A stone’s throw from Bandra railway station lies a street lined with quaint, small houses. The houses allow a rare gap for tiny lanes to pass through. Plastered with fresh paint, the aging structures make D’Monte Street a strange mix of old and new.
The street was named after the D’Montes, an illustrious family in Bandra who lived in and around the street.
The family has produced prominent personalities like Dr D A D’Monte, a medical practitioner and philanthropist, who donated large tracts of land for public welfare . The Bandra Gymkhana and the D’Monte Park stand on land he donated. His wife, Dr Cecella D’Monte, was the first Indian chief medical officer at Cama Hospital. Their descendants today live on Carter Road.
“Though I never met my grandfather, my mother tells me he was a generous man. He would charge patients for treatment only if they could afford it. He also gave away a lot of property and money for the needy,” says Dr Brian D’Monte, grandson of Dr D A D’Monte.
The family originally Patil, belonged to the Koli community. “We converted to Christianity and took the name D’Monte at least 400 years ago, probably during the Portuguese rule,” adds Samir D’Monte, D’Monte’s great-grandson. While this family lived next to Mount Mary Church, there were other members who lived closer to the street. “My grandmother, who was born Beryl D’Monte, spent her childhood in the area and moved when she got married in the 1930s. Her family home was on Hill Road,” says Naresh Fernandes, a Bandra resident.
He said that the composition of the street has changed over the years.
“There is a Jain temple on the street and for a long time many Jains lived around it. After the riots of 1992-93, many Muslims began to move down D’Monte Street and Chapel Road because Bandra had been spared the violence. By then, several Catholics wanted to sell their homes so that they could buy bigger flats in suburbs like Malad and Borivali,” adds Fernandes.
“I have lived on this street all my life and initially, this road did not even have streetlights. The area only began developing after the 1990s. Then we got a proper sewage system, 24-hour water supply and toilets for slum dwellers,” says 51-year old Nagesh Sherigar.
Political science professor Vinay Sitapati says: “The area has developed because of a strong sense of community between the residents, who are mostly Christian. They go to the church together and unwind at the Bandra Gym. They trust each other and are good at acting together to make demands from the civic body.”