Jalebi Ink’s My Mohalla Project creates portraits of neighbourhoods by documenting and exploring the people and places that give them their unique flavour. Children explore their mohallas through interviews, surveys, photography, poetry, research and tell the story of their neighbourhood through their eyes. My Mohalla tracks the past, present and future of neighbourhoods and communities. And also captures vignettes of a life that is disappearing due to rapid urbanisation. Have you spotted anything interesting in your neighbourhood? Write to us at email@example.com
My Mohalla In Time Out magazine and Hindustan Times
My Mohalla — our project on exploring neighbourhoods through the eyes of young people, was featured in Time Out magazine this month. Here’s an excerpt from the article: ”Most Bandra (W) residents know Flaurian D’Souza on Chapel Road as the go-to man for getting a pair of pants stitched. But locals Malaika Mathew Chawla, 13, and Subhashri Acharya, 10, are among the few who know a little more: at the age of five, D’Souza’s right leg was crushed in a building collapse and the one time that municipal officials paid the tailor a visit for haftaa, D’Souza took off his fake leg and brandished it until they ran away. Chawla knows this story because of a neighbourhood initiative called My Mohalla, by Jalebi Ink, a group that introduces children to media through workshops and other activities. The project encouraged Chawla to speak to the shopkeepers in Bandra’s bazaars and write a series of reports on their lives. Started a year ago, My Mohalla attempts to track the history and culture of Mumbai neighbourhoods through interviews, images and narratives about its people and places. So far, the project has got almost 30 children to document their neighbourhoods such as Mohammed Ali Road, Bandra and Khar, and their reports and photos have been published on Jalebi Ink’s website. My Mohalla was started, said Anuradha Sengupta, journalist and co-founder of Jalebi Ink, because they felt younger people are often isolated from their own community. “Children should be aware that they are linked to a larger whole,” said Sengupta, who previously edited YA!, a children’s newspaper published by DNA. Bandra children have tramped across Bazaar Road and met their neighbourhood cobblers, fisherwomen, a bangle seller, an idli seller and a phone booth operator.” You can read the full feature here.
My Mohalla was featured in Hindustan Times:
Joseph And All That Jazz
By Anna Abraham
Anna: Hi Joseph, what’s your full name?
A Walk Through Bazaar Road In Bandra
By Malaika Mathew Chawla
Jalebi Ink recently invited me to do another assignment for My Mohalla.
This time after thinking about what to do, I decided to interview the people who sell different wares on Bazaar Road in Bandra, Bombay. Bandra is the suburb where I live. Bazaar Road is a narrow lane in the old part of the neighbourhood with wooden balconies and staircases in houses. I and my mother both visit Bazaar Road often to stock up on groceries and other stuff…. you can find vegetables, fruits, spices, paapads, cereals, idli and dosa mixes, wooden frames, glass bangles, hair clips, household wares… everything under the sun, actually.
I decided to meet some people I have seen many times and even bought things from. Like the Picklewala, Chakkiwala, Koli women ( fisherwomen), a glass bangle and hair band seller. But as I walked around, I came across many other interesting people who I had not noticed earlier. I came across old buildings – built more than seventy years back and funky wall art…
I landed up in Bazaar Road on a Sunday morning. It was a beehive of activity. We had to weave our way through a lane crammed with baskets full of vegetable, fruit, spices… plump red tomatoes, orange pumpkins and carrots, bunches of diferent kinds of saag, fresh green bunches of dhania and pudina leaves with yellow lemons, long and thin mooli (raddish), beans and bhindi. It was like a feast for our senses. There were sights and smells of different kinds of foods and colours. There was the musky scent of melons at one point. Then we became aware of the rich clove and pepper smells from the spice sellers. And the appetising smell of fresh bread from the bakeries.
This bustling market place is on Bazaar Road which, I now know, is a historic place and is built in an old style of a Goan/ East Indian village neighbourhood, with people living close to their neighbours and knowing them well.
