth Mohanjee by the British. The title loosely translates into “prince”.
Written by Srinath Rao | Mumbai | Published: February 1, 2018 2:43 am
Stretching across a precinct ahead of Cusrow Baug and Colaba Fire Station, the set of four lanes is named after the 20th century Kutchi businessman and philanthropist Sheth Goculdas Liladhar Pasta, with Pasta being a title conferred upon his family by the British on account of their sponsorship of various civic amenities in the city.
Author Meher Marfatia, who has written extensively about the area, says the title loosely translates into “prince”. During her research, she met a descendant of Goculdas Pasta, who told her the title had been conferred on Goculdas’ ancestor Sheth Mohanjee by the British.
Among the institutions, the family sponsors is a boys’ hostel in Lamington Road and a Jain temple in Malabar Hill.
“I’m not sure what language the word comes from,” she says. A road in Dadar with several shops selling cotton textile is also named after Goculdas Pasta.
For locals, the precinct begins officially at Sorab Bharucha Road, a set of two lanes that house the exclusive Brady Flats, ten cream coloured solid stone buildings built during the British rule and which house some of Colaba’s oldest and richest families. Colloquially, the two Bharucha roads are Pasta Lanes.
The lane marked the end of the Colaba Causeway, built in 1838 to connect it to the mainland. Sorab Bharucha Road, says city historian Deepak Rao, marks the connection of the causeway with Colaba road, which leads further south to the cantonment.
A narrow passage at the end of the lanes, where bunches of bougainvillea hang over walls, leads to the 1st Pasta Lane and the area’s most famous landmark, the Kailis Parbat Hindu Hotel.
A tiny BMC garden is a recent addition to 1st Pasta Lane, which is otherwise lined with old residential buildings and newer businesses. 2nd Pasta Lane, some distance away, has similar buildings owned by the Mumbai Port Trust.
“As children we never cared why Pasta Lane was named this way,” says Moses Joseph, who owns the provision store Joseph & Co. in 4th Pasta Lane.
In spite of competition having sprung up since, Joseph & Co. retains a loyal customer base. “I started free home delivery here years ago when the idea hadn’t caught on. My shop also had the only cold storage in Colaba. I still have a monopoly,” says Joseph.
The 60-year-old, who stays in an 89-year-old building right outside 1st Pasta Lane, spent his childhood in Cuffe Parade before its transformation and took the tram which ran from Colaba Post Office to Dadar.
“It used to be straight down the road (now Shahid Bhagat Singh Road) all the way to Dadar. My friends and I used to play chor-police on the tram. Because the trams moved slowly, we could easily get down,” he recalls.
2nd Pasta Lane, a mix of tenements and houses not so glamorous as Brady Flats, stands alone, while lanes 3 and 4 are connected by Cawasji Jehangir Road. At the far end of 4th Pasta Lane is a walkway that serves as a shortcut to and from Badhwar Park.
Flats in most buildings stand out for their luxury of space — anywhere between 700 and 2000 square feet — and their high ceilings.
“A lot of people here are building partitions between their flats and renting out half of their homes,” adds Joseph.
Restrictions placed by being in a Coastal Regulatory Zone area and those imposed by the Port Trust allow only external repairs, but no redevelopment or modifications to the structures.
This, in the opinion of local estate agent Joseph D’Souza, is what has resulted in the area remaining unchanged over at least five decades.
“Only the number of cars in the lanes have increased,” says D’Souza in his shop along the 3rd Pasta Lane.
Sales are occasional, as original inhabitants of apartment buildings have stayed on for several generations. “What I observed is that families have split up and moved to other parts of the city,” he adds.
The Catholic population of Pasta Lanes, D’Souza says, has also steadily dwindled.
Walter Perreira, who runs Mudra Jewellers on the main road between lanes 2 and 3, says that for prospective buyers, a home costing between Rs 2.5 and 4 crore comes with no parking facility and patchy water supply.
“Till eight to ten years ago, this place did not have have a very good reputation because of a number of bars. But after the police shut them down, that has changed,” says Perreira.
For Moses Joseph’s wife Rosie, Pasta Lane has always been a prime address. “People tell me, ‘Oh, you live in Pasta Lane?’. It is a very famous place,” she says.
“This is a very safe area. There are no morchas or dadagiri. The area did not shut down during the 1992 communal riots,” Joseph says.
Joseph, who established his shop 45 years ago, says that the only time he was asked to close the shop was during the terrorist attack at Chabad House across the road in November 2008. Much before the attack by Pakistani terrorists on the Israeli rest house, Joseph had gradually seen Jewish migrants in Colaba move away. “There used to be a lot of Jewish families staying in Colaba. Now perhaps I am the only one left,” he says.