The Making of Marine Drive

Sidharth Bhatia 108

Beirut has its Corniche, Havana its Malecon, Cannes its Croisette; but none of these celebrated bayside boulevards is as heart-stirring as Mumbai’s majestic Marine Drive. Sidharth Bhatia delves into its history.

The no. 123 double-decker bus used to run the most popular route in Bombay. Even those who didn’t live or work along its path loved it. It was a favourite with young couples, who would clamber aboard, rush to the upper level and settle down for the city’s most scenic ride. For on its way to and from Colaba at the southernmost end of the peninsula, the 123 trundled along Marine Drive between the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea on one side and some of the most beautiful buildings in the city on the other. That view of the promenade, the bay and the magnificent Art Deco structures that line the drive was one of the great bargains of Bombay – until some sourpuss bureaucrat stopped the double-deckers from plying the route.

Still, Marine Drive is where Mumbaikars come for a few moments of freedom from the stresses of commuting, of high living costs, of cramped homes. It is a place that breathes possibility. Bollywood filmmakers have long exploited its majestic arc to show Bombay as a city that sets you free.

Amitabh Bachchan likes to recall the time when he slept on a Marine Drive bench at night. Years later, many of his films were shot here. In one, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, he rode a motorcycle down the road, rakishly dressed and singing with abandon. It was a statement of having finally arrived, proof that having made it in Bombay you can make it anywhere. After all, as the song from the 1956 film C.I.D. goes: “Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan, zara hatke, zara bachke yeh hai Bombay meri jaan.” (Oh my heart, it’s very difficult to live here, be careful and be warned, this is Bombay, my love.) The song subsequently became the de facto anthem of this tough metropolis.

The three-kilometre stretch along the waterfront extends from Nariman Point to Chowpatty, disappearing into Walkeshwar and, beyond that, tony Malabar Hill. The famous Art Deco, buildings, however, run only along about one third of the drive; after them come the gymkhanas with their open cricket fields, followed by a run-down aquarium, a modern tower block that is a hostel for female students, and at the far end, Wilson College, built in 1889 in the Victorian Gothic style.

Virgin territory: One of the earliest views of Bombay, taken by William Johnson and William Henderson, c. 1855

The apartments that overlook the drive house the wealthy; the promenade is more egalitarian, a wide stretch of pavement where locals and tourists, rich and poor, young and old, portly businessmen and indigent students all mingle to “eat the breeze”, as the Hindi phrase goes. Young couples turn their backs on the world, cuddling and kissing, unmindful of the throngs behind them, throngs who generally leave them alone. In claustrophobic Mumbai, where privacy of any kind is at a premium, Marine Drive affords anonymity. Here, at least, Bombay lets lovers be; in any other Indian city they would be routinely disturbed and harassed.

Dhun Lentin (née Patel) is among the lucky few who live on the top floor of one of Marine Drive’s celebrated Art Deco apartment buildings. Her family moved to a fourth-floor flat in the brand new Soona Mahal building in 1939 when she was five. It was a grand, three-bedroom affair with a curved balcony facing the south-western seafront. Soona Mahal was on a corner plot, with attractive windows running down the front and a circular penthouse on the terrace. On the ground floor is the popular music-filled restaurant Pizza by The Bay (formerly called Talk of the Town) well-known for the political banners its owner flies above the corner.

The Patels were among the earliest residents of what was then a smart new address for the Bombay elite. The old money was in neighbourhoods like Malabar Hill, where high-ranking British officials and long-established wealthy Indian families lived. But by the early Forties, Marine Drive was becoming a preferred quarter for more modern families, Indian and European.

Dhun Lentin has lived all her life on Marine Drive. In 1961, she married a young lawyer who lived just four buildings up the road. Bakhtavar “Bomi” Lentin’s home was a sprawling, 2,500 sq.ft. sea-facing apartment on the fifth floor of Chateau Marine, built by his grandfather.

Chateau Marine is a name that evokes instant recognition among old Bombay residents, especially those who know their popular film history. While Lentin himself went on to become a famous judge in the Bombay High Court, across the landing from his flat lived his childhood friend, a young gawky girl named Fatima. In time, Fatima would adopt the name Nargis and the world would hail her as one of Hindi cinema’s greatest stars.

The home that Nargis lived in as child and young woman was presided over by her formidable mother, Jaddan Bai. She herself had been a well-known singer before becoming famous for her salons where actors, writers and producers, all hopeful of working with Nargis, assembled and paid court. The acerbic Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto regularly attended these events. He recalled of his visits to the apartment in what he once called “Bombay’s most luxurious area” how JaddanBai used to discuss each and every detail of the films that her daughter would star in and kept a tight control over her money.

Prime property: Panorama of Backbay from Malabar Hill, by Raja Deen Dayal, late 19th century

Movie star romance
Gossip was freely traded at these gatherings, especially about rival stars. Of particular interest to the Jaddan Bai household was Suraiya, the doe-eyed singing star of the 1940s who lived on the ground floor of Krishna Mahal, an elegant building further down Marine Drive. In an article on Nargis in the Urdu daily Afaq, Manto describes how Jaddan Bai said “Suraiya’s voice was bad, she could not hold a note, she had had no musical training, her teeth were bad and so on. I am sure had someone gone to Suraiya’s home he would have witnessed the same kind of surgery performed on Nargis and Jaddan Bai.”