As I entered the market, I came to the Crystal Tea and Masala Shop. The owner of this small shop was Mr Naushad. He is 57 years old and has been selling spices like turmeric, cumin and coriander, and tea leaves for the past thirty years. Earlier, he used to work as an accountant with Rajshree Pictures. He lives above his shop. Mr Naushad enjoys his work and always wanted to be in this business. He has two children. His son is a computer engineer in USA and his daughter is a model. He speaks Gujarati and has lived in Bandra his entire life. He studied in St Aloysius School in Bandra and recounted an incident when a teacher had caned him, as a punishment for a firecracker hitting a girl. This has remained an enduring memory. He buys his wares from the wholesale market and earns Rs5,000 a month. He opens his shop at 9am and closes for lunch at 2pm. After a siesta, he is open from 5pm to 8pm. He told us people do not buy loose tea leaves any more as everything comes packaged. So his business has not been doing well.
Right next to Mr Naushad was a flour grinding shop. Here sits one of the most interesting people I have met in Bazaar Road — Mr Salem, the chakkiwala (flourmill owner). Looking at him, you will think it has been snowing in Bandra. He is always covered in white flour. People come to him with whole wheat grains and he crushes them and makes it into atta (wheat flour). Mr Salem sells atta for Rs 3.5 per kg. He is 25 years old and has been working here for ten years. He gets about a hundred customers daily and works 12 hours a day.
He says he likes Bandra because “yahaan public solid hain” (“people are nice here”). He is good at driving and would have been a driver, if he had not had the flour mill. He has studied till SSC level. “I was a good football player in school,” he told us proudly.
My next stop was at Mr Fakruddin, the bangle and knick-knack seller. He was there withy his wife today. I buy my hair clips, bands and sometimes junk ear rings from him for as little as Rs5 and Rs10. He has an amazing collection of beautiful glass bangles in all colours.
As I went through the gullies of Bazaar Road looking for interesting people, I spotted a man painting butterflies sculpted out of wood and some strange looking yellow tubes. I stopped to ask him what he was doing.
- Wooden butterflies
He said he was a fisherman. But since fishing activity has gone down due to the recent oil spill, to make some money, he does wedding décor. The tubes were flower holders for wedding ceremonies. His name was Sanji Kalicharan.
Further ahead, I came across a dhobiwala — Baburao Diwakar. He was ironing clothes with a hefty, large metal iron which had coals in them. He irons over two hundred clothes a day. He bought his iron from Dadar. He told us that he uses ten kilos of coal every day.
- Mr Baburao, the dhobiwala
My walk was almost coming to an end by now. The sun was mercilessly beating down and I was feeling a bit hot. I decided to take refuge in the fish market, which has a covered ceiling.
My mother and I come here several times in the month to buy fresh catch from the sea. The fish sellers are all women. They are called Kolis and are the oldest inhabitants of Bombay. They wear colourful sarees, and beautiful jewellery like nose rings and lots of glass bangles. And they talk loudly, shouting out their wares, and price, calling out to customers walking by. And they laugh loudly too. I like watching them. At the market, I met Janabi, Lalitha and Bhagirathi. They were selling many types of fish and seafood like mackerel, pomfret, ravas (salmon), shrimps, prawns, lobsters and crabs.
In the corner there was a man on a cycle-like contraption who was sharpening the knives of the fisherwomen.
I had thought this would be the last stop but on my way back, I just had to make a stop at Fakhruddin Frames. I met Mr Fakhruddin who is 64 years old and sells wooden, acrylic and plastic frames. He also stocks aluminium and plastic mirrors. His shop is eighty years old.
It was stimulating to see people from different walks of life who give Bazaar Road colour and character. I returned home energised. Here are some more pictures from my walk on Bazaar Road — interesting graffiti, a ‘Seahorse Boys Club’, old buildings, children in doorways, wall art… you should come to Bazaar Road some day.
Art On The Walls
One morning, we woke up to see the walls in our neighbourhood, Bandra, in Mumbai had been adorned with paintings – some beautiful, some fantastical, others strange but interesting and some that were like bad squiggles in our text books. It was fascinating – a walk to the school or bazaar is now a completely different experience. We don’t know what we will come across. A barber with a razor, twirling his moustache. A skeleton calling itself the ‘ghost of Bandra’. A woman with a large and colourful fish on her head. A child munching on some snacks. Film star Amitabh Bachchan. A blue face with a red tongue sticking out – this reminded us of the image of goddess Kali, only it was a man’s face with a moustache.
