Interview with Pramod Navalkar: The Charming Fascist
Director: Madhusree Dutta
Duration: 00:55:33; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 22.831; Saturation: 0.228; Lightness: 0.470; Volume: 0.263; Cuts per Minute: 0.216; Words per Minute: 94.262
Summary: Interview with Pramod Navalkar. Interviewer Yuvaraj Mohite (YM) and Madhusree Dutta (MD).
Pramod Navalkar was (he died in 2007) a first rank leader of Shivsena, a party which forefronted the demand of marking Mumbai essentially for the Marathi speaking people. The party, in recent past, has indulged in various violent activities against the ‘outsiders’ from other parts of the country. So far Shivsena have won only one assembly election and shared the power with BJP (a national party with communal lineage) in 1994-99. During that stint Pramod Navalkar was the Minister for cultural affairs and he initiated various schemes for the development of the city. His pet schemes involved making public parks for the citizens and then inserting a wide gap on the benches – in order to discourage couples to get too intimate. Dislocating the hawkers and the sex workers from the sea beach and appointing vigilant squads to stop eve teasing. Initiating programme to aid development of Marathi language and banning performances of artists from Pakisthan. The list is long and as charismatic as the leader! Pramod Navalkar was a member of Pathare Prabhu, the community which is believed to be one of the earliest settlers of Bombay. However while speaking against the ‘outsider’ many Pathare Prabhus tend to forget that they too came from Gujarat in 13th century and originally is not part of Marathi lineage. Pramod was a socialist before joining the right wing politics. He was also a writer, researcher and a cityphile. The interview was conducted in order to understand the pattern of migration and the root of the identity politics in this region.
Raja Bimb migrated to Mumbai with the whole community of Pathare Prabhu. Nothing much is known about the community before migrating to Mumbai. The term Pathare Prabhu has many genesis. One among them is 'clerk' to the British.
YM: What is the history of Pathare Prabhus?
PN: Pathere Prabhu's history goes 700 years back. People generally believe history, because no one has gone back to check things. Some say we came here with Raja Bimb. Who Bimb Raja, I don't know. But 250-300 years old proofs are available. Pather Prabhus have built a LOT OF temples. They have houses with history of 250-300 yrs. That is why we have to believe that this community has a history of at least 250-300 yrs. What we did in these 300 yrs I don't know. Once upon a time Girgaon was called Palav. Prabhu who comes from this Palav. Another thing is we were used to work under the British – Prabhu means clerk, Because we wasted our life working for the British, lot of people used to call us Pathare Prabhus. Many of this community were close to the British, in the East India company.
East India company
white collar job
Behind S K Patil Udyan
Sanyukta Maharashtra movement
united Maharashtra movement
But one thing I must mention is that this is a very honest community. Two communities from Bombay who are known for their honesty are the Parsis and the Pathare Prabhus. Till about 10-15 years ago, the keys to the reserve Bank treasury was with a Pathare Prabhu called Pradhan and he used to live in that corner of this building. And even today, we have kept up this tradition – usually a Pathare Prabhu does not touch anybody's money.
Another specialty of this community is that we are educated. You will not find a Pathare Prabhu who is illiterate. The reason for this is that - the problem of not being able to afford education, which was the reality of other communities, was not applicable to us. The reason for this is the charity that our ancestors have done. The buildings, temples and many endowments – the important among that is that when a Pathare Prabhu is naked and does not have money to eat, we give him clothes, Rs. 200/- month, his medical expenses, education expenses, even expenses for foreign education .. upto 5/6 lakhs. Even to reside - we still have places whose rent is Rs. 200/- a month. Do you know what the lowest rent is? 5 rupees to 50 paise. Q: even now? PN: Yes even now. In Satara there is a dharmashaala (refuge/shelter home)…. In the respect of charity every year some 2-3 lakhs are collected. The vision. of our ancestors has to be applauded as in those times they thought about the 20th century when Pathare Prabhus might not have enough money.
Pathare Prabhus are generally trusted with financial matters. The close proximity to the rulers, early migration to the city and responsibility of the treasury over the years could have accumulated to the feeling among the Pathare Prabhus that they are they natural guardian of Bombay / Mumbai. One of their major contribution to the city is building temples all over. As a close knit community there has also been bonhomie and brotherhood.
reserve bank of india
Our second speciality is that we eat a lot. We have a lot of dishes and in every dish we want fish. If you want proof that Pathare Prabhu and Kolis came to Bombay from the beginning come to my house to eat. Apart from rice, in every dish, even vegetables, we want fish. A Pathare Prabhu when he wakes up, does not go to the temple, he goes to the fish market. This visit is very important. In the morning meeting other Pathare Prabhus in the market, then discussion about who got son, who died etc. fish market is a proper meeting point. Then institutions – theatre, other arts. Relief funds, charities… Pathare Prabhu Social Samaj – very important - every Saturday there is a speech, minutes of meetings are kept.