During the 1940s and 50s, gaggles of fans used to stand outside these two buildings, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars. The Marine Drive homes of both these actresses played a key role in their own lives and stories about them have become part of Bollywood lore. The first meeting between Nargis and her long term co-star and lover Raj Kapoor took place when she opened the door of her flat to let him in. Her hands were full of flour because she had come straight from the kitchen where she was making chappatis. Kapoor used the scene for a sequence in his film Bobby.

The real-life drama at Krishna Mahal was even more intense. Suraiya’s handsome beau Dev Anand used to come to meet her under the watchful eye of her “grandmother” (she was in fact her mother). When their affair finally broke up, the emotional young actress crossed to the promenade and threw his ring into the sea.

Marine Drive’s charm and hold on the collective imagination goes beyond such Bollywood legends of course. Its deep, graceful curve is perhaps the city’s most famous image (after the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Hotel) celebrated on millions of postcards, tourist brochures and in scores of films. The romantic glitter of the long arc of streetlights – “the Queen’s necklace” – cannot be found anywhere else.

It is a bustling promenade today rather than the quiet, palm frond-fronted boulevard of an earlier era. Early photographs show just a few cars on the road; now it is a busy thoroughfare that gets jammed during  rush hour. As Dhun Lentin recalls: “It was wonderful; I could stand on the balcony in the morning and could even hear snatches of conversation from across the road. It was quiet and there were hardly any cars.”

A distant, if slightly hazy personal memory surfaces here from the late 1950s: I remember walking from Churchgate to Marine Drive and down towards the end of the promenade where the Oberoi Hotel stands today. The business district of Nariman Point did not then exist. The seafront tapered off into a jagged strip of land where every Sunday crowds used to gather to watch films projected onto a giant concrete screen. For a little Bombay kid, this was the highlight of the week. I remember vividly how busy Marine Drive was on Sundays even then. In a city starved of space, it was the one open expanse where everyone could gather for a few hours and feel liberated. Its openness to the sea and to lands beyond mirrored the city’s traditional willingness to welcome people, ideas and influences from everywhere.

Like many a development in Bombay/Mumbai, Marine Drive owes its existence to land reclamation and profiteering. From its early origins as a British trading outpost to its messy, chaotic present, the city has undergone several stages of reclamation: first to join together the seven islands that constituted it and then to keep expanding out into the water. Successive rulers dreamt up their own ambitious projects; investors and speculators were quick to move in. The familiar nexus of politicians, administrators, moneybags and fixers conspired behind closed doors, justifying their plans in the name of urban development.

One such push came at the turn of the 19th century when, after a devastating outbreak of plague, the British administrators decided to decongest the city and to reclaim land at its southern end. The Bombay City Improvement Trust began with the reclamation that became Cuffe Parade. It was successful enough to inspire a more ambitious plan on the Backbay. It was not an entirely new idea – something on those lines had been thought of in the 1860s but was abandoned in the economic crash that followed the American Civil War.

Unobstructed: Panorama from Rajabai Tower looking south, by Raja Deen Dayal, 1880’s. Watson’s Hotel is on the left, the Secretariat building at centre. At far left in Colaba is the former Royal Alfred Sailors Home, now HQ of the Maharashtra State Police.

The great backbay scheme
The new scheme envisaged reclamation all along the western side of the southern tip of the city, a beautiful promenade that would not only have apartment blocks and office buildings but also public squares in the manner of Oxbridge quads. The homes were to be for the rich, but the proposal was marketed as if it would somehow decongest the crowded “native” areas. However, British administrators balked at cost estimates made in the first two decades of the century, and the Indian-dominated municipal corporation opposed an increase in the housing stock that might lower rents. Nevertheless, after private money moved in, the project began to take shape.

The Backbay reclamation scheme began in 1919. Stone and mud were quarried in the north in Kandivali,  brought by train to the site and dumped into the sea. But the whole project was badly planned, the dredging of the sea inadequate. Soon there was no hope of finishing the project within five years, contrary to what investors had been told.

By the early 1920s it was clear that the development plan was a disaster. The scandal led to an official inquiry. Leading the public outcry was the nationalist lawyer Khurshed Framji Nariman. He wrote strident articles in the local press, whose headlines lambasted the reclamation plan as “Lloyd’s folly” and “Buchanan’s blunder” after the governor and engineer he blamed for the bungling. (Decades later, the new business district in south Bombay was named after him, an ironic twist given that there was a stench attached to this project too.) The government recommended that only four of the eight planned blocks should be reclaimed. The result can be seen when one stands at the jetty-like strip that juts out into the sea at Nariman Point and gazes at Cuffe Parade across the gap. Had it been filled in, Marine Drive would have been much longer. As it was, 16.6 acres emerged from the sea opposite the imposing Gothic headquarters of the Western Railway and Churchgate station, which had until then been on the waterfront.

Throughout the 1930s, modernist buildings – cinemas, offices and apartment blocks – began to rise: Eros cinema with its ziggurat, Liberty cinema with its piano keys running down the wall, New India Assurance building at Fort with its Indian motifs and friezes. All these buildings, which are such a strong part of the city’s identity, were conceived and built during that period.

