#India – Film debut at 92 #Sundayreading


Mirror tracks the making of the first 15-minute documentary on Mumbai‘s landmark Dadar Parsi Colony

Reema Gehi
Posted On Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 10:23:27 AM
Joshi envisioned an agiary within the neighbourhood so that its Parsi residents wouldn’t have to tread too far to offer their prayers
Dogwalker Rohinton Unwalla with chicken-loving boxer Max and actor Boman Irani‘s Golden Retriever Laila
BPP Trustee and architect Jimmy Mistry is interviewed by Anand Kulkarni (in white), while sound engineer Rohan Puntambekar and cinematographer Kuldeep Mamania look on

Max and Rohinton Unwalla see no reason for public display of affection to be tagged as nuisance. In one quick swoop, love meets devotion when Max’s candy tongue flutters across Unwalla’s face, before finally enveloping his nose as the two take a breather after their morning walk on the steps of Building no. 782 at Dadar Parsi Colony.

Unwalla, better known around the lanes that wrap the iconic Five Gardens as Ronny Uncle, meets Max, the boxer, Maxie the Lhasa and Laila the Golden Retriever each morning at 7 am after a quick brun-maska-chai breakfast with his old colleagues from Godrej.

Since he retired in 1999, the 65-year-old has become an indispensable cog in the wheel of this neighbourhood’s survival, walking the residents’ pets and shacking up with them in his ground floor flat when their owners are on holiday.

Ronny Uncle has made it to the star credits of a 15-minute documentary, the first to trace the 92-year-old story of Dadar Parsi Colony, directed by Anand Kulkarni.

The young filmmaker plans to release it on March 21 which the community celebrates as Navroze or new year. It is late evening; the sun threatening to shut shop any minute.

We are on a terrace overlooking half the metropolis. The trinity of writerdirector- editor Kulkarni, cinematographer Kuldeep Mamania and sound engineer Rohan Puntambekar are ready for their first shot of the day.

Architect and trustee of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat Jimmy Mistry, who until now has only corresponded with Kulkarni over email, is expected to arrive at his palatial residence Della Towers — the only 22-storey building in a cluster of 250 buildings in the Maharashtriandominated middle-class neighbourhood of Dadar that houses 10,000 members of the Zoroastrian faith, making it the largest Zoroastrian enclave in the world.

The colony was conceived in 1921 by a young civil engineer named Mancherji Joshi, and inaugurated by celebrated merchantphilantropist Sir Jamshedjee Jeejeebhoy.

Kulkarni, who has spent every day of the last three months roaming its leafy bylanes was struck by the thought of capturing it on film whole researching a movie on the contribution of Mumbai’s Parsis.

Zareen Engineer was one of the first residents Kulkarni would meet, and later realise was Mancherji Joshi’s granddaughter.

“Anand excitedly asked me all sorts of questions about how it all started,” laughs Engineer, at her spacious home overlooking the Five Gardens. “It’s possible that I have repeated that story a 100 times, but I didn’t mind sharing it once more for the film.”

Sooni Davar, her elder sister, who has dropped in for a yoga session, says the legacy has built it own odd fallacy. “Because he built the colony, they think we must be millionaires. He was a middle-class man, and died one. He paid his rent faithfully until the end.”

A different colonisation

It was the early 1920s, and Joshi was a civil engineer posted with the Improvement Trust (equivalent of the BMC). Parsi pockets of Fort and Grant Road were undergoing redevelopment, leading to widespread displacement.

Joshi discussed his plan for a piece of land in the suburbs to build homes for the underprivileged and middle-class residents.

Architect Mervanji Framji Surveyor and civil engineer Jehangir Engineer helped Joshi plan the colony.

With funds from wealthy members of the community and the Bombay Parsi Panchayat, a plot was purchased in Dadar. “But before the buildings, he created 14 gardens in the colony, which we work hard to maintain,” says Engineer, founder of the Mancherji Edulji Joshi Residents’ Association.

“Those who say sparrows and parrots have left in the city, should visit the colony,” she says with pride about the green lung that houses trees as old as 80 years.