Pathare Prabhus are known to be connoisseur of food.
History of a relocated community is difficult to determine.
YM: In your speech 2-3 things came up, one thing is tradition, clerkship etc. The reference that is found in mythology – Ashwapati got cursed by Bhrugu Rishi and when asked for forgiveness, Bhrugu rishi told Ashwapati that in your next birth you will do clerkship…(interruption-camera)
PN: Can I tell you something? Pathare Prabhus and Saraswat Brahmins have all these references and you don't know whether to accept them or not. They are contradictory. YM: that means history has recorded wrong things? PN: History has different records I don't know which one to follow.
PN believes that in history faith and beliefs are more useful than facts. No wonder his party focuses on various myths and rumors in their programme and campaigns.
YM: Patane Prabhu and Pathare Prabhu…
PN: Yes it is said they came from Patan. They also say we came from Patan, some say we are ancestors of Bimba Raja. One cannot accept everything. See with history, you also need faith only then it is accepted as history. Even for Shivaji Maharaj if you ask small small details then…(cant be heard) The same applies to Ramayan and to Mahabharat.. That is why who accepts which history, one cannot say…but no one has recorded history of Pathare Prabhus like that.
YM: A baadh (document) has been found…
Affinity to the colonial British during the initial days of the city brought fortune to the Pathare Prabhu community. They owned large tracks of land in those days. According to PN alliance with the British was a strategy. Nationalism and allegiance to the colonial master were not mutually exclusive and some pioneer Pathare Prabhus could blend the both in their public life.
YM: Apart from clerkship what were the other professions followed by Pathare Prabhus?
PN: 80% were clerks. Apart from that they were property owners. Goregaon, half of Andheri and Palav (Girgaon) was ours. We had lot of lands. Velkars had the whole of Borivli and Mahalaxmi was also ours. Even now mangoes and coconuts come from the Velkar property. (YM),, You were close to East India company… PN: But with East India company most were clerks. And quite comfortable living. But yet we were good workers, we managed to build a good rapport with the British. Our important member such as Babashankar Seth and Babasaheb Jaikar they had dual vision. There was a commitment to our own people and they also thought that for our own survival in Hindusthan we must have healthy working relationship with the British.
Building of nationalist institutions and symbols. Bal Gangadhar Tilak started festival of worshopping Ganesh (Ganapati) as a strategy to mobilize Indian youth around the issue of independence and self rule.
(YM… still to be with the British…)
PN: Why did I take Babasaheb Jaykar's name:..
Babasaheb was… though he was a learned Bramhin everybody in the street had access to him. All his property was donated to academic institutions. Interestingly when he started academic institutions in Mumbai, around the same time Lokmanya Tilak started Ganeshutsav. Inspite of being from Pune he started Ganeshutsav at Girgaon which went on to became an institution… its great.
According to PN the city begun its civilization with the arrival of the Pathare Prabhus.
YM: when you came to Mumbai did you bring your own culture here or adopted the culture here.
PN: Culture here…? What culture? We were the only ones…Koli and Agri…and so we have cultivated our culture. Even our recipes you will not find in any cookbooks.
YM: But you got these culture with you or developed here?
PN: Little must have come but here it became richer.
MD… may I.. I want to… I can follow what you are saying… 400 years ago Pathare Prabhus came here and you are saying this land had no culture because there was nobody except the Kolis. But this land was also becoming a city. So a city culture is coming up in the history of India. So how Pathare Prabhus are settling here and how the city culture is developing here, if you can talk a little bit about that…
How the city emerged through various initiatives, interventions and cultivation.
PN (in English): It was not only Pathare Prabhus who developed this city. There were others like Chandavarkars and others. Some years ago, about 120 years back, even university was not there. Now Kamlabai Vaidya -who was a Pathare Prabhu - in those days no girls were going to school... she would collect 9-10 girls, bring them to my lane and that is how the first school started. The university also …many others like Chandavarkars and others also contributed. But there were not only Pathare Prabhus, many others…so upgradation of culture was done by many others but we had our lion's share in that. The school that is across the road was built 140 years ago. So gradually it developed you know, and then from the other side market also developed, being a port there was import areas, export areas, then market developed. But basically were concentrated in these areas and in Khar. You would not find Pathare Prabhus, in those days, in any other area. We were concentrated only in these two locations.
