In pics: A look inside Mumbai’s cramped but comfortable chawls | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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In pics: A look inside Mumbai’s cramped but comfortable chawls

Chawls could soon be history, with the state government’s pushing for a revamp of the city’s iconic structures

mumbai Updated: Apr 21, 2017 11:18 IST
Kunal Patil
A child runs across 14D chawl at Thakurdwar, Kalbadevi in Mumbai. Chawls go back to British rule when traders set up textile mills in Mumbai and hired workers.
A child runs across 14D chawl at Thakurdwar, Kalbadevi in Mumbai. Chawls go back to British rule when traders set up textile mills in Mumbai and hired workers.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

Mumbai’s chawls — where one floor of a multi-storied building comprises houses in a single row with a common verandah and toilets — are an essential part of the city’s culture. The residents, despite the cramped spaces, have a strong sense of community. They celebrate festivals together and lend a helping hand to each other in times of crises.

Chawls were first built in 1900, when the then British government encouraged traders to set up textile mills here. Now, the chawls in the city have begun to give way to skyscrapers following government orders. This has left residents with a tough choice — while the move to a new building will give them privacy and more space, the sense of kinship they feel may be lost forever.

14D chawl at Thakurdwar, Kalbadevi in Mumbai. Chawls were first built in 1900, when the British government encouraged traders to set up textile mills here. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
Dattatreya Chawl at Grant Road. Chawls are rows of rooms with a huge verandah in front. A chawl consists of two to four storeys with at least 40 rooms. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
14D chawl at Thakurdwar, Kalbadevi. These chawls had a large verandah as well as a big ground where children could play. In the night, adults would take a stroll in the compound, which also served as a meeting point for the residents. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
Children play cricket in 14D chawl at Thakurdwar, Kalbadevi. A typical room, popularly called kholi, is a 100-sq ft to 200-sq ft area and comprises a hall and kitchen. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
Children outside a kholi in Dattatreya Chawl at Grant Road. Rents in chawls range from Rs 50 to Rs 200 a month. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
Kids enjoy a friendly match of table tennis at Dattatreya Chawl in Grant Road. The chawl culture also played its role in Marathi literature and theatre. The ‘workers theatre’ gifted a number of playwrights and actors to Marathi theatre. The ‘chawl culture’ has been portrayed in the works of several Marathi litterateurs like P L Deshpande. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
Bhauchi gali chawl at Elphinstone Road. Currently, chawls pose to be lucrative real-estate for builders. From the government’s point of view, chawls offer a great opportunity to offer affordable houses after rehabilitating the existing tenants. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
Dattatreya Chawl at Grant Road. The chawls owned by landlords are also on the revamp radar, but now the recession in the real-estate market has slowed down the entire process. For how long the remaining chawls will survive is anybody’s guess. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)