We decided to spend a sunny afternoon exploring the painted walls. Here are some photos of that afternoon.
My Mohalla, Jalebi Ink’s Neighbourhood Project, tracks the history and culture of neighbourhoods through the people who inhabit the spaces, their individual histories and cultural influences. Would you like to join us? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Globe Painter
Some time back we had posted a story about graffiti on the walls of Bandra in Mumbai. We had said we will update you as and when more graffiti comes up.
Some more art was added to the walls recently. Take a look.
Here’s a woman with a fish on her head.
And this one’s a woman with a sewing machine on her head! Right next to a tailoring unit called Golden Scissors.
A boy munching on a mixture of chhola, peanuts and puffed rice sitting on the ledge next to a snacks shop.
That’s a friend of ours Leonie who was visiting from Edinburgh, Scotland. She wanted to check out all the graffiti in our area. So we took her around.
A word about the all the wall art here — they are all done by a well-known graffiti artist called Julien Malland. He was in India for a few months meeting folk artists like the Madhubani painters of Bihar and the idol makers of Calcutta. And of course, painting walls. In fact, he was painting a wall in Bandra and we were passing by on our way to meet some friends at a pastry shop when we saw him. We stopped, asked him if he was going to be around for a while. And could we talk to him amd take some photos? He said yes, of course. It was great that we caught him right then as he was going back to his home in France two days later. Well, we went back and got our camera and spent the next one hour talking to him and shooting a video of him at work. We even captured him making the fish lady on video. (The video will be uploaded soon on YouTube).
While we were shooting him, many people came up. One guy wanted to have his wall painted in Pali Hill. A woman in a bike stopped and asked him if he could paint her helmet. Julien said no as the surface was ‘too small’. A group of boys who had just got off school and were walking home stopped. They had a football with them. Whcih country are you from, they asked Julien. He replied France then asked if they could tell the name of any French football player. The boys thought for a while and said no. Julien said okay, tell me the name of an Indian football player you admire most. They said Chelsea. They probably couldn’t understand what Julien was asking.
Julien told us he likes to study a place and its people – their culture, habits etc — before he decides what to paint. Which is why the woman with the fish is so apt — Bandra has so many Koli women selling fish. And there are so many Goans here who love their fish! So is the boy with his muchies next o a munchies shop and the woman with the sewing machine next to Golden Scissors.
Julien said he has been travelling around the world observing local artists and their art. Like the hip-hop graffiti of Brazil and the calligraphers of China. He has brought out a book called Globe Painter on his journey around the world. His travels around the wolrd have also been made into a travel show called Global Painter. (Read about it here: http://www.europeimages.com/en/programmes/4867-global-painter).
This is Julien in Brazil (in a promo shot for the show).
We hope Julien comes back soon. And adds some more zing to our walls.
By Subhashri Acharya
Have you ever been locked out of your house because you left your housekeys behind inside the house? It’s happened to many people I know. Who do you go to? The local keymaker of course.
In Bandra, where I live, you can see many keymakers on the pavements. All of them use colourful handpainted signs to advertise themselves.
But the one who gets noticed most is Javed Khan. His ad is a giant, bright yellow and red key hanging from a tree. You can see it from really far away.
Javed Khan has been making keys for 35 years now. He says he began making keys when he was just ten years old. Sometimes he gets many customers. Some days he gets a lot less. Human beings keep losing the many different keys they have in their lives – the car keys, the keys to the cupboard, two-wheeler keys, keys to a safe or a locker.
He says he makes anything from five to fifteen keys in a day. He showed us a huge bunch of old keys and different sets of key blanks. When anyone comes to him to make a duplicate, he cuts the key blanks into the required shape. Sometimes when you do not have a key at all because you have lost it, he can measure the keyhole and make a key for you.
He uses many tools to make keys. When he is making a duplicate, he uses a special prong to measure the distance between the notches in a key. Then he cuts and files the duplicate key according to the measurements he has taken. He uses different files to shape keys.
Sometimes he uses this machine to cut the notches in the key. He ordered it all the way from Delhi. It costs Rs20,000! It uses two things to make a copy of a key in less than a minute — a sensor and a cutter.
Are you wondering how much it would cost to make a key? Anything from Rs5 to Rs40, depending on the key.
