(Written by Vaishnavi Dandekar)
Mumbai was once home to one of the world’s longest-running magnetic observatories that was set up at Colaba in 1841. Later in 1904, the observatory was shifted to Alibaug to avoid electric traction effects on magnetic recordings mainly due to efforts of Dr Nanabhai Moos, its first Indian director, as per a 2015 article presented by P B Gawali, M G Doiphode and R N Ninje from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism.
The Dr Nanabhai Moos Marg, which extends from the Afghan Church to virtually the southern tip of the city, pays homage to the former director of Colaba Observatory.
Dr Nanabhai, born in 1859 to an illustrious Parsi family involved in education and commerce, did his schooling at the Elphinstone School. He then joined the Bombay Municipal Engineering Service and later went to Edinburgh for his BSc and doctorate studies. He was appointed the director of the Colaba Observatory in March 1896 after the demise of Charles Chambers, reads the paper titled ‘Colaba-Alibaug magnetic observatory and Nanabhai Moos: the influence of one over the other’ by Gawali, Doiphode and Ninje.
The paper adds, “He established a time ball observatory at Manora, Karachi (now in Pakistan), and the magnetic observatory at Alibaug (Unakar, 1936a). His treatise ‘Colaba Magnetic Data 1846-1905’, published in two volumes, attests to his analytical powers. He meticulously and accurately documented all the observations carried out at Colaba Observatory, interpreting them in his own inimitable style.”
The nearly 2-km stretch today famous for churches and important defence establishments and institutes like the Regional Meteorological Centre. Starting ahead of the Bombay Baptist Church, Dr Nanabhai Moos Road passes the Church of St John the Evangelist better known as the Afghan Church, that was built by the British to commemorate the martyrs of the first Afghan war fought between the British East India Company and the Emirate of Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842.
Further down the road is INHS Asvini, the first amongst all the Naval hospitals, that in 1756, started functioning in barracks as King’s Seamen Hospital for in-patients. Some distance ahead across the road is the St Joseph R C Church, which boasts of a parish comprising of 360 families. Mary D’Costa (43), a regular at the church, said: “It has been 13 years since I have been coming to R C Church. Walking down this lane brings a feeling of belonging towards the nation. It brings a sense of safety.”
Further down is the INS Kunjali, which was commissioned in 1954. The establishment commemorates the names of the Kunjali Marakkars, the hereditary Chiefs of the Navy of the Zamorin of Kozhikode or Calicut, in the sixteenth century.
Being home to several security establishments, several sections of the road are in the high security range where photography is prohibited. Narendra Singh, a taxi driver operating in Navy Nagar area since the past two decades, said: “The security measures here make it very difficult to drive a taxi. We are not allowed to park our taxis and wait for customers anywhere. Also, the number of people travelling to and fro is very less. Most of my rides include dropping the officers to the airport.”