The wide roads that wind through the area — Lady Jehangir Road, Jam-e- Jamshed Road and Dinshaw Master Road — have all been named after philanthropists who helped fund them.

Engineer says Joshi envisioned a gymkhana, the Dadar Madrasa, a library, the Palamkote hall to host religious ceremonies and an agiary, all within the neighbourhood. It was dedication enough for the residents to create the casket of his statue that’s now a city landmark, while he was alive. All these feature in Kulkarni’s film.

The support staff

Rana Chakraborty
When the 250-building colony was conceived, it had no fence, just a simple rule — no building could stand higher than two storeys 

Kulkarni scripted the film while spending his Sundays at the Gymkhana. “Everyone seems to know everyone. They keep waving at each other.” The three-member team says they wouldn’t have managed to complete a film that’s cost them Rs 4 lakh without the help of random pedestrians like those at the Five Gardens, who asked if they could help, and Hemal Ghoshal, resident and secretary of Mount Pleasant building, who offered her home to store equipment.

Shernaaz Engineer, the editor of Jame- Jamshed, a weekly community newspaper, put in an announcement, requesting old residents to share print and video footage they may have.

“That worked,” says Kulkarni, “We even had a 48-year-old Parsi lady call in to check if she could ‘act’!” It’s possibly this camaraderie that businesswoman and philanthropist Padma Shri Anu Aga refers to in the film, when she says of the neighbourhood she grew up in: “There’s scope for lasting friendships because of the way the colony and structure was built.”

When Joshi conceived the colony, it had no fence, just a simple rule – no building could stand higher than two storeys, and a 15-feet open space between buildings was mandatory.

Saving the Oasis

It’s this very oasis that the residents are battling to save. The residents’ association has opposed the BMC’s plan to build a concrete-granite gazebo inside a children’s park, which they believe will reduce the Grade II B heritage garden’s size and mar the greenery.

It was by the time that Kulkarni was into the third draft of the script that he learnt of the residents’ tenacious fight with the builder lobby that’s keen to modernise the area through the redevelopment model that pertains to old cessed properties in the island city. “I feel part of their voice and struggle. I hope the film makes a difference.”

►►►  Because he built the colony, they think we must be millionaires. He was a middle-class man, and died one, paying the rent faithfully until the end

–  Sooni Davar (on grandfather Mancherji Joshi) with sister Zareen Engineer

 

#India #Mumbai- Armed men would come, pick women and rape them #VAW


Starved, herded and assaulted at State-run ‘shelter’
‘Armed men would come, pick women and rape them…’
BY- Yogesh Sadhwani @timesgroup.com,  MM, Oct 29,2012

