Centuries and celebrations

At least six landmark institutions in the Byculla-Mazagaon-Jacob Circle belt, are gearing up for their centenary

St Agnes School
100 years

St Agnes School at Byculla, is celebrating 100 years this year. The school has already started a slew of celebrations earlier this month. They had a Eucharistic Celebration on January 3 this year, where mass was said and various Dignitaries of the Church attended.

On January 21, it was all razzmatazz as the all- girl school's alumni association held a gathering for former students with Agnes alumni from the city and elsewhere including Australia and Canada attending. Singer Usha Uthup's (also an ex-student) trademark husky voice  was the highlight of that gathering. It was rounded off by a Parsi-style dinner.  Organizers have now put brakes on celebrations, temporarily at least, as exam time looms.
Says Anne de Braganca Cunha ex-student who passed out of the school in 1954, after giving her SSC exams, "The school gave us such solid values. I remember my school fees being Rs 7 a month!" This freelance journalist says that teachers recognized her flair for writing and she was encouraged to write. 

Anne laughs as she says, "I remember, the school having certain rules. For instance, girls were not allowed to wear sleeveless dresses at that time, on Saturdays, when they would come in for some extra classes. We could not tie ponytails we had to plait our hair, I guess, now all this would sound quaint!"

Anne says she lived in Mazagaon and would walk to school. "The school building was a little structure then, now it is much bigger." Anne says, "Only a clutch of us, from the batch, about four-five went to degree colleges post exams, a lot of the other girls took secretarial and other courses like teacher training."
The Alumni Association says that the re-union brought back fond memories as school days are the best days. 

Gloria Church
99 years

Gloria Church, the Church that dominates the Byculla skyline will become 100, "Only in 2013," says Father Rocky Banz, parish priest, but, "Our Centenary Year celebrations began this year and will go on till 2013." Gloria Church plans to make it a mix of solemnity and celebration with a two-pronged celebration. They have two themes, which will form the foundation for marking 100 years. A slew of programs that focus on strengthening the bonds of people, the parishioners, and their families are planned. They will also have spiritual celebrations. Like so many other heritage structures, for Gloria Church too, it is fund collection time. Current estimates for repair and reconstruction put the figure at Rs 4.5 crore. In 2011, they had 20-25 volunteers who went to Mt. Mary Basilica (when the Bandra fair was on) with collection boxes and had also put up banners at the fair asking people to donate for Gloria Church.

St Joseph's High School
100 years

This school at Byculla had its foundation stone laid down in 1913 but the building was only completed in 1915. "There was some confusion about when to mark our centenary year, but we have decided to mark it this year and celebrations, special occasions and programs for the milestone will go on till next year,"     said Sister Lovenia Almeida, school principal. This all-girls SSC board school, once did admit boys still standard IV earlier but that changed after it became a school for day scholars only.

They now need to raise around Rs 1 crore for repairs to the school building. They have already had a fete called Joseph's Mela to start raising funds for the same and the school hopes to raise the money through donations and sponsorships.   

St Ignatius School
98 years

This school adjoins the St Ignatius Church, and will mark 100 years in 2014. The co-educational school started as a small shed with a primary section but now is a full-fledged building. In the 1970s, a corridor was built in the school, so that teachers could pass through that corridor rather than going through classrooms as they were doing so earlier. The school was in the public eye when the city was in the throes of a widespread swine flu scare, with the adjacent Kasturba Hospital as a major centre for patients afflicted with the H1N1 virus. The school's location also means that students are used to seeing heavy security on the opposite side of the road. The Arthur Road jail has Mumbai's highest profile prisoner lodged there, 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab. This school has survived and thrived for so many decades and will do so through current turbulence. As they say: this too shall pass.

St Ignatius Church
99 years

St Ignatius Church at Jacob Circle, opposite the Arthur Road jail and near Kasturba Hospital, is one run short of a century. The magnificent structure is set to complete 100 years of existence in 2013. Like its neighbour in the Byculla-Mazagaon area, Gloria Church, Ignatius Church has started its run-up for the landmark year. The Church is now concentrating getting the Church building restored as part of the 100-year celebrations. The structure has endured pollution and vagaries of the weather besides ageing. It now needs extensive repair and

Authorities need approximately Rs 3 crore but this is a very conservative estimate considering the work needed for a mammoth edifice. Parish priests have been visiting other parishes for fund raising besides tapping their own parishioners for funds.

They want to start work by March this year, so that they can complete it by July 2013. Despite the daunting amount, Church authorities are optimistic.  

The Magen David Synagogue
150 years

The Magen David synagogue in Byculla celebrated 150 years on December 20, 2011. Part of Mumbai's multi-cultural tapestry, the sky-blue building stands as one of the repositories of Jewish culture in the city, as the community continues to dwindle.
With many Jews moving to Israel, there may be, "just 4,000 Jews currently in India," Solomon Sopher, chairman of the Magen David Synagogue had said. Sopher had also said that earlier, there would be more than 400 people who would be at the synagogue on religious occasions, today, it is difficult to get 10 people for prayer services. The late David Sassoon who was the founder of the Sassoon Empire in India, built the Synagogue in 1864. This is the largest Synagogue of the Bagdadi Jewish Community of India. In the compound of the Synagogue there are two Jewish Schools, which are run by the Sir Jacob Sassoon High School Trust, and the E.E.E. Sassoon High School Trust, in which Jewish children are educated. With the paucity of Jewish students, though, the schools are open to other
communities as well.

What's in a name?
>> Mazagaon, in central Mumbai is derived from the Marathi word "mazghar" meaning central part of the house since the Mazagaon island was once the most central of Bombay's seven islands. Besides, it has two derivations: 1) The Marathi word "machigaon" or Sanskrit "matsyagram" meaning village of fish and 2) The Marathi word "mashish" meaning village of buffaloes.

>> Byculla is derived from the 'bhaya" (Indian laburnum) trees planted in this area by Raja Bhimdev, 'bhaya being a local Kunbi variation of the bawa tree and 'khala' meaning threshing ground containing 'bhaya' or bawa' trees. Another adaptation comes from of an individual called Bhaya who owned a threshing ground.

>> Parel, in central Mumbai derived its name from the 'paral' or 'padel' trees, (the trumpet-flower) which were planted here in abundance by Raja Bhimdev in the 141th century.

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