Very wall done

When you are 140 years old, and you need a facelift, better Sassooner than later

The Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) and Colaba residents have been old enemies for a while now. Several Colaba residents and even those who have office space in the area, have been slapped with eviction notices by the MbPT of late, as the notices claim they have been sitting on MbPT land. This is because most people here are tenants, under the pagadi system and MbPT are land owners. These factions though have put differences aside, and have come together to restore a 140-year-old Sassoon Docks wall.

The great wall of Colaba has old world charm. Pics/Sameer Markande
The great wall of Colaba has old world charm. Pics/Sameer Markande

My Dream Colaba (MDC) a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and the port trust are collaborating on the project. Cynthia D’mello from MDC said, “We have been trying to get the Sassoon Docks wall painted, for the past five to six years. In November last year, the MbPT allocated the funds and the work was started. This is the first time that the wall work was done, which is a great accomplishment.”

Sassoon Docks wall before painting
Sassoon Docks wall before painting

The 93-metre long wall is 11-feet tall and painting is racing towards completion towards this month end before the monsoon hits the city. Pravin Jain, contractor and his team are working frantically on the whitewashing and restoration of the wall. Jain said, “There are several challenges. First, of course, we have repaired the stone arches of the windows in the wall, which were decrepit. We have also closed holes in the wall. These were deliberately made, so that water tankers could put their hose pipes through the cavities and supply water to the Sassoon Docks. They continue to do so, but, now, tankers can access the Docks from another side. With the wall work 98 per cent complete, we are at the absolute tail end of the mammoth project we began in November.”

Bella Shah, from MDC who supervised the wall work said, “On the surface, it looks like simply a restoration job. It goes deeper than that, though. This is a sentimental moment for us. This was the dream of MDC member Christoper Thomas, who died a 1.5 years ago. He wanted the wall to look like it does, as a work of art. The grey stone arches against the white wall, with some brown panels is aesthetic. I feel proud that Christy's (Thomas was lovingly called that by the group) dream has come true.”

Corporator Makarand Narvekar has intervened in getting MbPT permissions, as well as allocation of funds to paint the wall. He said, “The wall is a heritage structure and needs to be done properly. In a sense, it is a gateway to the area that MDC works in. It has retained its old world charm, with the way the painting work has come about.”

The wall has godowns used by the fisher folk of Sassoon Docks. Mahendra Bhandary, technical engineer from MbPT who was the architect for this wall project was at the site and said, “The citizens group and port trust is a great liaison. The wall is part of the Sassoon Docks main structure and should be around 140 plus years, as the docks were built in 1870. The work done is plastering, whitewashing, filling of cracks and holes in the wall and light polishing of the stone.”

Once the stilts are removed in the coming days, there are plans to make a footpath. “Walking on this road, without a footpath was dangerous as it is narrow. Walking along the Sassoon Docks area will be much safer after this,” signed off an excited Shah.

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