There is a legend in Kasarwadavli village, located on the fringes of Thane city off Ghodbunder Road, of a beggar’s curse. Originally inhabited by Kasaars, a community that made and sold brass utensils in the colonial era, the demographics of the village were altered after the Kasaars made fun of a beggar, the legend goes.
The village, nearly 45 km from Mumbai, recently hit headlines after Hasnain Warekar, 35, killed 14 members of his family and then hanged himself at is bungalow here.
Idris Patel, a local, says, “We don’t know how true the story is, but everyone in the village has heard it at least once since childhood. The beggar had apparently come asking for food, but the villagers instead handed him some red-hot equipment used for making utensils.
Burnt and angry, the beggar cursed the Kasaars that their community would be wiped out. And in some time, locals believe, the original inhabitants of this village simply disappeared and their place was taken over by our forefathers.”
Till 20 years ago, Kasarwadavli was almost isolated, with just one state transport bus serving it. Now, it is a rapidly urbanising pocket, thanks to Ghodbunder Road, the arterial connection between Thane and Borivli.
“I remember travelling to Teen Hath Naka junction in Thane in a State Transport bus for 30 annas. That was 30 years ago,” says 65-year-old Patel. In those days, autorickshaws would refuse to ply to Kasarwadavli, fearing ghosts and leopards. There were neither street lights in this part of Thane nor many people. “Now, nearly 500 people from the village drive autorickshaws,” says Patel.
Kasarwadavli has large pockets of Konkani Muslims and locals from the Agri tribe. Hindus and Muslims have co-existed in peace for several generations.
“We celebrate festivals together, be it Diwali or Eid,” says another rsident. But Noor Bhai, a resident of the locality, says there was rceent anxiety over the announcement of a congregation to be held in the village by a Muslim proselytising group that espouses orthodox customs.
“We are Muslims who go to dargahs, while that group thinks it is wrong to do so. These have been our customs for centuries,” Noor Bhai says.
“If they are allowed once, they would try to convert our people. Hence we went to the Kasarwadavli police station requesting them not to allow the group,” Noor continues.
Hasnain Warekar, incidentally, was part of this group that approached the local police opposing activities by ultra-orthodox groups.
Sajjad Bharmal, another old-timer, says that the coming up of the Ghodbunder Road has led to tremendous change in Kasarwadavli. The children now study in Thane schools and colleges and are moving to other professions from farming, the traditional occupation of the locals.
“Everyone here has some farm land. Now, many are selling the land as the next generation is moving away to the service industry,” Bharmal says.
There is also palpable cultural change, with plush highrises coming up within just a kilometre of the village. Right opposite the village is a large sporting goods outlet, a mall and a lounge-bar.
“These are things we never saw while growing up. It was an inward looking village and we did not have as much exposure to the outside world. Now, apart from these changes, there is also 24X7 television that our children are hooked on to,” Bharmal says.
The locals believe the change has been welcome, mostly.
“In a way it is good that our children are going out and seeing the world. But what happened to Hasnain it really scares us.
He was the role model and we would tell our children to emulate him as he had studied well, did his master’s and got a good job. Now we’re wondering if all the exposure did him in,” Bharmal muses.
Have a comment or suggestion for Postcard from a Mumbai Village? Write to email@example.com with subject line: Postcard From A Mumbai Village