According to Navalkar Pathare Prabhus cultivated what today is known as culture in this city – arts, entertainments, festivals, celebrations….
YM: This community is said to be very enthusiastic about festival and how did this community develop while the urbanization of Mumbai was happening?
PN: In Mumbai all culture – earlier plays – 80% audience was Pathare Prabhus. In plays –drama, auditorium were patronised by Pathare Prabhus. Then Parties, thread ceremony, munjo, marriages… our weddings are always lavish, all these rituals, festivals celebrated by Pathare Prabhus.. these social functions are cultivated by Pathare Prabhus.
He bypassed any mention of the practice of animal sacrifice to the goddess – but a bit self consciously. Why? Is it because this practice resembles a ritual among Muslim – a custom Shivsena, his party, has been vehemently campaigning against. Instead he ran through the numerous temples that Pathare Prabhus have built in Mumbai.
YM: For your engagement ceremonies, people used to cut goats and offer the blood to some goddess?
PN: No, not for engagements… maybe just for a feast. We consume the goat's mutton…. (YM: …and then you offer the blood?) yaah… maybe… but these days no blood is offered to any goddess. But we have a lot of temples – Mahalaxmi, Ekvira. All these temples we have built. In south Mumbai, all temples from Mahlaxmi to Prabhadevi are all ours. Even today, Pathare Prabhus have built a colony in Khar. There is a Pathare Prabhu colony - 52 bungalows in Khar, and the rule is that if you sell the bungalow you have to sell it to a Pathare Prabhu.
YM: Nobody else is allowed?
PN: No, it is a Pathare Prabhu co-operative society
M F Hussain, the artist who has been prosecuted by Shivsena for blasphemy, had gifted a painting to Pramod Navalkar in 1997, when he was the minister for cultural affairs. Strange, or maybe very simple ways of politics.
PN (to Madhu): I will tell you something? This chair is more than 250 years old, not even a nail is worn. This table even if all of you try to move it, it will not move.
This is our great artist M.F. Hussain. (showing some frames in the cubbard which is off frame) He came here one day … and gave it to me… Sri Pramod Navalkarji… he came in 1997…
YM: He made it there and then?
PN: Yes, he just made it and kept it there.
<a href="">Fish and Phoenix
An affluent unban community with a cultivated taste in good living.
YM: This community just needs a reason to celebrate. Has this feature changed with time?
PN: At the beginning as this community was small, we used to meet each other, all of us were in one place. When one finishes they are already searching for the next festival. One reason for this is that they were very well off. During Diwali (festival of lights) do you know about these chain of firecrackers - that was first started by Pathare Prabhus. The whole of Palav used to be lit with these chains during Diwali. And Rangoli (floor decoration pattern), our women are experts at rangoli. So there is no question about this celebration streak among us. Later as the richness decreased this streak became less but it has not gone altogether
YM: Has there been changes in women's clothing, outlook etc.?
PN: They have become much more social. They move around in larger groups. Earlier there were more domesticated. We have become minority now. (YM: minority?)
PN: Because we, men are less in number. Women are more.
Pathare Prabhus are insular as far as political and movements are concerned. They are typical petty bourgeois people with a focus only on self enrichment.
YM: Altogether Pathare Prabhus stand for suave, celebratory….etc.
PN: Yes happy-go lucky…
YM: …then in all these how did they interact with the movements going on in Mumbai?
PN: They were a little separate from the movements. They did not enter the flow of movements, nor did they stop their own progress. But in the field of education, Pathare Prabhus are very progressive.Where there is so much illiteracy in the country Pathare Prabhu are all well educated… doctor, lawyers etc. Boys, girls everybody has post or other.
white collar professional
Inspite of the hectic social life Pathare Prabhus, in general, remains insular and aloof in the political scenario of Mumbai.
YM: One of the main characteristics of Mumbai is change. Have Pathare Prabhus participated in that struggle for change?
PN: Participated means .. did not really get carried away. The essence of Pathare Prabhu culture was maintained… at any given time you will still find 10/15 pagdis (headgear) in the house to tie. Whenever there is a wedding in somebody's house they come and take pagdis from us. Pride in tradition… Our cultural tradition is protected… not like others whose culture is compromised. Ours is immersed in tradion… we must have our set ways of appearance.. hair do, jewelery, draping of saree… all old style still maintained. YM: Men also wear jewelry? PN: no.. only necklace and rings..
