It’s a small little village nestled in the otherwise concretised town of Mumbai. Dotted with century-old mansions, patches of greens and winding alleys, this gaothan will take you back in time, to an era now erased in our memory. What is surprising is the effort and the indomitable spirit of its residents, who have time and again refused to relinquish their fiefdom and buckle under pressure of the authorities and corrupt builders. Khotachiwadi, as it is known, is one of the very few vestiges of our past glory. With over 200 years of rich tradition, Khotachiwadi, located in the Girgaum area of South Mumbai, holds more of Mumbai than any part of the city actually does. But, who cares! A visit to the gorgeous mansion of fashion designer James Ferreira in this small little gaothan is only a reaffirmation of the old-world charm, now lost, but open to translation in a million different ways. Ferreira is not only passionate about clothing, but also a great lover of arts (if his home is anything to go by). He loves his home and he loves Khotachiwadi, and dare you harm his nest… Ferreira speaks candidly about what Khotachiwadi meant, and what it still means to him. I sit back, relax and take comfort in the beauty of his home, as he takes over, with his soliloquy.
It’s devastating to witness the slow death of a community; one that was so beautiful and vibrant, but now shrinking and losing out at the hands of corrupt money-making scoundrels. The village of Khotachiwadi, the only home I have ever known, is the victim of this urban delusion. Dotted with 19th century bungalows and narrow bylanes, this sleepy little village is almost struggling to retain its old-world charm and aesthetics. Today, from 65 bungalows, we are down to a shocking 27; my heart pains every time I think of what we are losing. Fortunately, ever since we were given the heritage status in 1996, the residents of this area have become more “house proud” and have started looking after their homes. But this too is a challenge. Despite the heritage status, three bungalows have been sold to builders, with a seven-storey already having made inroads into the area.