What’s in a name: Mumbai roads to wear badges explaining their history

Laburnum Road in Gamdevi will get a sign with the story behind its name this week.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Ever wondered what the story was behind a certain road’s name? Then here is some good news. A group of heritage experts and a couple of enthusiastic citizens has approached the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to put up boards next to road signs explaining the story behind the road’s name. The BMC will first try out this idea on four roads in south Mumbai, and the signs will be inaugurated later this week.

City roads are usually named after a prominent personality, freedom fighter, national leader, or a prominent structure in the vicinity. Many Mumbai roads that were named after British authorities were renamed after Independence. Some were also renamed after the Samyukta Maharashtra movement. Many Mumbaikars do not know the relevance of the name of the road they are living on.

Keeping this in mind, two residents, Pereena Lamba and Sukhnandan Vohra, along with Khaki Tours conceptualised the Mumbai Street Badges initiative. The additional signs, with a brief history of the road’s name, will be identical in shape, size and colour to the existing road signs.

As a pilot project, the D ward office is taking up the initiative on Laburnum Road, Pandita Ramabai Road, Cirrus Avenue and Vachha Gandhi Marg. The new signs will be inaugurated on February 28.

V.P. Mote, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, D ward, said, “We are trying to give people civic information as well as add cultural and historical value. For example, children may not know who Pandita Ramabai was. We will give brief information on the street’s old and new names.”

Vaccha Gandhi Marg in Gamdevi will get a sign with the story behind its name this week.

Vaccha Gandhi Marg in Gamdevi will get a sign with the story behind its name this week.   | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Ms. Lamba, who has written a children’s book on Mumbai, said the signs would be a free, accessible way for people to learn about a road’s history. “We were working on a book regarding street names and thought, why keep the information only in the book? Why not take it to the streets themselves, so that it is much more accessible for people to find out their old name and connect with people they are named after,” she said.

Khaki Tours helped Ms. Lamba and Ms. Vohra find the authentic information on these road names. For example, Laburnum Road, which houses Mani Bhavan, takes its name from the non-native Laburnum trees planted along the street. It was named after the trees almost a century ago, and still retains the name.

According to the team, Cirrus Avenue was probably named after Siris/Shirish/Albizia lebbeck or Mimosa lebbeck, a popular flowering tree planted on roads. Vachha Gandhi Marg was named after the Modi Sorabji Vachhagandhi Agiary on this road. The agiary was built in 1858 by descendants of Seth Modi Hirji Vachha, who built the first tower of silence in Malabar Hill in 1672.

Bharat Gothoskar, founder of Khaki Tours, said, “We want to familiarise people with next-door history. The idea is to instil a sense of pride and ownership in them about their city. We are hoping to expand this project further.”

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 1:41:53 PM |

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