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Guesses range from “someone important”, “a doctor” to “a politician”, but the name Sofia Zuber does not seem to ring a bell with anyone on the nearly 500-metre stretch from the Nagpada junction to the JJ flyover junction, which houses the Nagpada police station and popular Sarvi restaurant, named after her. The road that is normally choc-a-bloc today with vehicles blowing their horns, was once the meeting point for writers and journalists, old timers say. Professor Abdus Sattar Dalvi, director of the Anjuman-e-Islam Urdu Research Institute, said Sofia was attached to the civic corporation as the education superintendent for the Urdu language.
“Back then — in the 50’s — there were education superintendents affiliated to the civic body for each language. Sofia Zuber was the superintendent for Urdu. Before her, the post was held by others like writer Ismat Chughtai,” Dalvi said. “Zuber was quite passionate about women’s education and worked in that area. She successfully contested the civic elections and was a corporator from Nagpada. She was well-known back in the day due to which the road was named after her.”
Senior Urdu journalist Saeed Hameed, who worked at a newspaper which had its office on the road for several decades, said, “Ever since I remember, that road has this name. One of the things that drew a lot of people there, especially writers, journalists and actors, is the Sarvi restaurant and its famous seekh kabab. The nearby Madanpura area was a Communist party stronghold and there were several mushairas here, too. Hence, several writers like Ali Sardar Jafri and Kaifi Azmi who would come to the area, would visit Sarvi. Even actor Dilip Kumar is known to have a soft-corner for the seekh-kebab served here. It was also a famous meeting spot of the journalists working for the nearly seven Urdu evening dailies that were published from the area at one point.”
Hameed adds that the Khada Parsi statue, located near the Byculla flyover, once stood tall at the Nagpada junction at the beginning of the Sofia Zuber Road. “Earlier, it was called the Khada Parsi junction,” Hameed added.
Right across the Sarvi restaurant is the Nagpada police station, one of the oldest ones in the city. As one goes further down the road, one comes across the Nagpada police hospital, one of the first police hospitals in Mumbai. Jews and Iranians like actress Florence Ezekiel Nadira, better identified as Nadira, also lived on the road once.
Another landmark on the road is the Nagpada Neighbourhood House (NNH) that has a church, school and a playground further ahead. ” Basketball is quote popular at the playground there because of which several children from the area have done well in basketball,”Hameed added. Aslam Shaikh, who works at the tailoring shop on the road said, ” The major problem on the road is the traffic. Because the road connects to the north end of the JJ flyover, the area has become like a bottle-neck. When one rides on the street, one has to wait for a long time as traffic police gives more priority to clearing the traffic coming from the JJ flyover.”