Migrants, Settlers & Originals: Rajan Jaykar 2
Cinematographer: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Duration: 00:17:58; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 28.049; Saturation: 0.456; Lightness: 0.306; Volume: 0.104; Cuts per Minute: 0.056; Words per Minute: 169.052
Summary: Interview with Rajan Jaykar (RJ). Interviewer Madhusree Dutta (M).
Camera by avijit Mukul Kishore.
Rajan Jaykar is a lawyer and artifacts collector. He is an important member of Pathare Prabhu community. Pathare Prabhus are believed to be one of the earliest settlers in the islands of Bombay. Many important citizens and philanthropists of the city are from this community. The interview was conducted in the context of exploring the history of migration in the region. Representatives of many community were interviewed in order to understand the demography and current identity politics of the city. The interview was taken in his family house in Opera house in South Bombay. The area is home for many old and aristocrat families and also hub for new commercial outlets.
Reasons why immigration occurs to such a large extent in Bombay and the ability of the city to assimilate and intigrate its new arrivals. According to Jaykar it started when during British era the probable immigrants were offered large incentives to come and develop the city. Till recently when the city started expanding on the eastern and northern suburb, all pressure of influx of migration was on the island city.
(M): So immigration always remained an issue with Bombay, because it is an island an people started coming and so on…(R.J: it is still happening) still happening, and its always remained an issue, I mean it's a burning issue. How do you look at it? How does a metropolis survive this kind of pressure of immigration?
(R.J): See I always considered, going through the history of Bombay although its part of India, British India, Bombay is a completely different city. It is cosmopolitan from day one. Right from 13th century the immigration started it became cosmopolitan. Particularly after the British came it became more cosmopolitan. And in those days also, because of the British incentive which was given to traders etc. to come to Bombay and develop this city, the immigration always continued. Now Bombay that time was 7 islands, after it was joined also it remained an island, even today its an island. So there is no scope for expansion. Then legal illegal reclamation started and that's the only way Bombay can develop. Now of course the greater Bombay limits have gone upto Dahisar and Mulund and what have you, therefore there is scope for expansion on those sides, but otherwise Bombay has been expanding only in this island city.
Opera house, Bombay
east india company
Bombay, in its own way is a hospitable city. The new immigrants are allowed to find their foothold. Presently 250 families everyday is descending in Bombay.
(RJ): So long as there is scope for more jobs, Bombay absorbs everybody. A person may come with a dream, he may think that one day he will become Amitabh Bachchan. When he comes here he sees the reality. When he sees in his pocket he's got sufficient money probably to have his next meal, he has to struggle. But if he struggles, the return that he gets is much better than doing it anywhere in India or anywhere outside Mumbai. And once he comes here, somehow or the other, he is not looked upon as an outsider. So there is no community feeling that- no, these people who are coming in they should be separated, they should not get the same facility. They come and get themselves absorbed. And that is something which keeps on attracting Mumbai. One person from a particular village comes, he feels that he has now found his feet and he his well, he will call his brother, he'll call his other people, they get absorbed, in whatever capacity. They are literate, they will get absorbed in companies, factories or whatever, if they are not, as domestic servants, in whatever way they can get absorbed. This capacity of Bombay to absorb people this is an attraction, where even today as I understand statistically there are 100 families coming to Mumbai everyday. (m: 250 it has become now) R.J: 100 families therefore 250 people (m: 250 families, latest I got the statistics from TOI) R.J: ok so 250 families per day, they get absorbed, is something which is amazing.
city of plenty
Due to the demographic issue the infrastructure of Bombay is going to collapse soon.
(RJ): Well Bombay has to pay the price. With the passage of time, the number of people who are illegally occupying, staying on pavements, staying on road is increasing. Now it has become more than 50%. Today I was attending a seminar of INTAC on the cultural aspect of Bombay and somebody rattled a statistic, that 58% of the population in on the pavements. That will keep on increasing because Bombay still absorbs. And this is a vote bank so the government will keep on extending the date from 95 to 2000 to 2005 and etc. it will keep on happening. So that process will keep on going. So immigration is something…immigration and reclamation is something we have to live with. Well people who are interested in heritage, in retaining the Bombay infrastructure, whatever little effort they put in is a little spoke in the wheel of all this. But you have to accept this reality that its going to happen all the time.
