The attendants at Jeff Caterers, a take-away eating joint located bang on the crossroad of Bazaar Road and Chapel Road, are used to answering the question ‘where does the bandwala live?’
They point to Lancelot Cottage, one of the few remaining bungalows on Bazaar Road, where Joe Vessaokar, a music teacher lives.
The reason for their curiosity is the soothing musical notes, which float down Bazaar Road at regular intervals of the day. The player? Joe Vessaokar, trumpet maestro.
Vessaokar’s music is symbolic of the changing face of the Bazaar Road-Chapel Road stretch.
A stretch of road that has gone from being primarily a quiet abode of old Bandra families living in bungalows, to a multicultural, vibrant minipolis, which is home to an eclectic mix of families, single students, artists, filmmakers and musicians.
“I love living on this stretch. It’s full of life and you get to hear live music for free,” says filmmaker and visual artist Dhanya Pilo, referring to other musicians, like Vessaokar, who live down the lane and often practise music.
Though the man himself has been around for over 50 years and rues the changes around his bungalow, Vessaokar says that the influx of creative people in the area gives it a reputation.
“Earlier, every house had a musician. A lot of newcomers are moving into Bazaar Road, they are creative but the old days were the best,” says Vessaokar.
Though buildings have replaced bungalows, you can’t help admiring the graffiti and art that decks the walls that line the quaint, narrow bylanes of this stretch.
“I have long hair and tattoos but no one stares at me. I’m very comfortable in this area,” says Olly Alva, a tattoo artist, who has been living on Chapel Road for six years.
Musician, composer and event manager Himanshu Pandey, who also sports long hair, has come to appreciate his address considering that he used to live in Navi Mumbai.
“People just let you be here. I play my music really loud but the aunties in my building never hassle me,” he adds.
Pilo swears by her landlord. “He even let me paint my art on one of the walls in his house. Which landlord would allow that?” she asks.
So is the Bazaar-Chapel Road stretch turning into Mumbai’s Soho district peppered as it is with creative geniuses, many living on shoe-string budgets?
“It’s definitely changing and more creative types are moving in here,” says Pilo.
Pandey says living on Chapel Road helped him clinch a business deal, thanks to the proximity of creative people. “I happened to meet a DJ who lived a few houses away. I went across and we immediately collaborated on some work.”
Rajiv Eipe, an artist, moved into an apartment on Bazaar Street leaving the plush environs of his parents’ bungalow in Vikhroli as the studios are nearby.
“I know several artists like myself who have moved to Bazaar Road, so that makes it even more attractive,” Eipe adds.