I took this picture as we were driving past (so I just got this portion ) because it really looked quaint and reminded me of the old Bombay. It was only later when I had downloaded the images and examined them a little closely that I saw the only board that I could make out - Kashmir Hotel - which I googled, more to find out the locality and a little more about the place. Imagine my surprise when I identified it as Jer Mahal, classified as a Grade III structure under the Heritage Rules in Mumbai.
Jer Mahal is a chawl system of (five) buildings, around 120 years old, built with the sole purpose of providing cheap accommodation to those who came to work in Mumbai. Located along Girgaum Street on one side and Kalbadevi on the other it showcases both the Indian vernacular and the European style of architecture. Heritage III buildings are considered to be of importance to the townscape and add to the character of a locality. The façade of the building also cannot be tampered with.
The site - http://theheritagekids.org/ hopes to involve the young to preserve the heritage. The organisation believes that there is a great possibility that every old building you see anywhere has a story to tell. There is so much in our arts, crafts, structures, monuments that they feel that we can learn from this heritage to build on our future.
They plan to identify architecture units / sites and monuments. After their research of the site, clean up pictures and show how the place can be revived and preserved. It hopes to appeal to the occupants of these buildings, and approach corporate houses and organisations to help them in their endeavour.
Their plans for the Jer Mahal is to look like this -
They believe that the building and the surroundings can be cleaned and the architectural beauty be restored.
It would be no easy task. BMC permission, legal help in relocating the tenants, architectural help for restoring the structure and of course funds.
The BMC permission would probably be the toughest hurdle. Around two years ago, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority prepared a fresh list of heritage structures in the city. According to the revised lists, Jer Mahal is to be re-designated as a Grade-II structure. The revised list has been submitted to the government for notification. The notification is yet to see the light. And by not doing so, the government according to Conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah is giving a signal to developers to destroy heritage buildings. Moving the building to Grade-II, could be the only way to save the Jer Mahal.
I hope the conservationists have their way. The building caught my eye in the otherwise crowded area. With most old buildings giving way to ugly, unplanned concrete structures, the city is fast losing its charm.
I really do hope to see the Jer Mahal in my future visits to the city.