Saturday, 5 October 2013

Beyond Bombay Balconies by Ayesha Taleyarkhan

Beyond Bombay Balconies by Ayesha Taleyarkhan

Beyond Bombay Balconies’ the pictorial loaded coffee table book compiled by Ayesha Taleyarkhan takes one on a tour to discover the balconies in and around the island city of Bombay.  The book is literally a walk through from the twisted by lanes of Bandra and Mahim to the Art Deco buildings along Marine Drive to the Portuguese styled bungalows at Kotachiwadi and many other buildings that prettify the city.  It explores over two centuries of architecture and the essence of living in a bustling city like Bombay.

Sitting across the table with Ayesha, renowned theatre persona and veteran advertising professional Alyque Padamsee bounced through some of the photographs in the book over a power point presentation while renowned architects and historians shared their views on some of the beautiful balconies that adorn the book.  Alyque compared the changing landscape of Bombay to New York and termed both as vertical cities, he added that one feels so connected to the city as everyone has grown up around these buildings and that their designs and textures have a certain bonding. At the same time they also reflect centuries of culture.  

From L to R- Ratan J. Batliboi-Ratan J. Batliboi - Consultants Pvt Ltd,  Rajiv Mishra- Principal of JJ College of Architecture, Zameer Basrai- Architect at The Busride Design Studio and Siddhant Shah- IDC
Ratan J. Batliboi an architect who worked on the Marine Drive makeover Project and Vikas Dilwari, Conservation Architect who recently bagged two of this year's 9 Asia Pacific UNESCO awards, shared their  views along with the others present and noted that many of Bombay’s balconies were unique and designed to cater to the climatic conditions of the city,  often balconies defined the building.  Rajiv Mishra, Principal of JJ College of Architecture, cited that balconies are a celebration of space and that it’s important to admire the intricate designs that accompany the architecture of the buildings. He also mentioned that balconies enhance the spaces in a building and often strike a contact and conversation with the people walking on the streets.

In her brief and crisp foreword, Abha Narain Lambah, well known architect and conservation specialist notes that, ‘Balconies have played a crucial role in defining the architectural dynamics of the city. From the 19th century Victorian balconies articulated with Neo Gothic arches to the cast iron balconies of the old Watson Hotel, the early 20th century Indo Saracenic balconies supported on stone brackets to the fluid curves of concrete balconies of the Art Deco buildings from mid 1900s and finally to the sharp edges of the high rises dotting the city, each era has evolved its distinctive language of balconies. She later adds that in the 21st century, the skyline has drastically transformed and while many historic buildings have given way to high rises, balconies continue to be the defining features of Bombay’s architecture.

Sharing her views in one of the book’s chapters, Brinda Somaya, another Indian architect who had spent many years working in New York before returning to the city adds that wrought iron railings were preferred as balcony embellishments, as they (airy railings) allowed the breeze to come in at lower levels too. 

The book is a revisit from Ayesha’s earlier book, 'Bombay: Balconies & Verandahsand juxtaposes the old wooden latticed /cast iron railing balconies of stone and mortar homes to the art deco buildings and concrete twenty plus storey buildings. While going through the book one can easily fall in love with the varied balconies. To some it may ring memories of how one enjoyed the views from their balcony and waved to the passersby while another may reminiscence sipping some piping hot chai from their balconies favourite stool. It also illustrates the different styles of neo classical and neo gothic architecture style balconies that can be spotted around the city. The art deco style buildings were about elegance and simplicity of line with very subtle ornamentation very different from the native and vernacular type jharoka balconies.

The 170 page book which Ayesha spent two years putting together, displays some of the buildings that showcase the most exquisite and elaborate balconies. It calls out the balconies of Cowasji Jehangir Hall now the NGMA, St. Mary's, Cathedral School. INHS- Asvini, Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba and Victoria Terminus amongst others. It also carries raw images of the various construction materials that are put together to make up the buildings.

Naresh Fernandes with Ayesha Taleyarkhan and Alyque Padamsee
Beyond Bombay Balconies was unveiled on 28th September, 2013 at the Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba by Naresh Fernandes, author of Taj Mahal Foxtrot and well known journalist, amidst a well attended audience of well known architects, historians and the likes.

