(Written by Ammar Zaidi)
Hardly 100 metres from Flora Fountain as one takes a left from D N Road, there is a narrow strip that winds its way almost near Kala Ghoda parallel to D N Road but lost behind the buildings in Fort area. Earlier, called the Medows Street, the road was renamed Nagindas Master Road after the Gandhian freedom fighter, lawyer, politician and Congressman, Nagindas T Master, who was also the mayor of Bombay in 1944. He is also remembered for the important role he played during the rehabilitation process in the aftermath of the 1944 Bombay docks explosion.
Old-timers still generally refer to Nagindas Master Street as Medows Street. It was named after General Sir William Medows who was the Governor and Commander In-Chief of Bombay from 1788 to 1790. Writing about the street in his book Bombay Place — names and street-names, Samuel T Sheppard says: “He (Sir Medows) occupied the quarters assigned to the then Commanders- in-Chief, namely, a large house at the corner of Medows Street. Few names are more commonly misspelled. It is not uncommon to see printed stationery used by shopkeepers in the street on which Medows has been turned into Meadows or Meadow. Sixty years ago the Bombay Almanack used invariably to spell the name Medow, and this spelling appears in Mrs. Allen Harker’s admirable novel ‘Jan and her job’ published in 1917.”
Nagindas T Master, born in 1875, was an Indian freedom fighter and a Gandhian. He played an important part in the Civil Disobedience Movement, the Home Rule movement and the promotion of Swadeshi. City historian Deepak Rao said: “As part of the Indian freedom struggle, he had been incarcerated several times by the British. But in the aftermath the Bombay docks explosion of 1944, when the freighter S S Fort Stikine caught fire and was destroyed in two giant blasts killing over 800 people, the Britishers were forced to release him. Given the respect that he got for the social work he had done, the British were told that he would be instrumental in rehabilitation work following which he was released.”
While during the British era, Medow Street was dotted with European shops earning the nickname of Ingrez or Angrezi Bazar, Post-Independence, the road changed. The stock exchange at Dalal street, which is at a stone’s throw from Nagindas Master Road gave a whole new character to the road. There was a time when every office in all the buildings were occupied by stockbrokers, says an employee at the Eastern Industrial Syndicate, another landmark that has been selling machine tools since 1961.
But at the turn of the century as the equity market changed its dynamics with the advent of the internet, Nagindas Master Road also changed as law firms trooped in. But that is also changing, as the place is once again going through transformation. One can see a lot of franchises of popular eateries in and around N M Road – FiLLi, Pandora’s Box, Carter’s Blue and #Selfieccino to name a few. But 40-year-old Letticia who works for a stock broker says: “I still prefer the Iranian Parsi joint Café Military on N M road for its brun maska and kheema pav.” The restaurant is 80 years old and is a landmark in itself, much like the owner Behram Khosravi.
N M Road also bears testimony to Armenian settlement in Mumbai in the late 1670s. The St. Peter’s Church on N M Road is the only Armenian church in Mumbai.