Rediscovering Mazagon through a book

Mazagon has a ubiquitous influence on Mumbai even as elite suburbs such as Byculla and Malabar Hill emerged with passing years.

None can pass over the history of the archipelago. Now Captain Ramesh Babu, a former Project Director National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding, Kozhikode, has brought out a book on the forgotten history of Mazagon.

Titled My Own Mazagon, the book attempts to discover for the general reader the history of the island that once upon a time had its own identity, inhabited by Kolis, Bhandaris and other natives. “Mazagon goes beyond the era when it grew mangoes for the Mughals. Under the Portuguese and subsequently falling into the hands of the British, Mazagon retained its geographical identity for two more centuries with its fort, dock, churches and gunpowder factory,” Capt. Babu, who is retiring on July 31, after an engineering career in Indian Navy and Mazagon Docks for four decades, says.

He says that it was from Mazagon that Eliza, the muse of a romantic novelist eloped, and steamers sailed to sell cotton and opium. “It is in Mazagon that a hanging garden was built, and an East Indian Gaothan came up. It is here that Christian Missionaries set up churches and schools, and an unlikely Nawab built a mosque and a tank. It is also here that Aga Khan, Rattanbai Jinnah and Meenakumari were laid to rest,” he says.

Despite losing its importance after Mazagon emerged into a single entity of Bombay, Capt. Babu says many Englishmen and Indian businessmen constructed their bungalows in these verdant estates along with places of worship, schools, hotels and other institutions. “They connected Mazagon to the rest of their ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’ with tramways and railways and extensively reclaimed the waterfront to expand the dock and harbour to berth and build many ships,” he says.

Mazagon also opened the place to multiple communities, making it the most proletarian part of Bombay. “Kolis, East Indians, Bohras, Sunnis, Shias, Sindhis, Marwaris, Marathas, Parsis, Jains, South Indians, Chinese and even Baha'is live here in their little pockets, in complete harmony with each other. The book is my parting gift to Mumbai,” Capt. Babu, notes.

My own Mazagon will be jointly released by Vice Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Western Naval Command, Vice Admiral Narayan Prasad, (Retd.), CMD Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited and Govind Tekale who was Capt. Babu’s teacher at Sainik School, Kazhakoottam in the 1970s.

After serving in Kozhikode for five years, Capt. Babu published Calicut Heritage Trails at the Kerala Literature Festival in 2020.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 12:59:49 PM |

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