Tank up on memories at this Art Deco-style petrol pump’s 80th anniversary in Mumbai
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Tank up on memories at this Art Deco-style petrol pump’s 80th anniversary in Mumbai

The service station and on-site garages were designed by Gajanan Mhatre, one of the most prominent Art Deco architects of the time, and the firm Architectural Studio.

mumbai Updated: Oct 05, 2018 08:44 IST
Krutika Behrawala
Krutika Behrawala
Hindustan Times
Karfule,Art Deco style,Ballard Estate
Daniel Sequeira manages the pump with his parents, Kevin and Jacinta. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

If you’re filling up your tank at the Karfule (a play on ‘car-fuel’) pump in Ballard Estate, pay extra attention. The Art Deco structure opened on October 3, 1938, and features a beautiful octagonal canopy, brass window grilles, terrazzo flooring and signage typical of the sleek, smooth style.

For a fuelling station to be a design icon is unusual enough. To have it celebrate an anniversary is even rarer. Karfule marks its 80th birthday with a week-long exhibition curated by the Sequeira family that founded and has been operating the pump for three generations. “Fortunately, our family archive has been preserved well,” says Daniel Sequeira, 29, who manages the pump with his parents, Kevin and Jacinta. “Ours is one of the rare dealer-owned and not company-owned petrol pumps in the city. The idea was to share our family history with Mumbai and through it, explore the history of the city.”

The service station and on-site garages were designed by Gajanan Mhatre, one of the most prominent Art Deco architects of the time, and the firm Architectural Studio. The highlight of the exhibition is a hand-painted aerial plan of the pump that shows a tower on the canopy that originally had a clock. Other exhibits include back-lit globes, photographs from the pump’s inauguration, a handheld brass nozzle, and paperwork recording Karfule’s many business dealings.

One bill lists the snacks (sausage rolls, ham sandwiches and cassata ice cream) that were ordered for the station’s opening ceremony from an Italian confectioner, A Comba, in Fort.

Exhibits also trace the history of Karfule. It was started by Daniel’s grandparents – Gabriel and Teresa Sequeira, who migrated from Goa in the 1920s and opened four more kiosks – at Grant Road, Lamington Road, Dockyard Road and Dadar. These were shut down during World War II as fuel became scarce. “When we opened, we would sell petrol at 15 annas per gallon and make a profit of 10-15%. Now, that percentage has dropped to 1.5 and running a pump is a loss-making venture,” says Kevin.

Local historian Simin Patel, who runs the Bombaywalla blog, says Karfule is the most stylish and best preserved petrol pump in the city. “What makes it even more striking is that the Art Deco jewel sits in Ballard Estate and not the Oval Maidan neighbourhood, which is known for its Art Deco cluster.”

Highlights
  • WHAT: An exhibition on 80 years of Art Deco-style Karfule petrol pump
  • WHEN: Until October 11, 10 am to 7 pm
  • WHERE: Near Grand Hotel, Ballard Estate.
  • ENTRY: Free (Visit Karfule’s Facebook page to request for exhibition walkthrough)

First Published: Oct 03, 2018 23:28 IST