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House, but No Garden

House, but No Garden: Apartment Living in Bombay's Suburbs, 1898-1964

Nikhil Rao
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    House, but No Garden
    Book Description:

    Between the well-documented development of colonial Bombay and sprawling contemporary Mumbai, a profound shift in the city's fabric occurred: the emergence of the first suburbs and their distinctive pattern of apartment living. InHouse, but No GardenNikhil Rao considers this phenomenon and its significance for South Asian urban life. It is the first book to explore an organization of the middle-class neighborhood that became ubiquitous in the mid-twentieth-century city and that has spread throughout the subcontinent.

    Rao examines how the challenge of converting lands from agrarian to urban use created new relations between the state, landholders, and other residents of the city. At the level of dwellings, apartment living in self-contained flats represented a novel form of urban life, one that expressed a compromise between the caste and class identities of suburban residents who are upper caste but belong to the lower-middle or middle class. Living in such a built environment, under the often conflicting imperatives of maintaining the exclusivity of caste and subcaste while assembling residential groupings large enough to be economically viable, led suburban residents to combine caste with class, type of work, and residence to forge new metacaste practices of community identity.

    As it links the colonial and postcolonial city-both visually and analytically-Rao's work traces the appearance of new spatial and cultural configurations in the middle decades of the twentieth century in Bombay. In doing so, it expands our understanding of how built environments and urban identities are constitutive of one another.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8210-2
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Traveling north along one of bombay’s arterial roads from the heart of the colonial city in the south of the island is like traversing the history of Bombay’s growth and expansion under colonial and postcolonial rule. The showcase districts of the Fort in the south of the city were the heart of British Bombay, with origins in the eighteenth century. Heading north from here entails negotiating the Fort’s antithesis in the crowded old “native” city districts of Kalbadevi, Bhuleshwar, Pydhonie, Mandvi, and so on, which grew up as overspill from the Fort as the city expanded in the late eighteenth...

  5. 1 An Indian Suburb
    (pp. 21-66)

    With this rather breathless passage, the annual report of the Bombay City Improvement Trust—not a document generally known for its purple phrasing—captured the scale of the suburbanization project in the Dadar-Matunga-Sion areas of early-twentieth-century Bombay. While noteworthy for the scale of the operation—no less than one-sixth of the surface area of the city was involved—the suburbanization project of the BIT was more important in introducing new ways of thinking about land and space in the colonial city of Bombay.

    The notion of the suburb suggests the idea of planning. While the suburbs of Bombay in the...

  6. 2 Peopling the Suburbs
    (pp. 67-96)

    By the late 1910s, the bit’s suburban vision had evolved and transformed in response to various kinds of pressures. Yet who would live in the new suburbs? This, it turned out, was not an easy question to answer. In 1907, on behalf of the Government of Bombay, Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer R. E. Enthoven issued a questionnaire soliciting the opinions of various prominent persons on the question of the “development of Bombay and the improvement of communications within the island.”¹ The survey questionnaire consisted of questions regarding housing, land reclamations, roadways, and rail communications. It was sent to the...

  7. 3 The Rise of the Bombay Flat
    (pp. 97-136)

    In a recent article inindian express, a mumbai newspaper, the journalist Manju Mehta explored the proposed redevelopment of Dharavi, the gigantic informal settlement in the heart of the island city, which, for generations of middle-class Mumbaikars, has held the distinction of being the “largest slum in Asia.”¹ Much has since been written about this controversial and often maligned redevelopment project, but I focus here on the form of housing that “rehabilitated” slum dwellers will receive. As S. A. Sunder, a twenty-five-year Dharavi resident interviewed for the article by Manju Mehta, said, “Flats with all the trappings of an upwardly...

  8. 4 The Spread of Apartment Living
    (pp. 137-170)

    “Hundreds of modern buildings are under construction in bombay.”

    So screamed the caption underneath an image of a modern apartment building on the March 15, 1939, cover of theIndian Concrete Journal. Following the boom in land prices between 1916 and 1922, a dramatic slump in the land market ensued, severely restricting building activity in the city. By the 1930s, however, building activity had picked up dramatically, creating a building boom that lasted through the decade and until the wartime government began to restrict building materials from 1940 onward. It was during this building boom that Dadar–Matunga decisively assumed...

  9. 5 From Southern Indians to “South Indians”
    (pp. 171-197)

    When i started to talk to longtime residents of Matunga, people told me that I should meet K. V. L. Narayan as soon as possible. Narayan, it seems, moved into the neighborhood in 1932 and has lived continuously in the same tenement building ever since. His experience, I was told, was “typical” of the experience of the South Indians who moved into this neighborhood from the 1920s onward. Narayan was also one of the very few who had put any of his experiences in writing. In a letter to his grandchildren, in which he describes his childhood years in Bombay...

  10. 6 Toward Greater Mumbai
    (pp. 198-234)

    On february 1, 1957, an unusual ceremony took place at a high school hall in Malad, a suburb of Bombay in Salsette. Until that day, Malad had been an autonomous municipal entity. In the second of two expansions that took place between 1950 and 1957, Bombay’s municipal limits were widened to incorporate the surrounding areas, and Malad, along with other local bodies in the island of Salsette, was amalgamated into Greater Bombay. At the high school hall in Malad, a small group of municipal councilors and executive officers were gathered together in the presence of journalists.¹ Kunverbhai Patel, president of...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 235-240)

    Over the past twenty years, far-reaching changes have transformed the economic, material, and sociocultural environments of Mumbai. Deregulation of the Indian economy and of the built environment in the city has meant that the city’s physical and demographic face is changing at an astounding rate. Indeed, the very idea of “suburb,” while still in use, means something entirely different than it did in the early and mid-twentieth century. As the city has expanded relentlessly northward into Salsette and further north and east into Thane District on the mainland, the original suburbs of Dadar–Matunga are now part of south-central Mumbai....

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 241-244)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 245-276)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-286)
  15. Index
    (pp. 287-300)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-301)