Mumbai owes most of its banks to opium exports and World War I.
These were among the historic gems doled out by conservation architect Sanaeya Vandrewala as she took 40 enthusiastic Mumbaiites on a walk through the banking district of Mumbai on Saturday, as part of the HT Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
“Though India was a British colony, the First World War never really reached the country,” she explained. “Mumbai’s origins as the financial capital of the country can be traced back to this period. India experienced an industrial boom, and the banks had to be set up.”
The hour-long walk began at the old HSBC building at Horniman Circle, with its big windows and giant archways, and proceeded past the neo-classical State Bank of India, the first bank set up in the city.
The group then wended its way through the lanes of Fort to arrive at the Central Bank of India building, where they toured the interiors and the museum to see old sketches of the area and even the first cheque ever issued by Central Bank.
Some participants took out their cameras while others took notes.
Among the former was Supriya Damah, 24, a resident of Deonar and a student at the JJ School of Art.
“I am currently studying photography, and these historical insights have helped me understand the city better,” she said.
Added fellow participant Hiroo Mirchandani: “I live in Colaba, just minutes away, and yet it never struck me to explore the area like this — and I’m on the board of directors of a bank, so I was able to relate well to the history of banking in the city.”
It was precisely that hidden side of the city that Kruti Garg, curator of the Epic Channel Heritage Walks section, was aiming to reveal.
“I designed this walk to explore how banking as a practice established its footprint in a city that is now the financial capital,” she said.