September 18, 2021 2:46:15 pm
The Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) cluster redevelopment project, the largest such project in the metropolis spread across 16.5 acres in Bhindi Bazaar, will convert the congested area into one with swanky shops and highrises. However, what may also be a thing of the past is the rich history and the cultural heritage of the various lanes and bylanes that dot the neighbourhood – be it the infamous Pakmodia Street, which is better known as the area where fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim grew up, or the ‘Photo Street’, among others.
The Saifee Jubilee Street, a narrow road running parallel to Mohammad Ali Road in south Mumbai, has vendors selling shoes, children’s clothes and other knick-knacks leaving hardly any place for pedestrians to walk without bumping into a passer-by. While the vendors are still there on either side of the street, a building behind them has just been brought down. The vendors know their days here, too, are limited. “The redevelopment work has begun. We do not know how long we will be able to sell wares here,” Ishtiaq Shaikh, a street vendor who sells clothes, said.
Zubair Azmi, the convener of Urdu Markaz, said that ‘Saifee Jubilee’ was the name given to what was formerly Cooper Street by a syedna of the Dawoodi Bohra community during his visit. Even the Raudat Tahera Street was renamed from Dabboo Street by the syedna. Raudat Tahera was inaugurated by the then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed in 1975.
Another well-known street that will fall under the cluster redevelopment project is the Pakmodia Street – named after one Shaikh Abdul Pakmodia – where Dawood Ibrahim resided in his growing up years along with his family. Azmi said that the street was earlier known as Doctor Street. Samuel Sheppard in his book, Bombay Place-Names and Street-Names, writes that the street was named after Dr Khoja Abdulla of Ratnagiri and the street was earlier called Shaikh Abdul Doctor Street. Similarly, a few streets down the line, one will find Yaqub Street. It was once called the ‘Photo Galli’ since several photo studios were located along the stretch.
Another important landmark of the cultural milieu here was the Haji Hotel, which was owned by a Parsi who started out with a small stall selling biryani pulav. Azmi said that several movie stars like Nimmi and Prem Nath visited the eatery frequently. In the biography of Kamal Amrohi written by his screenwriter friend Aga Jani Kashmiri, there is a mention of how the duo shared a room above the restaurant before making it big in Bollywood.
“In the book, Kashmiri recalls how in spite of not having any money, Amrohi fulfilled his promise of treating him at the Haji Hotel. He ordered a chicken dish and the total bill at that time came to Rs 17.30. Kashmiri wondered how Amrohi was going to deal with the situation as he didn’t have any money. Amrohi, however, confidently asked the restaurant cashier to give him a change of Rs 2.70. The cashier assumed Amrohi was going to give him a Rs 20 banknote. Amrohi, however, told him to write Rs 20 against his name and swiftly left the restaurant,” Azmi said.
Apart from Haji Hotel, Hotel Aftab was a favourite of actor Mehmood, who ordered from the restaurant even after he shifted to Andheri. Alamgir Hotel in the area, too, was known to be the haunt of writer Javed Akhtar.
Azmi told The Indian Express: “A few years ago, in a meeting with the representatives of SBUT, we had told them that they should retain some of the names of these lanes. We also suggested that a cultural centre should be set up so that the rich history of the area could be preserved. The area has had a colourful history with several big writers and film personalities living here or taking inspiration from the people residing here to draw their characters.”
Today, a mall-type structure stands on Pakmodia Street next to a large skyscraper. The mall is a makeshift arrangement for shops till the time they can be given slots in the new buildings that will come up in due course. The skyscraper has shops on the first few floors with residential flats on the upper floors. The two structures stand oddly against the backdrop of the hustle and bustle and are a sign of the things to come in the next few years.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.