Rustom Baug in Byculla celebrates centenary year


February 7, 2023

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Bombay | Heritage | History | Mumbai

Built by Bai Jerbai Wadia in memory of her late son, the residential colony, continues to be a ‘self-contained’ thriving community centre for 330 families


Rustom Baug boasts of a library, gymnasium, canteen, kindergarten and club house, where families meet and residents gather to celebrate festivals and cermemonies.

By Linah Baliga | Hindustan Times

Parsi Baugs that dot the landscape of Mumbai form an essential part of the city’s heritage. Names like Cusrow Baug, Malcom Baug, Wadia Baug, Navroze Baug etc., are the pockets in which the community nurtures their culture and traditions. Built to provide affordable housing to the members of the community, one such enclave — Rustom Baug, tucked near Masina hospital in Byculla, turned 100 years old this year.

To commemorate the centenary year, a year-long celebrations have been planned by the 330 families, who reside in the Baug, to pay their tributes to Bai Jerbai Wadia, who constructed the residential colony in the memory of her late son, Rustom.

As a part of their celebrations, on the morning of January 15, the tenants drew floral decorations with chalk. In the evening, they draped their buildings with colourful lights and started the “Jashn ceremony”, which lasted for an hour.

A priest from a nearby Agiary gave a talk about Jerbai Wadia, her philanthropic activities and all the colonies built by the Wadias. Later, the senior citizens sold goodies followed by a few rounds of raffle and there was also a children’s entertainment center, to round off the fun-filled evening.

“We also honoured our residents aged 90 years and above. We have 11 such residents and one named Rati Hakim is over 100 years old. When we felicitated them, they were extremely pleased and from what their families told us, the felicitations made their day,” said Burzis Taraporevala, president, Rustom Baug Welfare Association.

To continue with the centenary celebrations, on February 12, there will be a heritage walk from Victoria gardens to Mazgaon, in and around Byculla at 7.30am, followed by a typical Sunday brunch of akuri, kheema brun paav, veg cheese croquettes, chicken farcha sagan ni sev and sausages.

Taraporevala said, “I have been living here for the last 64 years and I have grown up with 23 buildings around and a playground, which is big enough for cricket and football games and a pavilion, which has badminton and table tennis courts and a gymnasium. Here, your extra-curricular and social skills get nurtured. Here, you can roam around freely without any fear. It is a paradise in a concrete jungle.

“So, whenever we think of this colony, we think of how lucky and blessed we are. We stay in flats measuring 1,000sqft at the most minimal rent of ₹5,000, which includes parking charges for my two cars,” said Taraporevala.

As the story goes, Jerbai Wadia used to personally supervise the construction of the buildings and would invite people to settle down in Rustom Baug, where the rents were low. She would assure people of a proper housing in Mumbai.

“Earlier, Parsi community was concentrated in Gujarat, Navsari, Ahmedabad and Surat. People were skeptical about settling in Mumbai because at that time, finding a house was not easy and landlords used to evict them regularly.

“This was one of the reasons Jerbai Wadia decided to build shelter for Parsis here so that they could live comfortably and were assured of a flat. They could then either take up employment or do business. Quite a few were employed by the Bombay Dyeing,” said Taraporevala. Bombay Dyeing is owned by the Wadia group.

Xerxes Dastur, president of Sir Ness Wadia Memorial Pavilion inside Rustom Baug, said, “I was born here. It is great to live in a colony such as Rustom Baug, especially, once you have got children and you realise what a blessing it is to live in a self-contained unit like this.

“We have our own clubhouse, library, canteen and a kindergarten. We have 33 buildings with 330 tenants. These have been around since 1923, when the first buildings were built,” he added.

Dastur said that the colony has been aesthetically laid around a couple of gigantic trees. “The main rain tree, which is around 150 years old is still there at our clubhouse and it forms the centre of many activities.

“In all their wisdom, the forefathers made this colony conducive to healthy living. It is a blessing for people in the colony as seniors, who are retired, spend their entire day at the club. It is a place where families meet. I make it a point to meet my father there regularly. We also have sports and tournaments there,” said Dastur.

“We have senior citizens group who do yoga at the nursery. We have another hall where we run kindergarten classes and it is also used for celebrations and holding talks by seniors. It is a great place to grow old. We have all done something right to live here,” said Dastur.

Taraporevala said that in order to retain the long-carried traditions, they have Sunday prayer classes for the youngsters conducted by Hutoxi Doodhwala, who teaches them prayers before their navjotes (initiation ceremony of a child into Zoroastrian religion).

“They are well-versed in their prayers even before they have navjotes. There are prayer classes for age groups between five and seven in the evenings. There are also sessions of story-telling, mostly about the significance of our ancestors. These are ways and means by which we keep our traditions alive,” said Taraporevala.

Doodhwala, a second-generation resident of Rustom Baug, said, “This colony means the world to me. It is our own little world and all of Rustom Baug is one big family. We know each other, and many have married within families of the residents, from one building to the other. We had our tuition, piano, elocution teachers here. It was like a township by itself.

“We have two active committees which are pro youngsters, and we want to pass on these feelings, sentiments and traditions down to our children and grandchildren.”

Dastur said the colony has such a culture that folks of all generations interact with children. “I think the saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ holds true here,” said Dastur.

“Right from the time I would enter the colony, someone or the other would tell me where my son is and what he is up to. We are safe and secure here. We are also lucky to have two hospitals right next door. The approach road to Rustom Baug is difficult with two hospitals and three schools, but once you are in the colony, it is peaceful and serene,” added Dastur.