Social reforms such widow remarriage, inter-caste marriage were vehemently resisted by Pathare Prabhus,. Though PN claims situations have completely altered by now,
YM: Moroba Vijaykar supported widow re-marriages, but nobody in the community supported him, they went against him.
PN: Widow remarriage!… even inter-caste marriages created a storm. till reformed happened about 50 years ago. When a girl from K.V. Vasudev's family married inter-caste at that time, it was written – that the wedding is a funeral, this girl is dead, In last 50 years slowly it changed. Now we have surpassed the Parsees. Now among us there are Catholics, Muslims, Parsees… everybody. our girls go everywhere, some even married and settled in London.
inter caste marriage
Fifty years back popular Shaheer (Bard) Amar Sheikh, who was also an active left political activist, married a Pathare Prabhu girl which created serious upheaval.
YM: What about when Shaheer Amar Sheikh married a girl from your community there were hue and cry.
PN: 50 years back thing were different. But in these 50 years the way we have progressed we have left all communities far behind us. But 50 years back the situation did not allow our boys and girl marry outside. We had a pride, the status of Pathare Prabhu… also all the privileges were always available only for the Pathare Prabhus. I remember within my relations there was a girl from a very rich and cultured family married somebody from another caste there was like mourning, going to the wedding seems like funeral – we are that bitter. Amar Sheikh was our son-in-law, we had given our daughter to him, but other people came and questioned us. We could not help it, nor did we oppose, so the alliance took place. Now it has become common practice for boys and girls to choose their own partners. We are very forward … 30/40 families live abroad and they marry whover… now we cant even remember who is a Pathare Prabhu..
shaheer amar sheikh
At one point Pramod Navalkar himself had written satirical pieces against orthodoxy of the Bramhins. But today he does not want that to be discussed and instead wants to talk yet again about the numerous Pathare Prabhu funded temples. Seems the piosity of building temples is the answer for several uncomfortable topic.
YM: You have teased Brahmins a lot…"Var Ghoda" custom..
PN: Its better not to keep this topic here… (deliberately changes topic) But we have a lot of customs which we have still kept alive. Even Brahmins will not do so much, if there is Satyanarayan puja, then the whole Satyanarayan has to be read. We take care of our gods and we keep them going. All temples, Prabhadevi, Mahalaxmi, Kandevadi all temples are of Pathare Prabhus. Other than these there is no temple culture in Mumbai's development planning. The one in Parel is ours, the one in front of Andheri station is also ours. We maintain our religion. We also keep a lot of fasts. We maintain prohibition on stipulated days. No restriction on eating but only vegetarian food. There are special items made on those days for the whole family. My wife still follows the recipe of our ancestors.
After migrating to coastal Mumbai from the dry land of Gujarat Pathare Prabhus have developed the local habit of fish eating. PN claims cordiality with the local fisherfolks – Kolis.
YM: How has fish become the main food item in your food?
PN: yes. We only have fish…
YM: but how has it come to be so?
PN: In Mumbai you get only fish and people. What grows in Mumbai? Onion? Coriander? Everything comes from outside. In Mumbai only fish and human beings grow. What else could we eat then. That is why we had a lot of relation with the fishing community.
Q: The dishes of Kolis and Pathare Prabhus are similar…
PN: yes a little bit. We like spicy, and curry. But we have a lot more relation. If a fisherwoman comes to my house, she will not just sell fish and go. She will chat, if there is a wedding in her house, we will go and vice versa. Agris were not so close to us but kolis and Pathare Prabhu have close co-operation.
<a href="">Bar girls and Bobby no 1.
Fish and fish markets seem to be not only a matter of food and cuisine, but a central cultural issue, for Pathare Pravhus and other Marathi communities. Also the fish markets are the economic spine for Marathi speaking Koli (fisherfolks) community who are the original inhabitant of the islands of Bombay since the pre-urbanisation era. But in last one decade there have been several instances of rich Gujarati community who are vegetarian fanatics, aggressively campaigning and lobbying for closing down the fish markets and restaurants serving non-vegetarian food in several parts of the city. The campaign is sponsored by the rightwing party BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) who advocates a Hindu state structure for India. BJP and Shivsena are steady political allies since last two decades. This is an iconic case of clash of interest between regional fanaticism and religious fanaticism along the class line (BJP supporter Gujaratis are rich traders and Shivsena vote bank Kolis are working class). Will these ever develop into a serious crisis in the identity politics and its opportunist alliances in the country? According to PN these socalled non-vegetarian supporters of BJP eat all sorts of prohibited (read fish and meat) things in clandestine.
