Iconic landmarks of Mumbai, Gateway of India and Taj Mahal Palace Hotel are synonymous with the city. Despite a terror attack on the former on August 25, 2003 and the latter on November 26, 2008, together they’ve lent permanence to arguably the most photographed landscape in a city that is ever-changing. In that respect they represent resilience.
More importantly, though, they represent hope to thousands of immigrants who come here looking to live a dream. An acquaintance once told me that he ran away from home to build a better future and the first thing he did after reaching Mumbai was take a taxi to the Gateway.
If you visit, just sit and watch for a while the interactions at play – A newly-wed man proudly showcases the grandeur of Mumbai to his wife decked in her finest; Office workers gaze into the distance, willing a gentle breeze to carry away the day’s anxieties; Photographers carry an album of their work, looking to earn a living in an era of smartphones; Cobblers call out to people whose slippers have given way to use or shoddy workmanship; A mother runs after her runaway child; A Bhel wallah adjusts pieces of coal in a vessel used to warm ingredients of the famed ‘Sookha’ (dry) and ‘Geela’ (wet) bhel.
I could go on but that would rob you of the opportunity to make your own observations.
By the way, the person I mentioned earlier left Mumbai disappointed with the grim reality of hard labor that Bollywood city demands. This doesn’t mean that one should give up on his/her dreams, it just means that you need to feed them well and keep those stars in your eyes burning bright.
FUN FACT/TRIVIA – While the Gateway was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, they only got to see a cardboard replica since its construction hadn’t begun.
A brief timeline for the Gateway of India
Foundation stone laid : 31 March, 1911 by governor of Bombay, Sir George Sydenham Clarke. Some sites, including a Government of India site mention 31 March, 1913 as the date
Architect George Wittet’s design sanctioned : 31 March, 1914
Land reclamation : Between 1915 and 1919
Foundation completed : 1920
Construction completed : 1924; Cost of construction at the time : 27 lac rupees
Inauguration/opening : 4 December, 1924 by the Viceroy, Earl of Reading, Rufus Isaacs
Last British troops left from here : 28 February, 1948
FUN FACTS/TRIVIA -The Taj Mahal Hotel was built in 1903, well before the Gateway of India was constructed. It was the first Mumbai building to be lit by electricity generated at its own power plant, NOT the first building to be electrified in India.
A brief timeline of The Taj Mahal Hotel and Towers
Land acquired from Bombay Port Trust : 1893 by founder Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata
Foundation laid : 1898; Architects – Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya, D. N. Mirza, W. A. Chambers. Builder – Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji Contractor; Cost of construction at the time – 2,50,000 Pounds
Opened for business : 16 December, 1903
Hotel Greens purchase : In November 1904, neighbouring Hotel Greens, originally owned by an English grocer, was bought by the Tatas
Opened India’s first AC restaurant-cum-ballroom and bar, Harbor Bar : November 1933
Renovation phase : 1962 Colonel Leslie Sawheny, Dorabji Tata’s brother-in-law, took charge and recruited Ajit Kerkar,who went on to renovate the hotel
Taj Mahal Tower opened : Popularly known as the new wing, The Taj Mahal Tower opened in 1973 on the land where Hotel Greens once stood – the latter was demolished
Terrorist attack : 26 November, 2008
Reopening : Less damaged sections were reopened on 21 December, 2008 while the heritage wing was fully reopened on August 15, 2010