The style we now know as Art Deco had already taken the world by storm – the seafronts of Miami, Alexandria and Havana all had a particular affinity to the style – Bombay would be no different. And Bombay Art Deco was more than just a design fad. For a newly emerging Indian elite (as well as royalty from all over India who rushed to buy properties on Marine Drive), it represented a breakaway from the grand Gothic and Indo-Saracenic imperial buildings that dotted the southern tip of the city. Indian merchants, financiers and professionals  were implicitly rejecting the architectural ethos of the Raj and seeking a style that expressed their aspirations. Art Deco’s reinforced concrete and stucco fronts, its curving balconies, its absence of ornate Corinthian columns, and the idea of being connected with the latest international design trend all appealed to them. An Ideal Home exhibition held in Bombay in 1937, showcasing the latest furniture and decor styles, was a triumph; the new look, with its curved steel sofas and chairs, was perfect for these stylish apartments and the modern families who would live in them.

Many of Marine Drive’s buildings were financed, designed and built by Indians such as G. B. Mhatre, who is credited with some of the most stylish Art Deco architecture in the city, and who designed Soona Mahal among other buildings. The glamorous, cosmopolitan dreams of the builders are visible in the names: Oceana, Shalimar, Riviera, St James Court, Chateau Marine. (Interestingly, all of the buildings that came later, sweeping towards Chowpatty, have Indian names like  Jyoti Sadan, Bharatiya Bhavan, Hemprabha and Meghdoot.)

Some of the names tell stories. The trio of identical buildings named Kewal Mahal, Kapur Mahal and Zaver Mahal were named by a wealthy Gujarati cinema tycoon after himself and two of his children. Al Sabah Court, on the other hand, was owned by the Kuwaiti royal family and was the home of a young prince during the 1950s.

The way we were: Marine Drive in the 1940’s or 50’s taken by the celebrated Bombay photographer A.L Syed. A cricket match is probably the reason for the unusually large number of cars.

The impact of rent control
As well as apartment buildings, there were new hotels and boarding houses. Sea Green South Hotel was commissioned by the army and the security services during the Second World War. The Natraj Hotel (now the Intercontinental) was originally the site of the Bombay Club. A place of leisure and residence for its British members, it was all Burma teak panelling and leather armchairs. There were also many boarding houses for bachelors, offering breakfast and dinner, with names like Chambre Deluxe, Continental Guest House and Norman Guest House (which is still in business). Marine Drive was the place to be.

Newspapers of the early 1940s are full of ads seeking “high-class tenants” for “ultra-modern” flats. Some made it clear that “Europeans only” were preferred. However, the impressive and glamorous new apartments were expensive – the rent was around 250 rupees a month, way beyond the means of most citizens.

Present-day Bombay residents might be astonished to learn that Marine Drive’s new buildings were not at first in great demand: “I remember the buildings had boards announcing ‘To Let’ prominently displayed. Tenants were hard to come by and were very fussy,” says DhunLentin. Her grandfather-in-law, the builder of Chateau Marine, grew fed up with the constant demands of tenants who often used to rent only for a few months – mainly during the monsoons, to see the rains – and then insist on the rooms being painted to their taste. “He thought it was a losing proposition and sold the building to the then Maharaja of Baroda whose family still owns it.” The Lentins became tenants in the building they had constructed.

But the apartments were too attractive to remain ignored for long. As talk of Partition grew, wealthy Hindu families from the Pakistani side began moving to Bombay. “We used to see rich Sindhi women, dressed in fine shiny saris and wearing their diamonds prominently, walk down the promenade. They loved Marine Drive because it reminded them of Karachi.” A settled old order was giving way to a new one.

The buildings began filling up. While the British and the Europeans, many of them emigrés from a war-torn Europe, started to return home, the newly arrived Indians rushed to move in. Soon it became difficult to find a good flat at Marine Drive. The buildings were not only convenient, beautiful, well located, spacious and modern, but nearby Churchgate Street had become the epicentre of Bombay’s nightlife – restaurants, bars, jazz clubs – and the commercial district was within walking distance. Bombay was enjoying its own gilded jazz age, with bands from all over the world swinging at the watering holes run by their European owners; a Marine Drive resident could just walk to any of them to soak in those music-filled evenings.

The new tenants also came to enjoy another advantage. The Bombay Rent Control Act was passed in 1947 and for decades after the rents were frozen at those levels. Even today some of the original tenants live in commodious apartments of up to 3,000 sqft but pay sometimes as little as 300 rupees a month. Landlords have accordingly lost the incentive to refurbish, renovate or even paint their buildings. Many apartments are locked in litigation as the landlords try to get their tenants evicted. Some owners worked out deals with their tenants and sold the flats—inevitably, those buildings look better maintained. But all too often the buildings, hit by decades of salty sea breezes and shoddy upkeep, are in extremely poor shape. Residents complain of poor plumbing, rickety stairs and lifts, and balconies that could fall off any day. The general visual impression  is one of frayed gentility.

Splendid isolation:This shot of Bombay University’s Clocktower and Convocation Hall, with the sea behind them was probably taken from Watson’s Hotel around 1878. These Gothic structures, funded by the philanthropic bankers Premchand Roychand and Sir Cowasji Jehangir Readymoney, were among the city’s first great buildings.