(M): (first part of the question not clear) what does it mean?
(R.J): (close up): Celebration means, whatever festivities that are there in our Hindu calendar, they do it in pomp and in a very different way. First thing is because at some point of time they were very affluent, again city based, so whatever celebration which were done by their forefathers to the best of their ability they keep on doing it. Luckily god has been kind and to the best of my ability I keep on doing it. Other thing is, the pomp in the celebration you will see a particular kind of jeweler. That is something which is different from other communities. Our jewelry is not measured in grams, it is measured in share, shares or pounds, you in that measure. So that's very heavy, very intricate, completely different, slightly on Gujarat pattern. But its there.
Pathare Prabhus are known to be affluent, hedonist and connoisseurs. Though the days of fortune are over they still try to maintain that lifestyle.
Part of the connoisseurs' lifestyle is an evolved and elaborate cuisine. A cuisine which is so authentic and nuanced that it is not available in public places.
RJ: So the celebrations are…the food that we eat is also very lavish. Completely different menu. In fact the Pathare Prabhu food is completely different from other communities. I was talking to Rashmi Uday Singh just now, because she also addressed the seminar, and I told her…(incomplete)…today she gave some figure, there are some 15,000 eating places in Bombay, and I told her that out of that 15,000 there is not a single eatery that serves authentic Pathare Prabhu food. Maybe some eatery as part of a festival, like Viva Paschim, they had a festival for a week, they tried to show some Pathare Prabhu food, but again they were not authentic, because probably they didn't contact the right people, so their cooks were not given the right recipe. But when we find that members of other community, in fact members of other religion, like our Parsee friends and Muslim friends when they come, they are amazed at the type of food that we serve them, because they say that this type of food is not available anywhere. So this is the way we celebrate out festivities
Viva Paschim restaurant
Bombay is practically the native land of Pathare Prabhus. Thus though a miniscule community their visibility in the Bombay is significant.
Other advantage is that our entire community is in Bombay, only about 14 days ago my daughters wedding was there, my elder daughter. Somebody asked me how did you accommodate all your guests? I said we had no guests. For marriage we had no guests. Guests means, some of our friends came from abroad, they are not Pathare Prabhus, they came from abroad because they are friends and they wanted to see these festivities, so they came. And we had a novel idea. We had the wedding at the radio club pier, we wanted to give it a look of a ship, so the whole wedding ceremony, pier being jutting out into the sea, at high tide it looks like a ship. In fact people even commented did you get the seagulls that were there? But they were just there. So we created that atmosphere. And we had a guest list in the morning of around 1000 people, all from Bombay. So being a city bred people and everybody being there, you can do the festivities on a larger scale, because you can have a better guest list, of people who are used to it. See on our festivities etc. what is happening is my house will be similarly happening in other Pathare Prabhu households. So it is the same type of festivities and same kind of pomp with which it is celebrated. (M): so this community is known for that. R.J : yes, yes. Now all community members may not be able to afford what their forefathers did, but to the best of their abilities they do it
Etymological roots of the word 'bhel puri'. Pathare Prabhu painter, Chitrakar Dhurandhar painted watercolours many of which have survived and made into post cards. Many of his paintings have known Bombay cityscape in the background.
(M): Is it possible to see Chitrakar Dhurandhar's works or is it too much of a hassle
(R.J): Yeah. I think, because if you had told me my entire collection of…see my entire collection of 55 Dhurandhar's water colour paintings converted into picture post-cards. (M): yeah I attended your lecture at Mumbai Study group, I was there R.J: hah, but unfortunately all that collection is in my office. But that I can show it to you. There is no problem. (M): so we'll take another appointment with you, at your leisure, and if it is ok with you we will shoot some of those as one of the earliest impressions of Bombay. R.J: we can choose some of those which have the definite background of Bombay. Like there are parsee ladies walking, the background is Chowpatty. There is a white girl, probably a British this, she is buying something, the original bhelpuriwala, because that time it was called lala puri, it has become bhelpuri, but that time it was lala puri and again the background is chowpatty. Then there is an ayah who is, a black ayah who is attending to a white child, background is Chowpatty. There is a fisherwoman, background is Crawford Market. So he's chosen all his backgrounds, while depicting people of Bombay with a Bombay scenery.