YM: So fish market is the first thing in the morning…
PN: Yeah even before the adulation.
YM: So what about this whole movement against fish markets?
PN: I was the first to go against that. Vegetarian Societies, what nonsense. If you don't want to eat something go away from that place. Among Marathi people most of them eat fish, how can you talk about Vegetarian Societies. I have written against this and also spoken against it in the Vidhan Sabha (state assembly). But due to some political reasons, this had not been curbed.
YM: but in state politics your allied party is supporting this removal of fish markets…
PN: I don't know what trip the allies are on, but the allied party is also a little quieter now. They went after some hotels, restaurants… even the vegetarian ones, what nonsense! YM: … that is our Culture!
PN: Our allies don't eat meat(!), but meet me in markets and then they eat those things in hotels!
YM: So these are political pretensions!
PN: Yaah, that's it!
Pramod Navalkar believes that
the real estate price in Mumbai has reached a ridiculous scale and ordinary Marathi people are lured into selling their homes and shifting out of Mumbai. In the flow of discussion he slipped into admitting that non-Marathi people are not elbowing out the Marathis from Mumbai. Rather Marathis are voluntarily shifting out for simple monetary gains. Strangely, this is not his official position in public life where his party routinely unleash violent attack on non-Marathi speaking citizens for depriving Marathi people from jobs and other opportunities.
YM: But in the context of all these, the structure of Mumbai…
PN: Mumbai, what we know as Mumbai, I am going to say something bad… will remain Mumbai only till 2025. YM: After that? PN: Mumbai is finished…The reason for this is that Marathi people have become greedy. They don't want community houses but flat, then not flat a house in Korthrud. the displacement that has been happening in Mumbai for the third time. The first time it happened, between 1965-70. I sold my room for 6 lakhs and bought a flat in Andheri for 2 lakhs and kept the 4 lakhs in bank and got a good deposit for it. I sell my flat in Andheri for 24 lakhs now and go to Pune in Kothrud. This is the kind of thing that has been happening. The economics of this is quite bad. And in the history of Mumbai, whatever you say about non-Marathi people, no one has driven the Marathi people away from Mumbai, they are going out of their own wish. Then slowly the character of the city has started collapsing, employment potential has started collapsing.
Phoenix mill is part of the textile mills village, Girangaon. Most of the original 84 mills employing more than 200,000 workers have closed down and the reserved lands for industrial development are being sold/leased out for consumer market and service industry. Navalkar's party which have grown into significance riding on the wave of regional sentiment never effectively opposed the closure of textile mills (which rendered hundreds of thousands of Marathi workers jobless) and subsequent sale of the reserved land. Even now while talking about the real estate menace, Navalkar shifts the conversation towards issues of sexual morality (his pet subject) of female consumers and decline to talk about the economic issues.
The picture of Phoenix mills… its so horrible, I can't believe it. At 3 or 4 in the morning scantily dressed girls come out, their feet are totally unsteady. At about 4.30 in the morning a girl.. must be around 25/26 years old, come out from Pheonix mill, clothes are all disheveled… don't know she was coming from some bar or dance, feet not stable. All taxi drivers started enticing her, but she still had the sense to not enter a taxi. 4.30 in the morning she was thinking of ways to go home. Suddenly there was light in a shop. Fortunately for her it was dairy, She went there… I was little far, so I did not hear what she said to him… but she picked up the milk vessel and poured the milk on herself. This has become the culture… very sad.
code of conduct
Navalkar describes Mumbai as a relay race. Every few hours it hands over the charge to a new set of people with different textures, words and orientation. Every lane and every square in the city displays its plurality in every few hours and the show goes on round the clock. Is this the same person, who only a few years back as a minister of cultural affairs, wanted to flatten Mumbai into regimented homogeneity?
Q: What is your say on old Bombay…
PN: Old Bombay… it is the only, I am not exaggerating, it is the one and only city in the whole world, which never sleeps. With cricket… in Mumbai the game of kho kho (a game of rotation/relay) happens everyday. During the day, one Mumbai is awake, at night it gives kho (hand over the charge in relay game) to another Mumbai. This goes on for one hour, I can talk about it in detail which would take the whole day. From then till 8 is one Mumbai is awake .At 8,it the second Mumbai Before it goes to bed, it gives kho to the bhaiyas from Jogeshwari. then that bhaiya goes to the cowshed and gets his milk.Then he gives kho to the bhaiyas who come to our doorstep…the ones that sell the milk They bring container after container of milk, till it's 4.30 am., that bhaiya then goes to the station and gives kho to the station-master. So the railways awaken. Like this, for each hour one after the other, this scenario is playing out. For 24 hours. you can record what happens every hour. Not just every hour, but at every naka (street corner) Thakurdwar naka or Girgaon naka,its different at 9am and different at 10 .I have been there many times, at 9 people are different, the language differs, their topics of discussion are different. We can immediately recognize what he is talking about.Then at 10 ,all the office going public arrives. There is this place ill take you, at 2am, you will not find any place to sit. There is complete chaos. There is no city like this in the world.
