Mumbai Lens: Bomonjee’s steps

It was the golden hour before sunset a couple of weeks back and I was on a walk with my friend Rama on Mount Mary Road. We were generally chatting about that and this and as we approached the steps that leads one down to Hill Road, I noticed a half-buried stone plaque/marker on one side of the steps. A closer look revealed this:

Bomanjee's Steps, Bandra, Hill Road, Mount Mary Road
The half-buried stone plaque/marker which reads: “Presented by H. Bomonjee Jeejeebhoy to Bandora Municipality ~ 1879”

Wow ! A 135-year old marker? And Bandra as Bandora? I was immediately intrigued and once I reached home turned to my good friend Google for helping me find out more about this slice of history.

And here is what I discovered πŸ™‚

The steps had a name:Β “Degrados de Bomonjee” or “Bomonjee’s Steps“, which were built by Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy (Bomonjee’s son?) in 1879 to link Mount Mary Road and Hill Road. It is believed Jamsetjee wanted a daughter and prayed at Mount Mary Church for one. His wish was fulfilled and he built the steps on his daughter’s 8th birthday as an offer of thanksgiving.

This is not all that I found. Last Saturday, I was back in the area, this time in the morning, to explore the various churches in the area. And as I approached Bomonjee’s Steps, I saw another stone plaque that I had missed the last time around. See the photograph below.

Bomanjee's Steps, Bandra, Hill Road, Mount Mary Road
Notice the arrow markers in the photo.

The arrows point to the stone plaques. The one on the right is the plaque I had seen before, and the one on the left was this:

Bomanjee's Steps, Bandra, Hill Road, Mount Mary Road
This one reads: “Bomonjee’s Steps. For Public Use”. The rest of the words are buried under

So there was a plaque that identified it as “Bomonjee’s Steps” and also that it was intended for public use. I wondered what else was written on the plaques, but now lay buried under the road.

Herein lies my frustration at the way so many things work around us. In the case of these steps, the municipal corporation saw it important to leave the stone plaques in place, but not so important that they should be visible as the marker they were obviously meant to be. And why blame only the authorities? What about the people who lived there and passed the plaques every day when they used the steps? Why hadn’t they tried to take care of their own local history?

Bomanjee's Steps, Bandra, Hill Road, Mount Mary Road
The stairs to the left are Bomonjee’s Steps.

There are actually two flights of steps connecting Hill Road and Mount Mary Road. The one on the right is Bomonjee’s Steps and the other one must have been a later addition β€” these steps are easier to climb and must have been built during a road widening process.

Bomanjee's Steps, Bandra, Hill Road, Mount Mary Road
Bomonjee’s Steps viewed from Hill Road

The next time you’re in Bandra, do make a little time to go and see Bomonjee’s steps and the plaques. At the rate the roads are being repaired or rather the height raised, it won’t be there for much longer. The plaques that is, not the steps. 😦

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.

25 thoughts on “Mumbai Lens: Bomonjee’s steps

  1. What a treat, the post and the pics, I had occasion to back and forth these steps between Mt. Carmel and St. Mary’s a few times a week (preferred to driving) in the early nineties. Used to love the life that had grown around these steps. This post brought back many memories.

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      1. I don’t recall seeing the plaques, but I guess they must have been there. Your series on the streets of Bandra is absolutely fascinating. I used to love the way the residential areas still retained the old world charm, as if they were from another place and time (and culture) altogether. A lot seems to have changed in terms of the emerging art forms, but the sleepy feel is still tangible.

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        1. Thank you, Subho.

          Bandra is a new discovery for me and I’m fascinated with it. The quaint villages within the highrises, Bollywood and Jazz, churches, the fort, old bakeries and new cafes, locals and expats… it’s a city, nay a world in itself.

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  2. I was in Koln, Germany at the impressionable age of 23 when I first saw a road built in such a way that you could see the Roman remains below it and drive around it. Even pedestrians could get to the railings to peek in! How do we raise our own levels of awareness and pride to make such things possible? Is it the daily struggle for roti, kapda, makaan that renders Indians particularly apathetic, or is that just a flimsy excuse? I think each of us has a big role to play. Your blog is great for this, but how do we widen and deepen the reach? Just thinking aloud!