In short and in Ayesha’s words - Beyond Bombay Balconies takes you across the length and breadth of the city, into the picturesque nooks and corners of Bombay, into hot and dusty lanes, to quiet, shady residential areas and through the bustling commercial centres and the stately public buildings to get a glimpse into the past and may be a look into the future too...

A true collectors must have, the book is priced at INR 2995/- and is available in stores, you can pick a copy from Nalanda, Taj Hotels, Colaba, Strand Book Stall, Crosswords, Kitab Khana and Title Waves.

From L to R, Martin Kriegner, Country CEO, Lafarge India and Ranjit Shahani, CEO, Novartis, India

Mr. Anand Pandit speaking about the images to the crowd
Vikas Dilwari, second from left, chats with Ayesha Taleyarkhan at the book launch. In the foreground- Hormusji Cama, Mumbai Samachar

  • Event Organised by : Ar. Siddhant Shah ; India Design Company
  • Event Supported by : TATA
  • Architects Present : Anand Pandit , Supriyo Bhattacharjee , Zameer Basrai , Ratan Batliboi , Rajiv Mishra and Vikas Dilawari
  • Chief Guest : Naresh Fernandes
  • Event Moderated by: Alyque Padamsee
Some stories on the book have appeared in:

Mumbai Mirror

Thursday, 3 October 2013

An offshoot of Bandra: Chuim village

An offshoot of Bandra: Chuim village

The book, ‘Juvkem that was, Chuim that is’ (1943-2013) essentially traces the 70 emerging years of St. Vincent de Paul Church and is walk down memory lane, tracing the early beginnings of the Church, school and the humble village of Chuim.

The book back tracks how Christianity came to India and how Chuimites embraced Christianity over the years. It then delves into a little history of Bandra, its many villages and how the village of Chuim came to be. It trails around the steady growth of the village over the years and how the village came together on numerous occasions to celebrate festivals, cross feasts and rosaries, fishing day and other regular sporting events. It details how the village and parish has grown manifold from a mere 70 houses to over 800 families.

The book calls out the great sporting athletes and stalwarts who made Chuim proud over the years. For which, all thanks is due to the ancestors and fellow Chuimites who helped in instituting a Reading Room Club and Sporting Club. The clubs helped enlighten many young minds and won Chuim many honours.

Today the fellows of Chuim are spread across the continents and have wandered far and wide in search of brighter careers and better pastures. However there are always moments when they reminiscence over the many hay days at Chuim and there is a tingling to be back home. The Parish hopes that the book will tell the story of Chuim to not only the Chuimites of yesteryears and today but also to the generations that are yet to spring.

The book was unveiled by the newly ordained Bishop Dominic Savio Fernandes at St. Vincent de Paul Church, Chuim on Sunday 29th September amidst the 70 year Parish celebrations.

Below is a story which appeared recently on 18th,October, 2013 in Hindustan Times with an overview of the book too.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Trekking Kalavantin Durg

At a height of 2300 feet, Kalavantin Durg is yet another high peak in Maharashtra that beckons enthusiastic trekkers. It’s an uphill climb and takes around three and a half hours for one to scale and reach the peak. Making your way, through a road which runs a little away from the base village- Thakurwadi you begin with the snaky road that leaps and bounds and leads you to the peak.

If you are travelling from Bandra you can take the first train out to VT that leaves at 4:10 am or the one after that at around 4:30 am and get off at Vadala station. From Vadala station you can board the 5:09 am train that leaves for Panvel and reaches at 6:10 am. Once at Panvel, it’s a brisk eight minute walk to the bus depot. Ask around and you can take a bus to the village Thakurwadi, the first bus leaves around half five, followed by another at 7am. While waiting for the bus, you could munch on a quick snack or sip from garam chai and gear up for the long-drawn-out road ahead. The next bus is around 9:40 am, but its best to take the 7am bus and begin your trek early. It’s an hour’s drive to the base village from where you can begin your uphill climb. Its best to take a bus as the fare is INR 18/- only as compared to a local auto where the fare is INR 300/- which can seat four passengers only.