Not surprisingly, the older tenants see no reason to give up their apartments. This has meant that newer owners and tenants do not move in; they find the buildings old and decaying and the legal problems intimidating. Real estate prices for Marine Drive – assuming that anyone is ready to sell out – are much lower than those of other posh areas.

For nostalgists like me, with long memories, Marine Drive is as magical as ever. But I wonder if the brave new inhabitants of this ever changing metropolis feel the same way. To them, it may seem a relic of the past, not the symbol of a globalised Mumbai. Given the chance, someone with serious money to spend might not necessarily want to live here – in gracious old apartments that cost $2 million or more but where there is no space to park one’s car safely.

Do youngsters dream of making enough money to move into a Marine Drive flat one day? Difficult to say. It is pleasant enough to be in a neighbourhood where the pavements are free of hawkers and which offers a glorious vista as part of the deal. But anyone can get that sea view for free. That vista, part of and yet so different from the rest of Mumbai, calls out to us even today. Nothing else in the city compares with it. Take a stroll down the promenade and feel your heart sing out.


  1. a alm September 25, 2014 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Hi, I stayed once at the Zaver Mahal with the family that owned the property. This was in 1982 or so. Do any of the old owners still reside in that building? Loved the views from the sea facing windows. The roof top view was magical.

    • zmpeeps September 12, 2016 at 2:40 pm - Reply

      We still do, a alm – would you mind stating who you stayed with (or, alternatively, the floor # and the side of the building)?

    • Sonal Vora March 2, 2017 at 6:57 am - Reply

      Yes, Nalini Mehta, daughter of late Mr Zaverchand Mehta still lives on the Fifth Floor of Zaver Mahal.

      • a alm April 28, 2017 at 8:11 pm - Reply

        Thank you, Sonal. I am so pleased to read this. Nalini Mehta is the lady I was looking to connect with after all these years

    • Bapoo M. Malcolm, Mumbai, India. August 10, 2018 at 7:24 pm - Reply

      There was an article on the three mahals, recently, in a Mumbai paper. Let me have your e mail address. Maybe I can dig it up.

  2. Hemina October 4, 2014 at 10:26 am - Reply

    My great-grandfather had a house on Marine Drive and my father remembered it fondly. Can you refer me to any books that might have any history on Moolji Lilani or his family?

  3. shaban November 30, 2014 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    I’ve been around the world but no place like Marine Drive. Used to stay at Chowpatty, next to Islam Gymkhana.

  4. Judith Vidal-Hall March 17, 2015 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    Fascinating piece; loved it having just returned from three weeks in and around Marine Drive. A map or two — before and after and today — would have added to the pleasure.

    • sidharthbhatia April 13, 2015 at 10:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Judith, weren’t you in South (and then Index on Censorship) some years ago? Refreshing an old memory.
      Glad you liked the piece.
      My [email protected]

  5. Harsh June 28, 2015 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Lovely. Brings back some interesting memories

  6. Manjit Singh Obhan June 29, 2015 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    Stayed on Marine Drive at Duru Mahal, near Kishco s where I spent my entire childhood and teenage. Have been all over the world, NO PLACE LIKE MARINE DRIVE and Bombay. Simply love it.

  7. THAHIR HUSSAIN July 26, 2015 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    During 1970’s Stayed on Marine Drive Riviera House Flat No;8 Floor No; 2, When my Dad A.R. Mohamed yusuff was in Deffence M.E.S. as BSO Coloba Naval Works , Air India Building was in Finishing Stage Hotel Oberio just foundation work was going on and we use to run with Scating Weel at Nariman Point. It was wonderful days can’t forger Seeing Every day Sea from house Balcony. Now can’t imagine or believe we stayed here . 1970, Still Leave in Rivera call-08220755369 happy to know old memories. THAHIR

    • Ravinder Malhotra November 30, 2015 at 6:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Thahir, I used to stay with my Aunt & Uncle on the Ground floor, Flat No. 2, Riviera in the 70’s. Air India was in the final stages and Oberoi towers, Indian Express were still in the making. I recollect the leisurely walks on non man’s land strip.
      I was told the flats have been taken over by the navy under defence of India rules

      • Crude December 10, 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply

        Nice to know about people residing here almost 45 years back!!!Whew..I stay here at flat no 25 Riviera. Despite dilapidated state its still the best place to stay in ‘akhaa’ mumbai. Just love it.

    • Ravinder Malhotra November 30, 2015 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Also Mr. YB Chawan had a flat on the fifth / floor and his brother in law Mr. More had his on the 3rd floor.
      My EMail Id is [email protected] & I’m available on 09971053766

      • Uday More February 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

        Just a correction.
        The late Y B Chavan stayed on the 1st Floor Flat # 3 which was on his wife’s name. His Brother In Law Mr. More stayed on the 2nd Floor Flat # 7 which was on his wife’s name. I have been staying with the late Mr Y B Chavan since my birth in 1963 as he had no “Issues”

  8. Wally Reeve August 28, 2015 at 8:04 am - Reply

    A very interesting history of Marine Drive. I lived in Soona Mahal in 1943/44. My father was in the Indian Army during the war. I witnessed the massive dock explosion from the roof of Soona Mahal, where the family lived in the round penthouse at the top. I recall the building on the opposite side of Churchgate Road, was used by the American army to house their nurses. They were memorable days, especially the crowds who would congregate on Marine Drive over the weekends.

