Motherhood matters: Tehmulji’s Parsi Lying-In Hospital

We unravel the history behind the crumbling Parsi Lying-In Hospital on Prescott Road

Article by Meher Mirza | DNA India

275979-motherhoodThe Parsi Lying-In Hospital at Fort

In the 19th century, young Parsi women were dying to give birth…literally. Back then, hospitals were unheard of and new mothers would be consigned to squalid ground floor rooms that were badly ventilated and unsanitary. Infant and maternal mortality rates were high. In 1895 though, that was to change. A committee of Parsi luminaries including Sorabji Shapurji Bengali, Sorabji Framji Patel, Nusserwanji Jehangir Wadia, Jamsetjee Nusserwanji Tata and Dr. Tehmulji Nariman came together to construct one of one of Mumbai’s first maternity hospitals—a sure sign of the community’s tentative progressiveness.

The architect commissioned for the project was Muncherji Marzban, star of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The building was styled in the Gothic Revival manner with its buff stone walls glowering over manicured lawns. Everyone agreed that it was a handsome building, as hip in its time as today’s glass-fronted cement blocks. It was designed to be sanitary and modern and quickly turned into a success. The rooms were soon filled with googly-eyed babies squalling in the arms of their nurses, with weary mothers resting in crisp hospital beds for more than a month.

A century passed during which many new hospitals blossomed. Few had the grandeur of the Parsi Lying-In Hospital but there was the flash of the ‘new’ about them and Parsi women chose to have their children there. At the Parsi Lying-In Hospital, the patients dwindled until the trustees were forced to close the hospital doors.
This hospital is today a tired husk of its former glory, made more nostalgic by decay. Plans are afoot to convert it into an orthopaedic hospital—a poignant symbol of a community in which deaths far outweigh the births.