Parsi maternity home on the block
Tucked away in a quiet lane off D N Road is one of the city’s oldest infirmaries–the charmingly named Dr Tehmulji’s Parsi Lying-in hospital. Built more than a century ago in 1895, the heritage building near New Excelsior cinema is up for sale.
For generations, Parsi women have delivered their babies in these high-ceilinged rooms and, as was the post-natal practice of the time, continued to stay on for as long as 40 days to recuperate. “Virtually an entire generation of Parsis was born in this hospital,” a community member said. But over the years, the hospital fell into disuse, with mothers preferring to head straight home after delivery. For years now, the hospital has had a single patient and the building is virtually abandoned except for a lone tenant on the ground floor.
“We have been receiving proposals from various parties. But any sale has to be done with the charity commissioner’s permission,” said Minoo Shroff, chairman of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat, which owns the two-storey building. “We will have to invite proper bids to sell it.”
The hospital has no shortage of suitors. The neighbouring Cathedral and John Connon school has offered to buy the property for Rs 35 crore. Principal Meera Issac confirmed this to TOI, stating that the offer was made some time ago. “But nothing has moved since then,” she said. Cathedral is interested in the property so that it can use the extra space to expand its own premises. The Hinduja Group, which had plans to start a super-speciality hospital, also put in its bid. However, its offer is much lower than Cathedral’s.
About eight years ago, the managing committee of the hospital was contemplating selling the building to the Ambanis for Rs 16 crore. However, one committee member raised objections saying that selling the hospital was akin to selling the family silver. Subsequently, the Shapoorji Pallonji group came forward to adopt the hospital. However, the trustees reportedly turned it down when the Pallonjis wanted to rename the hospital after their family.
“Ideally, the punchayat could have started it once again by investing Rs 10 crore. However, there is no initiative,” said punchayat trustee Dinshaw Mehta.
Located on Prescott Road and named after its founder Dr Tehmulji Bhicaji Nariman, the grey stone lying-in hospital was touted as the first of its kind for Parsi women in India. Its managing committee once comprised community stalwarts like J N Tata, N J Wadia, Sorabji Shapurji Bengali and Sorabji Framji Patel.
According to city historian Sharada Dwivedi, the hospital was originally opened in 1887 at the initiative of Dr Nariman in a small house facing the sea on Marine Lines. As accommodation was limited, a plot was acquired in the Hornby Estate, where the building is currently located.
“The hospital is listed as a Grade 2B heritage structure, which means that it cannot be demolished,” she said. Designed by Muncherjee Cawasjee Murzban, the building is embellished with intricately carved stone screens.
The definition of a Grade 2 structure is “buildings of regional or local importance possessing special architectural or aesthetic merit or cultural or historical value. They are local landmarks, contributing to the image and identity of the city. They may be the work of master craftsmen or may be models of proportion and ornamentation or designs to suit a particular climate”.
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