East Indian style home stay in South Mumbai
Fashion designer James Ferreira opens up his quaint home in Khotachiwadi as a B&B space. Here's a dekko of the 200-year-old heritage home in Girgaum
Interiors of his Khotachiwadi home. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Sunlight streams in from open windows, one of which offers a glimpse of a tiny green garden; it's the ideal place to switch off. Beside this garden, a flight of stairs run up to the first floor, which, designer James Ferreira shares, is his favourite spot in his 200-year-old home in Khotachiwadi, as he has countless memories of scurrying up as a kid. When we drop by on a pleasant morning in January, the designer is sketching at a desk, on which sits a black-and-white photograph of his mother, whose facial attributes would give any model who has worked with the designer a run for her money.
"From a family of eight children to living alone, it can get lonely," admits Ferreira. Late last year, he decided to turn his house, a Grade-II heritage structure, into a bed-and-breakfast, and listed it on a popular BnB website. But living alone was not the only reason. "I have been trying to make Khotachiwadi relevant for long. I even started the Khotachiwadi festival but realised that it's inconvenient for residents. The crowds are too much to handle. The best way to keep the integrity of a place intact is to continue living in it - heritage means to live in it and sustain it. Any place, new or old, needs to be a living, breathing space, frequented by people. They become more beautiful with people," he relates, while his trusted man Friday, Pandu, brings us coffee. Ferreira is hopeful that his neighbours will adopt the idea as well. Around us, rare curios from across the globe add a vintage charm to the quaint Portuguese home.
Ferreira's siblings are scattered across Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, and he has turned his upper floor into an exhibition space and workshop. An East Indian, he is one of the few members of a community that lives in homes whose architecture sees the extensive use of wood, and external staircases. Till the mid-1960s, his family catered for the railways and moved into the locality to run the business.
So was it easy to maintain an old property and procure permissions to start a BnB, we ask. "It's possible if you are interested. Look at all the 400-year-old buildings in Europe. Securing permissions was an easy form-filling process. After I created the account on Airbnb, it was hassle-free." Within a week, Ferreira's first guest, a journalist from Australia, checked in. "I have had many repeats - guests who begin their trip in Mumbai, travel across India, and end it here," he shares. He screens names to ensure guests don't disturb the zen-like calm.
International tourists prefer the proximity to SoBo's heritage precincts, often walking all the way to the sites. And if there's nothing to do, the designer's company is enough, as we realise after an hour of chatting with the drape guru. For breakfast, he will cater to diverse requests, from bacon and eggs, to idli-dosa or Maharashtrian fare from the vicinity. Ferreira, who also owns a home in Bandra, prefers to live here, saying, "That home is on the sixth floor. I like to live closer to the earth. It's what keeps me grounded."
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