Christmas walk: Explore Mazagaon's Matharpacady village this weekend

Dec 22, 2017, 08:36 IST | Krutika Behrawala

Explore the fast-fading heritage of Matharpacady, an erstwhile East Indian village that comes alive with Christmas trees and fairy lights, through the eyes of a local

Two stone lions flank the entrance of an ornate bungalow called Lion's Den in Matharpacady. About 160 years old, it is a popular landmark at the entrance of the erstwhile East Indian village in Mazagaon. But, it's an old alphonso tree that Hansel Baptista is keen to show us. "It's one of the few mango trees left in this area, which bears fruit twice a year," he says, about the celebrated Mazagaon mangoes that also find a mention in Thomas Moore's epic poem, Lalla Rookh (1817). "In the late 1800s, Mazagaon comprised several orchards. People living in this area owned the lands and earned money off them. They were called mathars and that's how the village got its name," says the consultant chef and resident of Matharpacady for the past 36 years. This weekend, he will conduct a walk to share stories about the quaint village as it readies to celebrate Christmas.

Matharpacady in Mazagaon gets ready for Christmas. Pics/Ashish Raje
Matharpacady in Mazagaon gets ready for Christmas. Pics/Ashish Raje

A dash of colour
The precinct, which is now home to Catholics, Maharashtrians, Hindus and Bohris, comprises roughly 40 bungalows painted in shades of yellow, garnet and blue. While some with concrete facades stick out like sore thumbs, many retain the Portuguese-style architecture. Like the Eymard Cottage, a stopover in the walk. It belonged to the relatives of Joseph Kaka Baptista, an activist associated with Lokmanya Tilak and a famed resident of Matharpacady, who was elected as the city's mayor in the early 1900s. While the ancestral home was donated to the Blessed Sacrament Fathers in 2006, it still retains its old-world charm with a tiled porch.

Several bungalows retain their Portuguese-style architecture
Several bungalows retain their Portuguese-style architecture

"Earlier, most homes would keep their doors open. You could drop in any time to say hello or grab a bite. With increasing noise and pollution levels, residents prefer keeping them shut," rues Baptista, whose great grandfather built his family home in 1880. However, the bonhomie still thrives. As we walk past the houses, Baptista stops to greet auntie Allen and uncle Bosco, who have flown down from Auckland to attend a relative's wedding.

Harshvardhan Tanwar and Hansel Baptista
Harshvardhan Tanwar and Hansel Baptista

Soak in the festive spirit
Further ahead, his uncle Stanislaus is busy gathering hay with another resident to make a crib at the Holy Cross Oratory in the heart of the village. The lanes have already been strung with stars made of fairy lights and lanterns painted with portraits, lit up every evening to wash the village in a festive glow. "When we were kids, my friends and I would stay up till 1 am at night, making paper lanterns and stars, and put them up in the lanes ourselves," he reminisces. During the walk, you will also get to spot decorated fir trees dotting the porches of several homes.

Baptista's family home was built in 1880
Baptista's family home was built in 1880

A Goan sojourn
The village also houses a dormitory-style kudd or club by the Association of Paroda, named after the Goan village it served. Catholic migrant workers from that village used it as a rest house. Sailors who arrived at the city's docks would also rest here and then embark on a train journey to Goa. "In the 1920s, such kudds sprang up all over the city. The rent would be about `12 a month," recalls Baptista. Though functional, it looks deserted. As a fish seller carrying a tub packed with fresh surmai and bangda shouts out his possessions, Baptista brings our attention to another house with a cute, red picket fence and a sloping tiled roof. It will soon be broken down, he says. "Such roofs are vanishing, and the population of sparrows has dwindled as they don't find spots between tiles to nest."

The Paroda Club
The Paroda Club

Which is why, the idea behind the walk is to raise awareness about the fading heritage of this precinct. "Most people know of hamlets in Bandra and Khotachiwadi but this precinct hasn't been explored much. That it exists in the middle of a city is unbelievable, and it needs to be saved," says Harshvardhan Tanwar, founder of the boutique travel firm, No Footprints, which is presenting the walk. Part of the funds will be donated to Matharpacady Association, a body created by the locals to safeguard the precinct.

ON: December 23, 5.30 pm to 7 pm meeting point Mumbai Darbar Hotel, Mazagaon.
CALL: 9619952576
EMAIL: info@nfpexplore.com
COST: Rs 799

Also check out
If you're keen to explore Matharpacady when it's at the peak of celebrations, sign up for a Christmas Day walk with Some Place Else. It will be conducted by history and architect enthusiast Anita Yewale. At the end of it, you'll get to enjoy plum cake baked by a local.
ON: December 25, 4 pm
CALL: 9833163486
COST Rs 720

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