    • Samir October 10, 2015 at 2:45 am - Reply

      Hi wally what floor did you live on?

      My grandmother has been living there on the first floor since the 60s I believe

  9. Salim Nathani September 11, 2015 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Live in Noor Mansion next to the Orient Club
    Just love the place –

    • SM December 21, 2015 at 3:09 am - Reply

      Hi, are you Shamim’s brother?

  10. Eddy October 1, 2015 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    There was a time in the mid 1960s when we used to race our high-power American cars and Japanese or English motorbikes on Marine while return from a last cinema show at Eros or Strand which would be around 1.00 to 2.00 AM. Speeds up to and over 80 mph were possible. This is not possible today. There was an air-show at Marine Drive in the 1970s when the entire length was jam-packed with people. An Air-India jumbo 747 flew low past the crowd with two tiny Gnat fighter planes on either side. Those were the days when Bombay was Bombay!

    • Graydon November 15, 2015 at 7:21 am - Reply

      I remember that Fly Past of the AI Jumbo with her new colours.

  11. Raghavendra Rao October 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    I was born and lived all my life in BOMBAY.Bombay was a beautiful modern city.I lived a happy life and I was proud of this great city — -Bombay . It was Number 1 city in everything. It is a herculean task to build a city like Bombay . It must have taken mammoth effort and sacrifice to build a big city. Construction and execution such colossal projects require advanced engineering skills . It is true Britishers ruled our country for a long time but they have also presented with such a beautiful city Bombay’s Marine Drive , Gateway of India,Electric trains.popular RED BEST buses , Trams taxis horse driven Victoria ,Irani restaurants (bun maska chai, chowpati Bhelpuri it is a never ending list. I enjoyed every bit of Bombay life but 60s on wards came the decline of glory glitter of Bombay. The cause of deterioration of the IMAGE of Bombay was sudden immigration of people especially rural folk. Many jobs were created and small & big business created Bombay never knew what a “jopad patti”” is? But the big crowds came to Bombay and blocked all development plans . It takes lot of effort and money to build a city like Bombay but hardly any time to destroy. I love Bombay intensely and II feel it is MY City BUT NOT ANY MORE particularly after renaming the city as MUMBAI. The beautiful city has been turned into a garbage dump. It is nauseating to live any more. I am 75 yrs old now and my feelings for BOMBAY is genuine. I am sure there will be many more like me “” SILENT spectators
    Thank you Bombay.

    • carl f pires December 19, 2015 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Every word u say is true,silent spectator is right.

    • Ar chandrashekhar Burande December 29, 2015 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Mr. Rao, you are fortunate to see & enjoy Mumbai before 1960. If possible make it convenient to revert back on my mail ID.

  12. subash lal October 4, 2015 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    I lived in a building just off marine drive , opposite the CCI (Cricket Club of India)called (in 1941) Winston House, then later Billimoria Building. Still later Usha Kiran (belonging to the Gwalior and then Kaka Court & Rakhi Mahal.
    Iwas a good friend of Sarwar Hussain (Nephew of Nargis). Used to cycle on marine drive in mornings (unheard of today). Notalgic.

  13. Gerson da Cunha October 5, 2015 at 12:21 am - Reply

    great piece, siddharth – I was born and raised in Mazgaon – in the mid-1930s, we would drive out every sunday evening in a great green 7-seater fiat to cuffe parade – we watched marine drive happen as the 30s became the 40s – my first piece of copy in JWT was for ACC – it opened something like this: ‘Drive up and down Marine Drive and you will feel two different surfaces, one tarred and bumpy, the other concrete and smooth.’ remember that? gerson

  14. Mehroo Patel (Nee Kanga) October 8, 2015 at 7:56 am - Reply

    Born in 1930, at Ballard pier fort market I used to walk to Marine Drive then lovingly called SANDS. as a 3 or 4 ye old.
    BEST buses did not exist then and the BB&CI trains splashed in sea-water as they terminated there. A few yrs later buses came in and I travelled in B, B1 and C route buses to soak in the breeze. As a school girl I was not allowed to study (my Dad) but had to walk the seashore on weekdays and Nariman Point on Sundays. Saw Eros and Metro being built and also the Marine Chambers and Queen’s chambers. Now when we visit Bombay we stay at Hotel Chateau Windsor next door to Ambassador nd close to Churchgate trains. ………….no more