We gave him a key to make a duplicate of and he made it in eight minutes ten seconds flat.
I asked him what if some thief or a criminal comes to him to get a key made, can he make out if someone has bad intentions? Khan said that it is very difficult to make out. But if gets suspicious of someone because of wrong signals or vibes, he just refuses to make a key.
Javed Khan told us he is from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh in north India. He says people in his family have been making keys for many years. His uncle was a keymaker too. He likes to live in Bombay because the climate is always pleasant here.
The Man In The Booth
By Taarika Thakore and Malaika Mathew Chawla
Outside our building, there is a phone booth on the pavement with many red bulky phones. Throughout the day all kinds of people use these to make calls. A man with grey hair sits inside the booth. He is the owner. He charges Rs 1 to make a local call. I have made calls from the booth sometimes. But we hardly know this man who sits in the kiosk every day from morning till night. Today we decided to get to know him better. We had a long conversation with him. We found out that his name is Jitendra Hiralala Katharani. He is 58 years old. He lives in Bandra East – his booth is in Bandra West (Mumbai). He calls it Radhika World Link. He told us it is a legal phone booth with a no objection certificate given by the municipal corporation.
How long have you been working at the phone booth?
I have been working here for five years now.
What time do you start or end your work?
I open my shop at 9am and close at 7pm.
How many customers do you get in a day?
About 100 customers.
How much money do you earn?
I earn 20 per cent. The rest goes to the government.
What was Bandra like when you first came here?
Bandra looked very plain when I first came here, but now it looks more beautiful. The Lilavati Hospital building was constructed right in front of my eyes.
Do you like it here?
Yes, I have come to know many people. No one troubles me here. It is quite peaceful.
What about holidays?
I take Sundays off.
Do you have any children?
No, I am unmarried. I have no children.
We always see you sitting here. Do you take a break to eat?
Yes, two times.
When you go to eat your food, do you close your shop?
I sit inside the booth and eat. I take my food from my brother who lives nearby in the MSEB quarters. It takes only ten minutes to get my food from there. I lock my shop till then.
The Idli Seller
By Nikita Arivazhagan and Subhashri Acharya
Every morning at around eight, a man in a short lungi walks up to the pavement on the road in front of our apartment in Bandra (west), Mumbai. He unloads five steel containers which are precariously balanced on his head and serves up generous helpings of a most delicious morning breakfast. This is Raman. He has been selling his idlis and vadas with finger-licking coconut chutney in our neighbourhood from the same spot for the past eight years.
You can have a plate of four steaming fluffy idlis and four crispy vadas for as little as Rs10.
We have had this breakfast on many lazy Sunday mornings. We have also ordered the snacks in bulk for some of our birthday parties. Many people love his food – the office-goers in the area, people who work from the pavement like the nearby newspaper stall owner and others who are just passing by – they all have breakfast here.
Raman lives in Dharavi and comes all the way to Bandra every morning. He wakes up at 4am to steam the idlis and fry the vadas and grind the ingredients for the coconut chutney. His chutney was the best we have had so far. He takes the local train to Bandra and arrives around 8am to serve up breakfast to early morning office-goers. By 11am, all the food is over. Raman is from Madurai, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He says he came to Mumbai to make a living selling idli-vada. “This wouldn’t have worked in Tamil Nadu – everyone in that part of the world is making idlis! So I thought of Mumbai.”
Mapping Khar, My Neighbourhood
By Kabeer Khurana 12, and Shaurya Shah, 12
We, my best friend Shaurya and I study in Arya Vidya Mandir School (Bandra West) in class VII. We both enjoy each other’s company and spend a lot of our free time and holidays together as we stay in the same vicinity. Shaurya and I like exploring and that is a fact that is known to all. Our exams were over so we decided to have some fun and explore our Mohalla, Khar and dig into its history. This place is located in Mumbai which is the financial capital of India. Bandra is the queen of the suburbs in Mumbai. And next to Bandra is Khar where we live. We both have been living in Khar since our childhood.
Khar is one of the biggest neighbourhoods in Mumbai. We surveyed the station area in Khar where all the important landmarks are located. We fund out that a church existed on a site on the western side of the railway station which is presently occupied by the Sacred Heart Boys High School/Sacred Heart Church on Swami Vivekananda Road.