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    1. Wow ! I didn’t even know that Koln had Roman remains.

      Coming back to your question, the easy and common answer is education. But in my experience, I don’t think education makes a difference.

      I’ve known residents of the posher suburbs of Mumbai fight tooth and nail against renaming of roads, against having a public toilet built in their area or even hawkers encroaching their pavements. But the same set of people will park their cars on the very same pavements, not allow taxis and rickshaws to have stands or even segregate garbage in their areas.

      In my experience, I have found people in rural areas more connected with their immediate environment than those in urban ares where only a few seem to be fighting, what seems like a losing battle.

      More than education, what is needed is awareness at various levels. Considering the diverse, socioeconomic, demographic, cultural and educational backgrounds, the campaigns need to be targetted simultaneously at various levels and has to be sustained over a long period and not just in bursts.

      To be honest, I doubt if my blog is of any use at the moment. Sure, people read it, but the ones who do are the ones who are already aware of this. But as part of a larger campaign, I believe it can spread the message across.

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      1. This sort of discussion is frustrating, I agree. But it’s relevant too. The education and awareness debate has gone on ever since I can remember. The issues keep changing. It used to be about things like educating kids and vaccinating them, now it’s about women’s safety or civic issues. We always presume a top down situation of someone making others aware but we are all in it together. We need more spaces and opportunities where diverse types of people can interact. We need to stop shying away from difficult conversations especially in our cities where, you so rightly point out, identity is a fragile thing and a contested one. It’s a delicate moment in our evolution as a society. I feel like we have an opportunity to observe, comment and participate and as bloggers record and preserve the rumination for the future!

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  3. another wonderful find, Sudha! i have passed by the steps, but never actually used them. the next time i go there though, will make a point to do so, and also go see the markers. so sad to see them buried,. such neglect and apathy is so completely unbelievable! wonder if we will ever actually change!

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  4. This is super intriguing! It’s unbelievable how little things can sometimes stir up a storm in the heart. I have missed out on several posts in this series of yours – this post reminds me just why I need to catch up on them soon. πŸ™‚

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  5. This post didn’t make me want to go and see Bomonjee’s steps. Are you surprised? Oh, but I didn’t tell you what I want to do instead: look out for such heritage sites and markers. I am sure there are any number of them around the city, given its colourful and varied history.

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    1. Then you are going to find quite a few in the city. Sion has at least 2 mile markers and they, too, are on the verge of disappearing. I know that you don’t want to go and see Bomonjee’s steps, but I strongly recommend that you do πŸ™‚

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  6. I have walked countless times on those steps, but never noticed the markers. Thank you for pointing them out. It is indeed sad that the residents can do little to preserve their heritage. Most of the original inhabitants have migrated and moved to the suburbs. The people who may have known about Bandra’s history are few and may be no more. The new monied/ nouveau riche are more concerned about the scenic location to the sea and beautifying their apartments. The Bandra that I knew as a child and even as a college going student has practically vanished.

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    1. I’m not surprised that it is not noticed for one of the stones is always hidden by cars and the other stone blends into the background perfectly. I noticed the stone as the sun was shining on it and I look it as an extremely lucky break πŸ™‚

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  7. Awesome finds. Decades of visiting Mount Mary annually and I have never seen these tributes to Zoroastrian dedication. Probably due to the crowded buses I travelled in. I shall make time to go and see them

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    1. Welcome to “My Favourite Things”, Jamshed Arjani. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Mumbai is full of these little bits of heritage and I’m always delighted when I stumble across one. Do look out for the plaques commemorating Bomonjee’s Steps the next time you are there. πŸ™‚

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  8. Hi Sudha, this is incredible..the more I read about your discoveries of Mumbai, the more I want to visit the city (again) to see and appreciate it from a different angle, the local perspective. Cheers!

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    1. Kat, that is the beauty and the most frustrating part about Mumbai. I haven’t come across any city which wears its history and heritage so nonchalantly and in such a callous manner too. I have lived in Mumbai since 1993 now, and the city does not fail to amaze me every now and then.

      The next time time you’re in Mumbai, I’ll take you around to see places that perhaps even locals don’t know. Here I mean that they are aware of its existence but, not of its significance. Hope to see you in Mumbai soon πŸ™‚

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