From the base of the village you can spot the two ranges that are spread ahead of you. Prabalgad is one of the peaks and other is Kalavantin Durg. Ask the enthusiastic villagers for direction to the respective peak and they will happily guide you. If you do have a keen and watchful eye for nature you will spot the many bird species, plant varieties and insects that dwell in the lush greenery. 


Once you have trekked for around two hours, you will see a deity carved into a rock and coated with a spray of orange. A little further on and you are in for a treat at a small shack which provides not only chai but also dishes out meals and makes available stay and lodging. You can contact either Namdev K. Bhutanbra on 08451929898 or Balu on 08097089491 or Nilesh on 08056186321 and book your stay if you want to spend your night in the lap of nature and enjoy the breathtaking view all around you. They also have their own website and well written blog that you can research for more details. (website: or  Blog:

The best time to trek is around June to Jan. One can trek during the monsoons and enjoy the sudden burst of showers or during the cool winters and experience the blowy winds. Although trekking during the monsoon is a bit risky as the path all along has patches of loose mud and rolling stones. Stop along the way at the many streams and baby waterfalls and splash on some chilly water to freshen up or just take a quick dip and laze around in the flowing waters for a while.

As you continue your walk through the muddy and rocky path, you will begin to see more of Kalavantin Durg which makes it seem you have lots more to accomplish. But another hour and a half and you are ascending the never ending flight of stairs.

The zigzag flight of stairs that are cut into the hill are also laden with moss, which make the climb risky and knotty.  You need to ensure your hands are free and you have something to hold on too while ascending the peak. Once you have ascended the peak its sheer pride and happiness and a moment of triumph.


 A trek certainly not for amateurs but for those to like to make their way along the treks least treaded upon. There are also buses that ply along and leave from Thakurwadi to Panvel at 5, 6, 7 and 8pm.

Happy trekking!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Lost Chapel on Pali Hill

Lost Chapel on Pali Hill

Walk through Calvario Hill Road Bandra on any of the Fridays throughout lent, during the wee hours of night and for sure you will hear gentle feeble steps treading along the way of the cross. Chanting hymns in Marathi, most of them composed by the Very Revd. Manoel Anthony Fonseca, pausing along at the foot of each of the 14 crosses that dotted the way right up to the chapel, the congregation would murmur a silent prayer at each cross.

Reaching the Chapel of Our Lady of Calvario, the flock would attend holy service and then pursue home.

The Very Revd. Manoel Anthony Fonseca, a Portuguese scholar and a prominent Marathi preacher along with his brother Peter John put together the Chapel and on 17th September, 1890 got it blessed by Dom
Antonio Pedro da Costa the 1st Bishop of Damaun.  The Chapel was attended and worshipped by folk from all of Pali hill, down to mala, Chuim, danda and other surrounding villages.

The 14 stations that once lined the Calvary hill, today stretch out just opposite Our Lady of Bethlehem church, Dongri. The church also recently celebrated 400 years on January 20th and a solemn celebration
was presided over by Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Bishop Bosco Penha and Father Victor Dalmet amongst others. Just like one would attend the 14 Stations of the Cross at Calvary, the neighboring villages in and around Uttan also ascend unto the hill and recite the 14 stations today.

Most of the collection the Chapel received was passed onto St. Andrew Church, Bandra while very little was left for the maintenance of the Chapel. This gradually over time left the Chapel with inadequate funds and its upkeep dwindled. In the late 1960’s the wooden railings from the Chapel, along with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows and a number of other Church essentials were passed onto St. Anne’s Church, Pali Hill.

The engraved tombstones which detailed the names of family members buried at the Chapel are nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, a hand written note probably by my great grandfather details the names of his kin who were buried at the Chapel over the years.

Today the Chapel has zero footfalls, the only visitors and regular residents are security personnel, who spend their days and night on the holy turf, not knowing its significance and its celebrated past. The door to the Chapel is locked, the walls cracked and the roof caves in at one end, spiders and creepers have made it their permanent home.

Abandoned for years now and on its last legs, take a walk down Calvario Hill Road Bandra and take a long stare at the Chapel that once was before it all crumbles and is grabbed by Bandra’s many land sharks.