Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bombay : History of a City

Back to work now, and while everything I'm doing seems trivial compared to the crisis at hand, here are some fun and some useless facts I've learned about Bombay (back when it was still called that)...

- The physical history of Bombay is a story of land reclamation. The Great Breach (now called Breach Candy) was built to stop the ravaging sea waves from destroying construction in Worli and Mahalaxmi.

- 179.96 lakh (where 1 lakh = 100,000) bottles of Energee Milk bottles of 200ml each were produced and distributed in 1984-85, along with 0.7 lakh bottles of masala milk and 0.96 lakh cups of ice-cream

- Commemorative coins were introduced by the Bombay mint every now and then including "Equality, Development and Peace" in 1975, "Happy Child,Nation's Pride" in 1979 and "Rural Women's Advancement" in 1980.

- Licence fees for squatters and hawkers in 1972 were Rs. 2 for itinerant hawkers, Rs. 10 for hawkers using vehicles drawn by animals and Rs. 15 for stationary handcarts

- A 1975 Economic Times article described the opening ceremony of the first train in Bombay as :
"It was a warm sticky, sultry Saturday (16th April 1853) afternoon with the sun shining rather unkindly. That time there steamed from a little wooden station (that was Bori Bunder, 122 years ago), a little train that heralded the introduction of Railway to India and the East. It was a different Bombay which witnessed momentous scene—a Bombay bereft of its architectural beauties and its industrial horrors, of its hurtling trains and roaring buses—a Bombay which one would have to see to believe.
The day was declared a public holiday. A space around the railway shed was thickly thronged with people of all classes, creeds and colours. Bands played, guns fired from the fort's rampart, when, at the signalled moment, the train with 400 guests comfortably started was set in motion and went majestically along its course to the astonishment and wonder of the assembled thousands.

The whole line densely crowded with spectators from the terminus to the flats beyond Byculla, tier after tier of the houses in the native town were tilled as thickly as they could be by men, women and children. The scene altogether was one of the great beauty and excitement."

- The first tramways from Colaba and VT were opened in 1874. In 1920, two-storey tram cars were introduced that became a popular means of transport, with a restricted speed of 8kmph! The last tram ran from VT to Dadar in 1964.

- The Taj Hotel was inaugurated in 1904 and was a cherished project of Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata. He is said to have built this hotel after being denied entry to the Watson's Hotel, which was considered one of the best in Bombay at that time.

- In 1870, the number of passengers travelling daily between VT and Dadar was 37, and between VT and Thana, 160!

How many questions can you answer (without googling of course!):

1) The first railway line opened in 1853, between Bombay and which suburb?
2) On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Air India on 15 October 1982, JRD Tata piloted an old tiny aircraft called Puss Moth. How old was he?
3) What was the original name of what we now know as B.E.S.T or Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking?
4) How much were bus fares on the first buses introduced in 1926?
5) How many female beauticians and hairdressers were there in Bombay in 1911?
6) Even though the Taj was built in 1904, it was not the first 5-star hotel in Mumbai. The first one to have this honour was Sea Princess in Juhu. Why?

1) Thane
2) 75!
3) Bombay Elecric Supply and Tramways Co. Ltd
4) Ranged from 2 annas to 6 annas depending on the distance
5) 4
6) The Taj did not have a swimming pool :-)

Check out the online version of the Bombay Gazetteer, for the most comprehensive information you'll ever find on this city (unfortunately the process was discontinued after 1986.

Some really nice pictures of "Lost Mumbai" here, though most of you must have seen these already.

Disclaimer: I'm not entirely sure about question #6. I heard it on the radio as part of a quiz, and thought it was interesting. I haven't been able to verify it yet.

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