All this about bar bala (girls who dance in bars), a news item had come. Bar balas had taken out a morcha (procession), till today I have not heard prostitutes taking out a morcha. And how many bar balas were there in the morcha? 60,000. I don't know how the number is so big. Are there our girls also among them? Everything has gone.
<a href="">Cleaning up Chowpatty
Here comes the moral police part of Navalkar's interesting persona. He is referring to the ongoing case of attempt to ban dancing in bars and eateries in Maharashtra. (In 2005 the state govt. announced the ban which rendered approximately 70,000 women jobless. The ban is being challenged by the Bar dancers' union and other women's rights and citizens' groups. The legal wing of Majlis is representing the Bar dancers' union in courts. Our central argument is right to livelihood, performance and sexuality) Navalkar, who believes that women in entertainment industries are essentially immoral and thus not entitled to citizens' rights, only hoping that the bar dancers are 'others' and not from his community.
YM: From geographical aspect…
PN: Considering all aspects I must say something – that police are doing their duty very well. You may cruse them but I will not - they are guarding our city. In London what they call them… Bobby… they are suppose to be no 1 in the world .Now Bobby is no. 2 is no 1 is Mumbai Police.
The pride in police force which would protect all structures of hegemony!
The tower built for police bandobast(preparation) for Ganpati (annual festival of the elephant-god) One officer asked for leave to go immerse his own ganpati, despite seeing Bombay's best procession below him. Just see the dedication. They have to do 18 hours duty for these VIP'sThey make your life miserable. Past few years, police have been doing non police duty,at the behest of the BMC, providend fund,filing etc. soon you'll have them collecting taxes also.You wont find police like this anywhere. You and I are secured today only because of the police.
Opera house, Bombay
The old city is gone. As a common phenomena in third world metropolises, Mumbai is always being built: old structures to new buildings, flyovers upon roads, settlements over settlements, malls over markets and so on. Part of it is the need to cope with new demand and part is for the benefit of private construction industry. Interestingly while remembering the good old days, Navalkar could not mentioning the areas where sex trade was flourishing. The red light area where organized sex work used to take place, has been destroyed. As a result the sex workers are now spread all over the city and forced into anonymity which have made them further vulnerable to violence and exploitation.
YM: what do you find different in Mumbai of that time geographically…in maps etc.
PN: Now there is no map remaining. What was there before? Girgaon, where people lived and Girangaon. In my childhood I remember from Goregaon to Malad we had to travel by bullock cart. What was Dadar? Dadar was vadis (large community houses) before, even now some are there, you should shoot them. Girangaon was there. Fort area, had established and privileged prostitution business. Churchill bldg, Hitler building, Wodehouse bldg, Pasta lane 1, Pasta lane 2, these areas were where all the prostitutes were. And as soon as the boats came they would gather and take them (the sailors) away. I have seen this with my own eyes. But what is going on now is something else. Its huge. Taj hotel, Nariman point, there was nothing. What was Ballard Pier? There was just a pavement and the sea, nothing else. Now everything is gone. But some things are there now.
Pasta lane 2
Taj Mahal Hotel
red light area
The St. George hospital has an underground tunnel, Now its been boarded up, right side of St. George hospital, there is a wall on the side of D'mello road. That wall has holes in it. Because that side was the sea and if the Portuguese attacked then to shoot bullets from those holes. There is an underground tunnel, not a dark dingy one, but a big one, one in which you could walk. If we talk about Chowpaty, then there is Ratnakar Palace, you should see it. Very beautiful. Inch, inch stone. Sahyadri you broke. Here there is Jarmal, on the Dhobi Talav naka there is Jarmal. It is the largest building in town. The speciality of this building is that if you walk on the footpath towards right you will reach Ahmedabad (means Gujarati speaking residents) and on the left you are in Mumbai (means Marathi speaking residents), if you walk five buildings ahead, then you reach Mohammad Ali Road (means Muslim residents). We must one day sit on this topic only. Terraces of these buildings, I don't know how builders have not noticed them. Cowasji Jehangir hall, its terrace was so big that you can play your one day matches in them.
