Three years after the South Indian Concerns,a restaurant and famous hub for all South Indians in Matunga,pulled down its shutters,Arjun Ganapathy,a journalist with Tamil daily Dinakaran,says he is still nostalgic. Back in the 1990s,when I used to travel to Bombay from Chennai,my stay was always in Concerns. Here I could take a room and get two meals for less than Rs 1,000 per day. Besides,the aroma of rich filter coffee wafting in the air every morning,the traditional meals served on plantain leaves and classic South Indian dishes,used to keep me close to home.
Concerns,which began in 1938 as a boarding and eating house for bachelors,fast became the favourite of visiting South Indians,who could get rooms and meals for just Rs 17. Meals were traditional Tamil delicacies like vatakozambu (a tamarind-based sambhar),parupu podi (a power made of dals) rice,rasam,sambhar,and moru (buttermilk),found nowhere else in the city.
According to Gopala Sundaresan,chairman and managing director of Concerns,which still runs a hotel service but for much higher rates,Till the 1980s Matunga was called bachelors paradise and Concerns was the place that housed them. However,later as the share business grew in the city,it became the hub for a lot of businessmen and investors. A number of illegal roadside stalls selling cheap masala dosas and idlis began to flourish. Concerns couldnt keep up and we had to shut the restaurant in 2005.
For many like Ganapathy,the closing down of Concerns is the ending of an era. Today everything has changed in Mumbai. We dont get the familiar homely feeling here anymore. Its all professional, rues Ganapathy.
Strangely enough,Ganapathys feelings are echoed in diverse locations by diverse people.
At Pali Village,off Ambedkar Road in Bandra,60-year-old Joe Periera sits in the verandah of his old gaothan structure,Basil House. We have fought to keep our little wadi intact so far,but all around us,we see high-rises mushrooming and that worries us. Builders are soon going to eye our area and we are concerned if wed be able to stop the change then, Periera says,
While Pali Village has still been preserved,areas like Chium Village,Hill Road have already seen a redevelopment boom. Periera also laments the end of an era in Bandra,where Christmas seemed like celebration in Goa and Sunday afternoons like a lazy vacation time.
From Dadars quaint Parsi Colony to other cultural ghettos like Mohammed Ali Road and Bhendi Bazar,change is quickly diluting an age-old ethos,the old Bombays flagship hangouts for intellectual stimulus are quickly making way for assembly line malls and multiplexes.
At Gamdevi,one of the oldest cultural hubs of South Mumbai,the redevelopment story is the same. Flanked by historic buildings like Mani Bhavan and the Bharatiya Vidyapeeth,the region holds a special place in the citys history. Madhu Shetye,a former corporator from Gamdevi,says,The area was once a mix of the intellectual population and the Maharashtrian middle-class. Today,it is seeing an ethnic cleansing with highrises coming up and only the rich being able to afford them.