(M): so maybe its one of the earliest cityscapes in one sense. So when it is convenient we will call you again. ) R.J : definitely.
Raja Bimb, the founder of the Pathare Prabhu community, begun the first court of law in the area of Naigaon (erstwhile Nyaygaon - village of law). He also install his patron goddess Prabhadevi in near the sea.
(M): (ask off camera) do you want to ask something? I'm through, because I'm planning to come back again.
(R.J): if you want I can narrate one more anecdote which I told her. Now how do you say that Raja Bimb came in the 13th century. There is no record , nothing. But when he came he did two things to the city. First thing is he established, in a very rudimentary manner a court of law. That place was Nyaygaon now it is Naigaon. The location is still there. You may not be able to find the original courtroom, courthouse but the word is still there Naigaon which is a corruption of the word Nyaygaon. Secondly his patron goddess Prabhavati, there's a temple, Prabhadevi temple. See in those days temples used to be built on the banks of the sea, banks of the river or on the sea shore. Now where is the sea near Prabhadevi? If you see the seven islands and if you superimpose the Prabhadevi temple on those islands, it will be on the southern part of the Mahim island. So at high tide there was complete sea. At low tide you could walk to it without a ferry, but at high tide there was complete sea. Now because of the Portuguese persecution they used to break the Hindu idols apart from putting bread in the well, the owners of the Prabhadevi temple, when the Portuguese came in around 1537, they immersed the idols in a nearby well and went away to some other place in Gujarat to avoid desecration and avoid their own conversion, they went there.
court of law
The idol of Prabhadevi which was kept hidden during the Portuguese rule due to fear of persecution and blasphemy, was reinstalled during the British rule.
(RJ): After the British came, it took time, you asked me whether the transition was smooth, it took time for the British to take possession of the Bombay islands, because the Portuguese was reluctant to hand over. So but after they took the possession, it was difficult for them to keep the possession and there came the proposal from East India company of taking these islands on lease, like on rent and the offered to pay ten pounds a year as the rent, which was accepted by the British government and the islands were given to East India Company. Now the 2nd governor of the East India Company, Gerald Ongiers, the first Governor Oxanden you might find in Shivaji's coronation scenes, a white Englishman giving some nazrana, that was Oxanden. The second one was Gerald Ongiers, who was responsible for the real development of Bombay, converting a small minor port into a major port city. He was the one who started these things. Now he must have read the history of Bombay and known that because of the Portuguese persecution lot of the Bombay population had left and run away. So he created a situation where all the population could come back. That included the successors of those who went to (M: Surat?) R.J: to Surat or whatever, the Prabhadevi temple owners, they came and in one of the successors of that particular family the idol of prabhavati, the goddess Prabhavati came and said now you can heave solace in the temple, the idol and now there is no fear of any persecution. So the man gets up in the morning, removes the idol from the well and installs the idols in the temple. Story is right or wrong, I don't know.
east india company
M: no these are folk tales R.J: but around 20 years ago, when the present trustees, the then present trustees 20 years ago, wanted to remove the idols, some of the idols, because it's a group of three four temples and there were multiple idols, some of the idols they wanted to remove because they thought they were not in good condition, they would rather have some granite or marble idols, newly made. But before removing it they told the Director of Prince of Wales Museum, Gorakshka, who happens to be a Pathare Prabhu that we want to remove it, are you interested in the idols, for the museum? So he said alright, you don't remove it, I'll do that or you'll break them. They are embedded in the earth. So he came with his own tempo and artisans, they removed the idols, they are there in the Museum. They carried out tests and the idols are of 13th century. And in 13th century there could not have been any other person except Raja Bimb, who could have installed them in the temple. So technically, Prabhadevi temple is the oldest. May not be in the same form, temple must have undergone transformation in shape whatever, but that's the oldest temple known.