The old city and its charming features – a journey from a fort of the Portuguese invaders to a economic capital of globalised market. When Navalkar talks about an area which is cosmopolitan with residents from all regions and religions, we can see the hierarchy of citizenship that works in his mind (Ahmedabad means Gujarati speaking people of Mumbai, Mumbai means simply the people who speak Marathi and Mohd. Ali road means Muslim residents).
Cowasji Jehangir hall
Dhobi talav naka
Mohd. Ali road
St. George hospital
mohd. ali road
st. george hospital
The old theatre buildings, some of which are of great cultural and architectural legacy, are being demolished to make place for multiplexes and malls.
Theatres have gone. Slowly all have disappeared. Concept of drama only have gone. Now theatre halls - Majestic (theatre) has gone, central (another theatre) is still there, Roxy (theatre) has gone.
YM: Bharatmata too..
PN: Yes. Bharatmata too is about to go. Bharatmata (theatre)…almost gone
The romanticism of sea beaches and the hegemonic right over the access to the sea.
YM: But special attraction of Mumbai is its beaches, chowpatties. ..
PN: yes, yes very bad state. I tell you because we are near the sea we don't know its value. When I was in Delhi, the director of All India Radio, Mohan Maharshi used to talk abouth nothing but the sea - Pramod you live near the sea, … do you put your feet into it, how long is the sea, do you get scared that when you sleep in the night water will come in etc. – like a madman who would go on. An intellectual man like him can be so taken in by the sea. 5 in the evening on a Sunday spend 2/3 hours in the beach - people come from far flung Domvli, Thane, Ambernath since afternoon. There is nothing like our chowpatty. There were no beach in Worli only 52 shanties (jopdis) which got demolished only the other day, Dadar one has become just a slum and in Juhu is a market, indeed a market. Somebody does something the others oppose. The opposition people came to me, I shall not name them, but what can I do? What is happening there I do know. If I try to do something certain sections take objection. Maintenance of the beaches are not possible.
Here comes the fascist leader in his moral police cap. In order to gentrify the public spaces, he displaces the unorganized vendors and various service industry fellows. Even after 6 years of doing so, after four year of losing power and getting reduced to the stature of a out of job politician, he is gleeful and proud about destroying people's homes and livelihood sources.
Are there indigenous people who might have been in Mumbai prior to the accepted originals - Pathare Prabhus and Kolis?
PN: Pathare Prabhus and Kolis in Mumbai, but there was also some adivasi (indigenous) settlements…
PN: Adivasi? No…
YM:Yes. In Goregaon suburab and around PM: Not that I know of. There were mainly Kolis but if some adivasis were staying with them then I don't know…I know since the time Andheri, Versova had Koli settlements. Even in Malad the coastal property belongs to the Koli.
YM: Sanjay Gandhi national park- there are some settlements, in Malad side some others
PN: Malad there were no adivasis, I have roamed around a lot in Malad. If there were some adivasis in the eastern suburbs.. around Kurla and all then I don't know…
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
YM: It is a place for people's movement since the time of Gandhiji. What are your thoughts about its development.
PN: Chowpatty is my first love, for Balasaheb too. The first mandate of Shivsena is ' whatever you do Pramod first clean the beach'. Various corporate houses helped, kept caretakers, security but everybody got exhausted. But not me. I was adamant. For 8 months I sat there and supervise all small things. I confronted those people, went to courts, called the judges, made plans, everything possible and they they realized that this guy is not going to give up. It took all of 8 months. There were 132 masseurs, I forced them to be photographed, their photographs are all in my drawer… I burnt their red towels (essential for the trade) and poured their oil bottles on their heads and said 'let us now give you massage'. I used to free them only at 1.30 in the night, so that they cannot go back soliciting. Then they realized this man will not let us be… now there is no beggar, no hijra, no prostitute… how beautiful it looks. What is the defination of a beach- 3 S's- sand, sea and sky, we have done that. Today I went there and there was not even a water vendor. We demolished his stall and now he sits somewhere else. So much persistence, they say it would all wash away after one rain, see already 6 monsoons have passed and this is 7th year.
Pathare Prabhus and making of Mumbai.
