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The who's who of Gamdevi: Heritage walk introduces you to Mumbai's narrowest lane

A heritage walk introduces you to people who marked significant points in India and sometimes, world history, and Mumbai’s narrowest lane

Our first stop is diagonally across the road from the Tiwari Bros showroom opposite Opera House. Don’t take the French Bridge, but go under it and stop to the right. Bharat Gothoskar and Rohit Lahoti from Khaki Tours point out that here lies the Devdhar School of Indian Music, set up by Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (after whom the chowk is also named).

This lane, says Gothoskar, would be the narrowest lane in the city measuring just 22 inches in width. Will you fit in?

“Up until then, all musicians in the country would work in the gharana system, which required them to live with the guru and learn music full-time. What this school did was introduce the kind of music classes we see today. It also made it possible for women, at least from Girgaum, to walk up to the class and take lessons,” Gothoskar says.

Walk on French bridge, and on the right is the Raut bungalow, which you will get time to ogle at. Behind it is the Sharda Mandir High School, which Gothoskar says, stands where once the home of Rukhmabai Devi stood. Married at the age of 11, Rukhmabai continued her education at her parental home and refused to consummate her marriage at the age of 22. This was in 1884. Her husband, Dadaji Bhikaji, says Gothoskar, filed a case for restitution of conjugal rights under British law.

Rukhmabai defied the Privy Council’s order to ‘return’ to her husband and wrote to Queen Empress Victoria, who dissolved the marriage and passed the Age of Consent Act. This raised the age of consent for sexual intercourse for all girls, married or unmarried, from 10 to 12 years in all jurisdictions. Its violation was subject to criminal prosecution as rape.

Near the Raut bungalow is the Mathuradas bungalow, which, Gothoskar says is the birthplace of Sumati Morarjee, born to Mathur-adas Goculdas and his wife Premabai in 1909.

Sumati was the first woman in the world to head an organisation of ship owners, Indian National Steamship Owners Association, traditionally a male bastion. “She headed the Scindia Steam Navigation Company as well,” Gosalkar says.

Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

The next stop is the Harishchandra Goregaokar Marg, where a series of houses and wadis were built by the man himself. “The Goregaokers were landed families who moved to Mumbai in 1800s as the city was then booming,” says Gothoskar. Harishchandra, he adds, built several homes for his sons and the families still live in these. This nugget isn’t about them, however. The Hemraj Kripal chawl in the lane, is where great Marathi author, Padma Bhushan awardee Purushottam Laxman Deshpande (better known as Pu La Deshpande) was born.

PS: We haven’t spoilt the walk for you. There will be many more secrets to unearth.

Gamdevi Walk
When: 5 PM, June 25
Where: Tiwari Bros, Mama Paramanand Marg, Girgaum Chowpatty
Entry: Rs 500
Call: 9820101641

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