The idol of Prabhadevi which is presently in the Prince of Wales museum is tasted to be of 13th century. According to Jaykar that proves the fact that it was first founded by Raja Bimb.
Prince of Wales Museum
prince of wales museum
Jaykar's family came to the house where this interview was conducted in 1912. In 1896 Pathare Prabhu person experimented with aeroplane.
(M): Whats your oldest memory in your lifetime. Because you were born in this house?
(R.J): no not in this house…. (M): not in this house, but in this area?
(R.J): But I've visited this house from the time I came to know, Because this is my grandfather, my mother's father's house. He came here as a tenant in 1912. And my mother tells me two things, two good memories, one thing is a member of my community 1896 is supposed to have experimented with the first aeroplane in the world, and that to on the chowpatty sand. And my mother tells me that her father who was a tenant here, and then they were staying somewhere else in Kalbadevi, he was one of the witness to that experiment in 1896.
Jaykar's mother remembered the long distance train from Colaba to Peshwar called Frontier mail (it is still called the same - only that it no more goes to Peshwar as that is in Pakisthan territoty) departing from Colaba station twice a week. The public health service around 1890s used to run quarantine camps in the city during plague epidemics.
Second thing my mom tells me that as a child they used to go behind is the railway line. In those days the railway started from Colaba and the main line railways, this is only the local, but those days the main line railway was there. So twice a week they used to go out and they used to wave at the train which was which was then called the Frontier Mail, which is still called the Frontier mail, which you used to go from Colaba to Peshawar. So it was quite an experience for them to see this train. (M: twice a week?) R.J: yeah. Then the railway was called BB & CI railway. Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway. So these are the two memories my mother tells me. She was not born here. She was born in 1908 so she was..in fact she was born at chowpatty. In those days there used to be visitation of plague every year. From 1895 -96, every year and lot of population used to get wiped out. So in order not to get affected…if a member of your family got affected with plague, the other members used to stay in a quarantine. So there used to be camps on Chowpatty beach and my mother was born in one of the camps and that record I have because I have a community magazine of 1908, which shows her as born in Bhagwantrao health camp at Chowpatty.
Bhagwantrao health camp
bb & ci
central india railway
Jaykar talks about the house - tenancy etc.
Thereafter they moved here in 1912 and this building used to be owned by Justice Madhgaonkar of the Bombay High Court and the relationship was so cordial that in the evening he used to have a cup of tea before going up, because at that time there was no elevator, he used to stay on the third floor. And this shop which is there was part of that house. There was a door, this particular cupboard (points in the cupboard's direction) is hiding that door. And that was the main living room. But after my mother who was the third daughter got married, my mama was a bachelor, again the same continuing the bachelor and spinster this….he was not going to marry, so my grandfather thought, why does he need such a big house. So he told the landlord that why don't you rent it out to somebody, that why my rent will also be reduced and it can be used gainfully. So that was there
And as a child we used to always visit here, because there used to be a Hindola, swing, so that was a novelty for us so, on Saturdays and holidays, we used to stay at Prarthna Samaj, opposite Harkisondas hospital, we used to come with our servant, me, my elder sister and younger brother, go to chowpatty, play in the sand. On the way back we used to come here, my grandmother used to give us some nuts, and then we used to sit on the swing. Achha, the, as a collector, I don't know whether I am taking those genes from my mother's side, because my grandfather had, over here itself lot of cages, where there were so many birds. So I don't know. He was not a collector per se, but he was a man of varied interests, he was a good carpenter, and he was the first Indian to be an officer in the French Bank, Banque Nationale de Paris. So he was there. And my grandfather's brother was the first, its recorded, I've got the record, was the first MBBS of Bombay University along with 2 Parsees.
Jaykar's grandfather was the first Indian employee of the French national bank. His grandfather's father was one of the first MBBS from Bombay university.