  15. Sunil Mehta October 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    Really interesting article. Thank you. I recall going to Marine Drive on Sundays to see the cinema which was on a large portable screen near Air India building’s Ceat traffic island. Every evening at 8.15 pm, from the late 1950’s to 2000, one could see my father regularly walking from Mafatlal Baths to Nariman Point twice, ending at Nariman Point – whatever the weather. He continued this habit till his 90’s and then moved to the CCI grounds. We were baptised into the same system and often go for walks in the evenings to see the setting sun and the serene beauty of the changing skyline.
    Once, in the early 1960’s, before Oberoi and NCPA, when that road did not exist, just a thin strip of land projected seawards towards the Colaba side, my father, four of his nephews and myself were doing our usual fast walk towards the tip and then suddenly, one nephew was not with us! He had slipped off the edge and fallen down without us noticing for a few minutes. Luckily no injuries except a firing from my dad for not keeping up with us!!
    The Macchi Nagar area and Colaba views have altered the whole scenery as have the buildings coming up across Marine Drive towards Malabar hill side. Luckily, the Heritage committee and other local area committees have ensured that buildings remain uniform and well maintained.
    Today, despite Marine Drive being a showcase, the roads on both sides are in a pitiable state. Nobody cares. The new chief minister has not bothered with upkeep of infrastructure of Mumbai. The local politicians line their pockets and fight over the lights being yellow or white in colour. Come evening, there are many motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic like Easy Rider’s heroes. If there is an accident, due to their negligence, the motorist is always blamed. The police are rarely seen.
    But still, every time I return from abroad, being a SoBo born and bred person, I love the sight of Marine Drive coming into view the minute the cab reaches the corner of Chowpatty Girgaum / Kilachand garden. Hopefully, someone will push for a real improvement in the maintenance of this magnificent promenade.

  16. Rohit Kapadia October 8, 2015 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    Siddharth, great piece! And Gerson, was it ever smooth? If it was, it must have been very, very long ago!

  17. Farrokh Jijina October 8, 2015 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    What a long and loving look at the precinct. A superb read!

  18. Mehroo Kharegat October 8, 2015 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    How can I possibly forget Marine Drive where I spent the major part of my teen years going there in the evenings with my family and then taking a walk with my friends. I am in my late 70s and yet Ithere are those who I smile at as we remember each other from those days. Days of youth when you had crushes every month but turned away from talking to them as not properly introduced! I wonder how many remember the time Perisian Dairy the corner cafe made Doughnuts which you rushed to have nice and hot and if late none left. It’s uncanny how your car was parked almost in the same place and Mother with relatives sat on almost the same bench. I could go on and on and bore the lot of you!

  19. Arvind Hate October 9, 2015 at 9:50 am - Reply

    It was an beautiful city, born & boughtup in Thane a small town then, but frequent visit to Bombay Vitoria Turminus, my memories go down the lane when I was kid could freely move around the street looking at the wonderful city holding mom’s & dad’s hand. Victoria ride use to be an memorable ride, Trams, Dodge Taxis. I agree British ruled our country but they have gifted us such a beautiful city with garceful achietecture, sorry to say but we can’t even lay a stone with such gace & quality. look at the shelter created for the exit at the entrance to reach underground passage at CST. God bless the Mumbai and all of us, which is also beyond his capacity.

  20. nagesh October 9, 2015 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    I lived in Malabar Hill and remember taking the 106 bus down to wilson college and changing over to the 123 bus which would glide smoothly in the monsoon rain till it reached near Elphinstone college. What a fantastic drive it was. Art deco buildings on one side and the angry splashing monsoon Arabian Sea on the other side. Walking along the splashing walls of Marine Drive holding a hot bhutta in one hand and a wet umbrella in another is a memory hard to forget!

  21. Zaheer October 10, 2015 at 5:15 am - Reply

    I was born at St Elizabeth Nursing Home, and I grew up in Bandra, at leafy Union Park, just off Carter Road. Bombay meri jaan, indeed. I owe this place everything. It will always be part of home. Memories are so bittersweet.

    Thank you for this lovely story.

  22. Ketayun Khambatta October 10, 2015 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Superb article. Many of us are transplanted in other countries and this brings us home again.

    I lived on Altamount Road but loved sitting at Marine Drive eating Makkhai Buttha.


  23. Zarine Khambatta Batliwalla October 10, 2015 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Bombay not Mumbai has a special place in my heart and still is “home”. I lived there till 1973 and grew up there. I still get a thrill when I go back and head towards Marine Drive. Sadly Bombay is not what it used to be and time marches on.

  24. Siddhartha Bhasker October 10, 2015 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Wonderful description of Marine Drive and its making. It was interesting to know the real estate condition of the place. I lived at the Shalakha appartments opposite Cooperage stadium for 8 months while working at Nariman point. Spent a lot of time sitting at the drive and fondly remember them.

  25. B N Makhija October 11, 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    Great piece of research, Sidhartha.
    My first recall of Marine Drive is of 1947 when we flew in to Bombay from Multan in Pakistan. The victoria ride along the sea, gawking at 6-storey ‘skyscrapers’, with lifts going up and down, is permanently etched in memory.
    Went away to settle in Delhi and returned almost two decades later to take up employment with GoM. Those evening strolls on the promenade, particularly during monsoon when high tide splashes from the sea would drench unwary visitors and uncaring couples every now and then. The great BB reclamation was yet a decade away and a walk on the narrow neck of land from Nariman Point to the spot opposite the yet unborn NCPA was a scary experience during high winds.
    After retirement I am settled in the same vicinity and a morning constitutional on the promenade is the high point of daily existence. But now there are reports of great new plans of major tourist attractions for the area with jetties at Nariman Point, without regard to the carrying capacity of the area and its infrastructure. I think another scam is in the making.

