Bombay Greens in the Fort

Update for January 28, 2010

Charles was on his patrol duty with this company walking through the Bombay Greens. He had started from the docks and was heading towards the Oval, via the recently inaugurated Train Terminus. The sun was hot and Charles put on his sola topee shouting out instructions to his sepoy to get his buggy. The buggy was led by 2 well bred black horses and as Charles stepped in, he ordered the troops to follow him into the Greens. The Bombay Greens was within the walled city of Bombay, with restricted access to Englishmen and their friends, the Parsees. Though it was close to the docks, it was not a place where many people traversed. The green overgrowth, the likelihood of serpents and such other native creatures forced the residents of Bombay to use the circuitous Fort Main road that ran from the docks to the railway terminus and onwards to Treasury Square, the High court, the Watson hotel and ended at the Esplanade. But this morning, the police chief, Charles Forjett chose to pass right through the Bombay Greens. He got his reluctant troops to clear the overgrown vegetation en route and came upon an oasis of coconut palms, and other trees, right at the centre of Bombay Greens. The tranquil atmosphere, the verdant cover and proximity to the rest of the Bombay Fort made him take an unusual decision. He spoke of it while sipping his whisky that evening at the bungalow of the Governor, Sir Elphinstone. He was worried that the Greens, if left unkempt, could become a “dumpyard of rotting coconuts” or a “haven for goons and thuggees” smuggling in from the dockyard. He wanted the governor’s permission to convert the Greens into a garden where his bands would play each evening (“to keep the thuggees and serpents at bay”) and the ladies could go for short nature walks within the city. To ensure further safety of the Garden, he would require the Chief Engineer’s help to construct buildings overlooking it. With not so distant and unpleasant memories of a subdued mutiny, the Governor was most eager to civilize as much of the Fort as he could. This was the start of the creation of the Horniman Circle, that continues to survive over 150 years after its creation. The area around the Circle was cleared for a cobblestone road and little stables were constructed on bylanes so that the citizens of the city could ride in comfortably and enjoy the swaying palm trees and the birds sing in the morning, and seat themselves on stone benches as they listened to English tunes played by the police brass band each evening. The green cover remained, but large parts of the garden were cleared for flower beds, walking paths, little canopied sit-outs and the much used Band Box.

For those unfamiliar with D Street – it is within what was once referred to as Bombay Greens during the walled city days of the Fort district of Bombay. It is just a street away from the green Horniman Circle. There are no bands that play these days, but the green cover remains and one often hears screeching bats in the evening, or cooing koels in the morning, and if one ventured within, don’t be surprised to catch 2 squirrels quarreling for the nuts strewn by a generous walker in the park. The D Boyz, at times take the road that circles the Circle before getting into office. It was one such day today, as they went to work after breathing in fresh green air and the listening in to the twittering of morning birds. The SENSEX reacted to their senses and opened Green and stayed green all morning. Then the local administration got to work digging some part of the road around the Circle, causing traffic woes and snarls. The Boyz looked out of their windows and reacted with snarled faces pushing the SENSEX into negative territory. Fortunately, a sensible traffic cop got into play and tried to manage the crowds that gathered on the street, as more traffic focused onto the Bank Central building at the edge of the Circle. Preparation for a function tomorrow caused quite a stir in this side of D Street and the tremors were felt by the Boyz as well. They in turn tried to protect the unstable and volatile SENSEX that finally tamed at a lame 17 points up to end at 16306 (rather flat).

The Horniman Circle is now open to all, and at times is the venue for some performing arts. But the imposing building opposite the circle hosts more events because of its sweeping steps that serve as seats; and is also many a times, used in movie climaxes to showcase perhaps a police encounter. The walls of the Fort have long fallen, and few people remember the gentlemen who planned some of the nicer parts of the city. Try and take a walking tour of present day Fort, and many untold stories will spring to life.

Cheers ………


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