We loved the experience while trying to shoot and explore the neighbourhood. We had a camera in our hand and took photographs of each interesting place. While shooting, many people followed us. One man followed us right from the beginning. After sometime we got so irritated with his presence, that we started to run until we had lost him.
One baniawala was so interested that he ended up posing happily for the camera. Another bhajjiwala told us all about the dates of each vital structure in Khar. And two other restaurant owners spoke to us about the stations in Khar and the other famous restaurants. The Evergreen Hotel was another fascinating stop but it was a scary place as it was old and dilapidated.
hen we were heading towards the market we saw an old abandoned building in which there was a village on the other side.
It was an interesting stop to explore because it seemed amazing for us to find a village near one of Mumbai’s busiest places right in the middle of Khar station.
In the market there is a laboratory which I have wanted to visit for a long time now and was unknown to me until recently.
The Air-monitoring and Research Laboratory
The laboratory is located in an old and dilapidated structure. The ground floor of this structure is occupied by a vegetable and fruit market, fish market, small retail businesses selling clothing and utensils, tailoring shops etc. The laboratory is inconspicuous as its small board stating its existence is hidden in a corner. I sometimes find it impossible to believe that a lab is situated in such a commercial area like the market and it is also quite amazing that in the lab we cannot hear the cacophony from the marketplace.
I was greeted by friendly, helpful scientists busy working in an air conditioned laboratory. They willingly took me through all there was to know about the laboratory. One senior scientist spent almost an hour of his precious time showing me around and teaching me all there was to know
In the lab there are many machines and test-tubes. This lab is founded by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The boards like the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board check on the working of the lab and control the instruments at the Monitoring area.
This lab is partly created to control the spread of respiratory diseases and asthma. The Air Quality Monitoring and Research Lab basically monitor the air for harmful compounds. It sets up mobile vans in which there are analyzers to detect carbon dioxide, ammonia, suspended particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, etc. These vans go around the suburbs of Andheri and Wadala and some dumping grounds. After detecting the harmful compounds, the van collects the compounds and takes it to the lab where the scientists dispose off the compounds in a special way and find out the average of pollution caused by each compound.
One senior scientific officer, MACharje, told me about each thing in the lab and showed me various instruments. He spent a lot of time explaining to me the entire process and gave me pictures to photocopy. He showed me the average incidence of metals in the air. The metals that are harmful to us are – lead, copper, nickel, iron, chromium, etc. He showed me each filter paper that came from the vans. And let me put my fingers in the test tubes. The Atomic Absorption Spectrometer helps in removing metals in the lab. There are seven air monitoring chowkies in Mumbai; they are at Deonar, Worli, Khar, Andheri, Bhanduk, Marwali, and Borivali.
It was a fantastic experience to be with scientists who would test compound by test tubes.
The Jivdaya Kabutar Khana Charitable Trust
Feeding pigeons is an old tradition in Mumbai. There are several ‘kabutar khanas’ in the city at Dadar, Matunga, Bhuleshwar, Khar and CST, where pigeons are fed and checked for disease. In addition, thousands of households feed pigeons from their homes. Some of the older bungalows owned by Jain or Gujarati businessmen even have a separate space for feeding. London, Paris and Venice have several areas where pigeons are fed by the public. In fact, in Venice the birds have become so numerous that there are laws against feeding them.
The jivdaya kabutar khana charitable trust is triangular in shape which is enclosed by a fence. Beyond the railing kabutars are kept and fed…it is located opposite the market and the laboratory.
This kabutar khana in my area was built in 1997 by Sahaj Muni in collaboration with the Jain Temple and the Jain Association of Khar which is on the 14th road (Ahimsa Marg). It was built because Sahaj Muni loved pigeons as he thought it was the bird of peace. Before, this area was a junction. 13 years back, an island-like junction turned into a kabutar khana. This khana is also maintained by the Shree Krishna Chhaya Restaurant which is further down on the same road. In this khana grains are also kept for selling and feeding the birds. On independence and republic day the flag is hoisted here. There is also a man incharge to clean pigeon droppings and feed the birds. Another man sells grains. Dinesh Rajput is one man who feeds the birds.
By the end of the day we made a colourful map of the area and we might sell it to Google maps one day as it has interesting trivia.