On Saturday, around 60 women housed in the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh in Mankhurd, a staterun shelter for women rescued under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act, tried to escape after a fight with the caretakers. Of the 36 who scaled the compound wall, 13 were caught while 23 are still at large.
One of them is a 24-year-old from Kolkata (who is not being named to protect her identity) who came to Mumbai four years ago to earn a living. She has a six-yearold son who stays with her parents back home. She was working as a waitress at a city orchestra bar when the police nabbed her in a raid in May this year after which she was sent to the protective home. Mumbai Mirror traced her through a friend who gave her shelter immediately after her escape. In this meeting at a restaurant in a central suburb on Saturday, she spoke about the horrors she lived through at the home.
Iused to work as a waitress in a bar. In May, the police raided the place and nabbed three of us. They took us to the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh from the police station. On the very first day we realised that the place was hell on earth. Living conditions were pathetic, food was never enough, and the place was overcrowded.
But all that seemed trivial in front of what we witnessed next. Late one night, a group of six to seven drunken men armed with knivesandchoppersbargedintothehome. They randomly picked up a few girls who were sleeping and started kicking them. They then raped the girls. We were all too scared to intervene.
When the girls who were raped told the caretakers the next day, they just shrugged it off like nothing had happened. In the past four months, I have personally witnessed at least half-a-dozen such incidents. Those who are picked have to suffer while the rest just huddle up in one corner and dare not create a fuss.
The boundary wall of the home is porous and men walk inside as they please. The woman constables and a lone male guard posted at the home sit near the main gate. Even if the girls who get picked up in the night cry for help nobody comes to their rescue.
Most nights, we would stay awake through the night fearing that men would walk in and pick us. Not long ago one such group assaulted two girls. When the girls protested they were brutally beaten and then raped. One of the girls was so disturbed after the incident that she started wandering around the house naked. A couple of weeks later, the authorities called her parents and let her go as she had become a liability.
There are over 350 girls in the home at any given time. Recently a large group of girls rescued from a brothel in Grant Road (Simplex)werebroughthere.Theplacewas swarming with women. Of the two toilets in the home, only one is open. The other has been locked ever since a girl committed suicide in it a couple of months ago. Just one toilet for more than 350 women…
The food was equally pathetic. They gave us small portions of dried and stale vegetables for breakfast. Lunch was unheard of. For dinner we got watery dal and rice. If we asked for chapattis we were abused. The ‘kitchen mummy’ would often force us to work for hours without a break. Those who refused to work were beaten with pans.
After a few weeks of torture I realised that there was no point complaining. I just continued to suffer. In the meanwhile, two ofmyfriendswhowererescuedwithmedeveloped severe medical complications — one of them was bedridden and could barely swallow any food or water. Despite repeated pleas for medical help, the authorities never called a doctor or shifted my friends to a hospital.
On Friday night, another group of men armed with knives barged in as usual. They picked up four women and raped them. On Saturday morning, some of the girls decidedenoughwasenoughanddemandedthat the authorities increase security at the home. We told the chief caretaker about the incident. Instead of giving us a patient hearing she said there was little she could do. One thing led to another and in no time we started complaining about food and living conditions. After a while the argument got out of hand.
Just then we realised that the women constables and the lone male guard had come over to the caretaker’s office to check onthecommotion.Wespottedanopening in the fencing above the compound wall and made a run for it. I just ran out on to the main road and got into an auto-rickshaw. Only when I was far away did I ask the autodriver for a phone to call a friend for help.
I will never ever go back to that place. I would rather die than go back there.
This interview was conducted in Hindi

‘We’ve heard about these incidents, but there’s little we can do’

Members of State’s committee to look into conditions at welfare homes say they’ve got little power, no directions

Members of a recently formed special committee to look into conditions at the staterun shelters admitted that though they often hear about inmates being sexually abused and forced to live in sub-human living conditions, there is nothing they can do to address the problem.
There are around 30 such homes in the state that come under the Women and Child Development Department. Living conditions and security in these homes are largely sub-standard and the state has been struggling to address the issue.
Vidya Chavan, Member of Legislative Council and state president, women’s wing, NCP, who is a member of the special committee formed by the Women and Child Development Department to look into the conditions in these homes, said the department doesn’t act despite the repeated occurrence of such incidents.
Aides of Varsha Gaikwad, Minister for Women and Child Development, said the minister was on a break with her family. Repeated calls and text messages to Dr GD Pawar, officer on special duty to the minister, too went unanswered.
When we tried contacting the superintendent of the Mankhurd home, Ashwini Dighe, we were denied entry by policemen outside the home. Repeated calls to the landline numbers of the superintendent’s office went unanswered.
“The department, especially the minister, doesn’t seem to take the issue seriously,” said Chavan. “In the past, we inspected some homes and even gave recommendations to the department. But nothing has changed. I will now take up the issue with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.”
Neelam Gorhe, Shiv Sena MLC, who is also a member of the special committee, said the committee has not been given a clear idea about its mandate.
“The recently formed special committee is expected to inspect each and every home in the state and suggest measures to improve them,” she said. “The sad part is that we are yet to get a clear idea as to what our role is and how muchwecanintervene.Despiterepeated letters to the Women and Child Development Department, I am yet to get anyclarityontheissue.Iwillraisetheissue in the Legislature.”
Qaiser Khalid, additional commissioner of police, central region, said the scope of the police investigation is limited to the complaint filed by the officials at the home.
“The complaint says some women escaped and assaulted their staff,” he said “The home is maintained by the Women and Child Welfare Department and they have to look into any issue pertaining to the running of the home. However, if during the course of our investigation we find that there are certain problems because of which the women ran away we will certainly initiate action.”

 

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