In the midst of Cochin Street, Calicut Road and Kumta Street in Ballard Estate is Vaju Kotak Marg. While most lanes connecting Shahid Bhagat Singh Road with R Kamani Road are named after port towns, this 300-metre road seems an exception. But even this lane was once known as Karwar Street, named after a port city from North Karnataka. It was later renamed after leading journalist Vaju Kotak founded his Gujarati weekly magazine Chitralekha on this street in 1950.
“Vaju Kotak’s magazine Chitralekha used to be published from here for many years and that’s why the road was named after him. His contribution to Gujarati journalism and literature is immense. In 2011, on the diamond jubilee of the magazine, the government also released a postal stamp in his honour,” says Bharat Ghelani, the current editor of the magazine.
Though the name was changed in 1973, even today some refer to the street by its old name and some shops still write Karwar Street on their boards beside the new name.
The street is dotted with several old structures, such as the community hall Kanji Khetsi Wadi, the 116-year-old Badami & Sons specialising in ship parts and even the office of the Additional Commissioner of Police (Protection and Security).
Earlier, the police office was used by the Alcohol Prohibition team. Subhash Shukla, the 43-year-old owner of an electrical goods shop on the street, says, “Earlier, this street used to be synonymous with crime. From illicit liquor to extortion, there is nothing that this street has not seen. But all that has changed now.”
Having seen the street grow since the 1980s, he says, “Most of the shops have changed hands now — Chitralekha’s office has given way to a clothes store, a Persian restaurant has been replaced by Hotel Kalapi. Earlier, there were a lot of hardware shops here but today, there are more stationery shops.”
“Also, our street used to have the best pandals during Ganeshotsav. But with rising costs, everyone does it as simply as possibly.” Chitralekha shifted its office to Andheri in the 1980s, but until a few years ago, its registered office operated from the street.
Also a bestselling Gujarati author, Vaju Kotak has lent his name to roads in Rajkot and Bhavnagar as well.
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