  26. Amir Currim October 11, 2015 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    As a young boy, I remember the street gaslights being turned on manually, the victorias late evening, and the skating rink at the south end.

  27. Sabyasachi Ghose October 11, 2015 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    From my 17th Floor office of the Air India Building on the Oberoi side, I could see the curve of Marine Drive up to Malabar Hills. Nearby, a part of the Braourne Stadium ground the the roof of the Wankhade.
    A magnificent view.,

  28. Jagdish Joshi October 11, 2015 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed reading the article. I was a student of Economics and history and this piece on the urban history of South Mumbai was well written. My claim of association to this piece of Mumbai was by accident. In December 1971, I was transferred from Aurangabad and posted in the Secretariat (Now Mantralaya). The posting as Resident Under Secretary entitled me to a rent free accommodation in Cottage No.C-1 Madame Cama Road. Those days these Foreshore Cottages were allotted to some civil servants. The process of reclamation was coming to an end and some buildings like the Air India, The Express Towers had been completed and the Mafatlal Centre and the Oberoi were under construction. Those days we could travel up to Samovar cafe in Kala Ghoda by a Bombay cab for Rs 1/. There was hardly any traffic on the Marine Drive those days and one would invariably run into couple of old Parsee family’s who would drive up in their DeSoto or OldsMobiles with their evening tea and sit on the promenade on folding chairs with a table in between, enjoying their fruit cakes and masala chai’s. Yes there were always some youngsters in their sports car who would be speeding up and down the Marine Drive and taking U-turns at the Taporvala Aqurium and the Air India building.

  29. Ramesh Pant October 11, 2015 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    My uncle (died 1974) who was staying at Mumbai Central indicated the cost of these beautiful houses around Rs. 40,000/-. One only has to give choice by pointing the Apartment from outside the building, pay and take possession. We from small cities knew this place where first lady super star cum singer Surayya lived.

  30. ratan iyer October 11, 2015 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    Route no. 123, if I remember correct, plies between Colaba and Tardeo circle.

  31. BAKHTAWAR AMARIA October 12, 2015 at 12:07 am - Reply


  32. Randhir October 12, 2015 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    I grew up on Marine Drive, living at Kapur Mahal. And by the way Kapur Keval and Zaver Mahal are named after three brothers, Kapurchand, Kevalchand and Zaverchand.
    Best place to be in Bombay.
    Always love it and always will.

    • Sonal Vora March 2, 2017 at 7:01 am - Reply

      Yeah, the best location. Zaverchandbhai was my Nanaji. My mother’s father.

  33. Randhir October 12, 2015 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Great article by the way.

  34. Vikram Rajaram October 12, 2015 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    Grew up in “Shreyas” just across the Air India building. Some of the dates quoted elsewhere are incorrect. The air show was in 1960. Marine Drive was closed to traffic on that day. Reportedly, three million people stood shoulder to shoulder in the expanse from Chowpatty to Nariman Point to see the show which was staged by the IAF to commemorate their 21st birthday. Air India had just acquired a 707 and the two Gnats flanked the big bird on either side to emphasise the size of the 707.

    Lord and Lady Mountbatten took leave of Bombay driving slowly down Marine Drive in an open Rolls. It was traditional for PMs – read Nehru – and royalty – read Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to drive down Marine Drive, to pay homage to its allure, as did a number of other world leaders.

    • Randhir Jesrani January 9, 2018 at 10:35 am - Reply

      Vicky ! How are you? Where are you? I am presently in Bombay but otherwise in USA.
      And you?
      Get in touch if you like.

  35. HOMYAR October 13, 2015 at 9:48 am - Reply

    at the southern end of marine drive before AIR

  36. Rashne Gittins October 13, 2015 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    The quality of this article which has filled the gap in my knowledge of Bombay as a city has convinced me to become a subscriber.Many thanks Mr Bhatia. The sight of the Queens Necklace at any time, anywhere, brings tears of happy memories, of old friends. Let’s thank the British for starting it off and lets hope there will be money some time to restore the City to its former glory.Rashne Gittins

  37. Randhir Jesrani October 14, 2015 at 2:50 am - Reply

    Left a comment yesterday. Didn’t show up.Will try again.

    I grew up on Marine Drive, living at Kapur Mahal. Kapur, Keval and Zaver Mahal are named after three brothers Kapurchand, Kevalchand and Zaverchand.
    Very nice article. Glad to read it.

  38. yezdi katrak October 14, 2015 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    I went to a pre KG school in Zaver Mahal on the ground floor and used to walk there from my house near metro cinema. We cycled every morning at Marine drive in the late 50’s and 60’s and walked with my cousins and friends in the evening on that fabulous promenade. Bombay was a real charming city then and unfortunately does not have that quality any more. I miss those days immensely and nostalgically think of those beautiful times. Many thanks for this great article, and bringing back those lovely memories.

  39. Dilip October 16, 2015 at 9:43 am - Reply

    Good article, except for the unnecessary, overly gushing first sentence (“Beirut has its Corniche, Havana its Malecon, Cannes its Croisette; but none of these celebrated bayside boulevards is as heart-stirring as Mumbai’s majestic Marine Drive.”) that almost put me off reading the rest of it. Why do we Indians have this “Mine is better / bigger / brighter than yours” complex?

