In present day Mumbai, when one looks at the spaces that were once mills, only little remains of these structures. Most of them have been demolished and reconstructed. However, one aspect of these mills still stands tall — their chimneys, which can still be spotted at Swadeshi Mills at Chunabhatti, Peninsula Land at Senapati Bapat Marg, Laxmi Mills at Mahalaxmi, and Mukesh Mills at Colaba. These chimneys are signifiers of the city’s past. BMC officials, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the chimneys have been declared as heritage structures and hence they cannot be demolished.
Gopal MS, a photographer who documents the city extensively says, “It’s preserving a piece of 'Bombay' in what is now Mumbai. I think they are a decorative piece, maybe tributes to the city’s past. Once, they defined our skyline and were a symbol of the city for that age.”
“There have been movements to preserve some mill histories as a significant part of Mumbai’s heritage, and preserving the chimneys as an icon is one way of doing that. However, if you notice, the chimneys that are preserved are mostly around economic centres — the first Phoenix Mills mall compound is an example of this. It became a way of re-branding these spaces. Over the years, some of them have become safety hazards, or simply for reasons of FSI have been pulled down by real estate authorities,” said Khaliq Parker, assistant professor of Political Science, Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts.
Shekhar Krishnan, who is an anthropologist, historian and archivist based in Mumbai, said, “The reason why chimneys are preserved in some mills, particularly those which underwent commercialisation prior to 2006, is because these mills and their owners undertook redevelopment under the guise of industrial sickness and the modernisation of their textile production units. The mill owners had to therefore preserve and build inside old structures to comply with revival schemes sanctioned by the government and obtain bank loans to finance the conversion of their industrial concerns into commercial spaces. The commercial spaces were shown on paper as textile units, and so were the buildings and chimneys. This applies to Kamala, Phoenix, Morarjee and other mills in Mumbai.”
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Updated Date: Jan 06, 2018 19:25:10 IST