Memories of a Receding Past: 39

Mumbai Part VI - Vasai


Continued from Previous page

Not for nothing India was considered a golden sparrow during the middle ages. The riches of the country – cultural, political and economic – had spread its fame right across the then civilized world. Virtually every sea-faring nation of Europe in those days was aiming for a piece of the rich cake the country offered. Portugal was one of the first European countries to hit the Western shores of India. It has left a major footprint in the shape of Vasai Fort about 50 kilometres north of Mumbai.

The Fort at Vasai – also known as Bassein or Bacaim – is all that remains today of the Portuguese possession near Mumbai in the Palghar District of Maharashtra. It is known as the Fort of St. Sabastian of Vasai. The Portuguese had penetrated the Konkan coast and the control over Vasai gave them the possession of several islands that constitute Mumbai today. These are, among others, Colaba, Mumbai, Mazagaon, Worli, Matunga and Mahim. In addition Portuguese used to control Salsette, Daman, Diu, Thane, Kalyan etc.

The Vasai Fort is a Monument of National Importance. It is mostly in ruins except a few watch towers with their stairs in good usable condition. Many of the structures inside the Fort have fallen off but some of the walls remain standing to tell the current generation of their floor plans. The Fort currently has become a popular shooting destination of the Bollywood. Numerous films are shot here every year.

We took the route up north from our Worli residence and covered the distance in about an hour and a half. Wandering around we found little evidence of Portuguese occupation except the fort and a few names of places. An important legacy, however, is the presence of East Indians, the Catholic Christians, in the area whom we encountered also in Gorai. Maybe, some influences have been left behind in the cuisine and the way of life of the local people. Otherwise, unlike Goa, nothing much is left of the Northern Court or Corte da Norte, second only to Goa, functioning as the capital of the North from Vasai. Perhaps the reason is the hand-over of the Portuguese possessions of the region to the English by way of dowry for Princess Catherine of Braganza

This was our last outing in Mumbai except a minor one to Elephanta caves. I had completed four peaceful years of my tenure and it was now time to move. Soon I got a call from my friend TK Tochhawng, PMG North East, intimating that I had been posted in his place. He wanted me not to maneuver to have the orders cancelled. I assured him I had no such intentions. Obviously he did not want to continue further in Shillong though he was a Khasi.

Soon the round of farewells commenced, not by senior or junior colleagues but by the trade unions of the Maharashtra Circle. We had progresses to three regular unions – one each for every shade of political opinion. The oldest, of course, was the National Federation of the Postal Unions; the next was the National Union supported by the Indian National Congress and the third was the departmental union of Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh. All of them gave memorable send-offs for quite inexplicable reasons. When I was transferred out of Ahmedabad in the beginning of my career we had only one union that is the one that was Leftist.It too gave me a massive send-off

We packed and sent our stuff and the car by a truck right across the country from West to East and a day later we took a flight to Guwahati via Calcutta. We spent two pleasant years in the North East about which I have written separately. And, again, on completion, this time, of an abbreviated tenure of two years I was posted to the headquarters of the Department in-charge of matters relating to personnel. The only snag, reportedly, was the Secretary – an officer of our cadre – who was considered rather boorish. But things turned out in an entirely different way. He became very fond of me particularly because of the way I worked. I had surprisingly a very happy time with him though I did have to put in pretty hard labour.


More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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