“The mills wearing their stone gowns
Lit their cheroots and…
With wet shirts thrown across their shoulders
The workers turned towards their shacks.”
~ From ‘Maajhi aayi’ (My mother) by Narayan Surve, translated from the Marathi by Jatin Wagle
Girangaon, Mumbai’s once-bustling mill district, is gone. But its memory is preserved in poems such as this one — and now on a website called GiranMumbai/MillMumbai, launched on Tuesday by the School of Media and Cultural Studies (SMCS), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The website (millmumbai.tiss.edu) offers today’s Pheonix Mill-going Mumbaiite a look at the unique history and culture of this district, through an online archive featuring short films, documentaries, photo features, songs and poetry.
Some of these films explore the contributions of the mills’ women workers, others trace the aspirations of the families that lived and worked here, still others recreate the lives of stalwarts of the left cultural movement such as poet-activist Narayan Surve and painter Sunil Patwardhan.
The GiranMumbai/MillMumbai project is helmed by Anjali Monteiro and KP Jayasankar, professors at the School of Media and Cultural Studies.
“Its purpose is to go beyond nostalgia,” says architect and urban researcher Neera Adarkar, who has contributed an excerpt from a book, One Hundred Years One Hundred Voices, that she co-authored. “This website is for the post-textile economy generation, who will be excited to know how differently the area thrived just a couple of decades ago.”
A photo by Cathy Greenhalgh
In addition to watching documentaries by Anand Patwardhan, Paromita Vohra and Madhushree Dutta, visitors can listen to recordings of poems by Surve and songs by Amar Sheikh, or watch interviews with the likes of veteran activist Datta Iswalkar. There is also a gallery of photographs by Cathy Greenhalgh, principal lecturer and head of film and television at the London College of Communication, and researcher Shekhar Krishnan, tracing the transformation of the area.
“Lessons should be learnt from the struggle over the mill lands,” says journalist and environmentalist Darryl D’Monte, “so that we don’t repeat our mistakes with the redevelopment of the Port Trust Land.”