YM: You were talking about the contribution of Pathare Prabhu to the city…
PN: Oh yes, Pathare Prabhus have contributed a lot to the city. But we have not expected anything in return. And not just comfortable living, but living in peace with other communities, that is what the community is like.xxxx
Pathare Prabhus survived and remained in prominence through various phases in Mumbai due to their flency in English. Yet another shock coming from the man who has spent his entire career leading a political outfit whose USP has been language chauvinism.
YM: Mumbai as metropolitan city, many communities…
PN: still we could adjust and I will tell you the reason why – English. Our people have learnt English. And today whatever language which forms bridge between people is English.
The right to migrate to Mumbai should be restricted. What would have happened if some such restriction was executed when Pathare Prabhus were migrating from Gujarat. Well, we would have lost out on some over zealous city fathers.
YM: Mumbai is not of one community, whoever comes Mumbai makes them her own, what do you think about this
PN: it's a mistake. At the time when Mumbai population was 35 lakhs - that time there should have been a rule saying that you can come in Mumbai only with purpose and shelter. Why has Yuvraj (the interviewer) come here, does he have shelter. If we take everyone in Mumbai then we will not even get a cup of water in future. The tower (multi-storied building) culture which has come in they make every horizontal building into a vertical one. And we who live in the chawls, our relation is not with the sky, its with the earth. That is why we want a room on the ground floor, not on the 9th floor. It's a tragedy. But nothing will remain of Mumbai's culture. Everything will go.
Sanyukta (united) Maharashtra Movement begun in post-independent days as a people's movement for the autonomy of the language group. The overarching movement received support from left trade unions, socialists and also from the outfits who were centreists.
PN: (English) ahh… that was altogether different time. That entire movement started from next lane- bhaiji Munji lane. Praja Samajwadi party's office was there and those people were different. The leaders were different. I was brought up with them. I will narrate one small incident. One small – from where to where we have come. At that time there were Municipal elections and Nagpai was a leader. We was a great personality… greater than great. He used to go from lane to lane giving his speeches. At 8.30 he was to come to Barod lane at _________ bldg. After school we were waiting for him. He was god for us. It was at 8:30, 9.30, 10'o clock he did not turn up. So we were waiting for him at the gate and within ten minutes someone came and told us Nagpei had come. We were shocked – how could he come. That time this garden was a cemetery – so how could he come? I shall never forget this. So I ran inside and he had already started his speech. Within 5/10 minutes he concluded his speech as he wanted to go to Chandanwadi. He jumped down from the dais, there was a church wall next to the dais, he took his cycle and zipped off. And now you see we have come from cycle to helicopters. And we are not ashamed of it, in fact we are proud of our helicopters. And so that people understand that I travel in a helicopter, I even create accidents.
Bhaiji Munji lane
praja samajwadi party
Though Sanyukta (united) Maharashtra movement was perceived as a working class movement and technically it got victory by getting Mumbai as a part of Maharashtra, the state with Marathi speaking people in majority, later it got hijacked by the chauvinist politics. Pramod Navalkar's party Shivsena was formed based on the benefit ripped by the movement. The movement of assertion of cultural autonomy of the working class transformed into a chauvinist call for majority hegemony.
YM: So you have come from a Samajwadi (socialist) background...
PN: even now I am Samajwadi (socialist). Even now I have not broken my frame, even in Shivsena I am a vegetarian. And the speciality of Balasaheb (founder and head honcho of Shivsena party) is that he has accepted everybody.
YM: So how was the starting like from Seva Dal and everything…
PN: After Sanyukta (united)Maharashtra Samajwadi (socialist) party got over. And at such times, when there is no work, the young men get very demoralized. At this time Balasaheb established Shivsena. At that time he was in Navshakti (Marathi magazine), he was sitting next to Palekar, drawing his cartoons. And that time this was a burning issue that outside people were getting all the jobs. So I came there. But wherever one goes, one should not leave the frame of character. I will give the most marks to Balasaheb, out of the 10 of us working for Shivsena, not one is similar. Still we have been grouped together and looked after by Balasaheb. We are like different colours, and Balasaheb draws a picture out of these colours.
sanyukta maharashtra movement
united maharashtra movement
Ideological compromises for political career?
PN: Then you need to adjust. Everybody adjusted, so did I. And main thing is writing. A political person needs freedom to write and that I have got for 52 years. Balasaheb has never asked me why have you written some thing…
Pramod Navalkar wears a traditional head gear and does a modest modeling in front of the camera. His excitement towards this new vocation was too obvious. Later he told me - come again and I shall take you around the city. I am a jobless politician – I have plenty of time in hand!!
Shot of a calendar made of a photograph of Pramodh Navalkar and his wife in tradition gear.