    • Anji January 9, 2016 at 11:10 pm - Reply

      Loved the article! Wonder if there’s that winter nip in the air around, probably not. Travelled to school on the 123 bus wearing a cardigan!
      Watched movies sitting on the bonnet of the Austin, in the open, where Air India bldg is.
      Can remember something about he tetraports! Were they replaced sometime?

  40. surinder Phull October 16, 2015 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Its really very nice and touching to read about Marine Drive.I had the fond memories of nearly 50 years old.I had the first opportunity in sixtys to visit Bombay.I had stayed with our uncle at Prem Court,a posh building situated in Dinshaw vacha road.We would wlk on marine drive and walk upto Nariman Point.We used to enjoy fresh cocnut water.

  41. Rehana October 19, 2015 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Took a BEST bus everyday from Walkeshwar Road to school in the Fort area – The bus drove through Marine Drive and every time, morning and evening, felt my spirits lift and forget all worries. Till today the same feeling persists!
    Great article. Thanks.

    • Bas Colaco November 15, 2015 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      We lived in Churchgate near by, and we often took evening “hawa khana” walks on Marine drive. It’s where I first learned to drive our family car … underage and riding on the rear with our feet on the rolling rear axle of the ghoda ghadis was our young boys challenge, till a passer by yelled to the driver “piche chabouk” and he would swipe his long whip over the back and across our backsides till we fell off! But Paani Puri and all the street food at Chowpatty was the best. Worth walking for.

  42. Peter ghyara December 18, 2015 at 3:36 am - Reply

    Used to live here at vijay mahal d road in my childhood days. Today when back in bombay dont find the things i liked as a kid. Those were the happy days.

  43. Chander Uday Singh December 18, 2015 at 6:16 am - Reply

    Siddharth, this is utterly brilliant!

  44. Rajat Bhatia December 18, 2015 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Along with several of my classmates from IIM Ahmedabad, including the present governor of the RBI, we stayed on Chowpatty Beach on Marine Drive at the building next to Wilson College in 1986 while doing our summer internships in Mumbai.

    It was a great location but while the building had beautiful architecture from outside, it was old, dilapidated and horrendous inside. I guess this is the story of Marine Drive these days also – Superb location, great natural beauty and horrendous living conditions inside thanks to shoddy maintenance and crumbling infrastructure inside.

  45. Aparajita Krishna December 18, 2015 at 10:38 am - Reply

    What a fabulous road-heritage piece! Take a bow Sidharth Bhatia for chronicling Bombay by the sea, boulevard, residency. My own tiny bit. Even in 1984 (the year I set foot in Bombay) the topography, physicality was kind distinct. Living was so simple that as a paying Guest I lived at Malabar Hill & commuted everyday across Chowpatty, Marine Drive…….Infact Ganga Vihar at Marine Drive is also kinda folklore-heritage. At Rani Burra (Chinna’s) flat Amitabh Bachchan, Girish Karnad, Om Puri, Jahanu Barua…stayed for sometime at different times.

  46. arun December 18, 2015 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Having grown upo and spent near 30 years in Reveira, on marine drive.Have great memories of Marine Drive

  47. Ash Nallawalla December 18, 2015 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Talk of the Town used to be called Parisian Dairy in the 1950s and early 1960s. Its signature dish was the dessert known as Peach Melba, my mother’s favourite. The twin of Al Sabah Court was Al Jabreya Court, both owned by the Kuwaiti royals. Occasionally the tenants used to get a tour of the top floor where the visiting royals stayed. The entire strip of land west of Thakurdwar Road and Chira Bazaar was reclaimed, hence very few houses there are allowed to be taller than six floors. Rebuilt structures have to match the previous structure in size (happened to my building).

  48. Vs December 19, 2015 at 7:33 am - Reply

    You have not mentioned KL Gupta who built several of the buildings on Marine Drive and was involved in the creation of Nariman Point. His daughter is the well known writer and flash fiction teacher Rohini Gupta

  49. surekha December 20, 2015 at 1:09 am - Reply

    I love Mumbai…..I grew up in Walkeshwar, however took a walk from Walkeshwar to Narin Maan point…all the time passing Marine Drive. So beautiful! I went to school on Marine LInes raod…so am very familiar with it. I get goosebump…when I think of MUmbai

  50. Typical Indian December 21, 2015 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Hey, guys!
    Congratulations on the completion of 100 years of Marine Drive!
    A beautiful post on the same topic is here:

  51. Maya (Tandon) Malhotra December 23, 2015 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Remember the iconic monsoon drama of Marine Drive lashed by stupendously angry waves during record rainstorms during very high tides. The arch of the waves is reminiscent of that iconic Hiroshoge (?) woodcut. I recall waves curling high over the pavement onto the road and onto the windscreen their splashy white fringes on the underside.

    The tetrapods answered that problem, but not at the initial bend just beyond Chowpatti.

    Zahir, I too grew up in Bandra, born at St. Elizabeth’s for want of a nursing home or hospital in Bandra, a time when almost everyone then was born at home. (Maybe not you, Gerson). A time before Silverene, before Holy Family, and even before Union Park.

    My parents told me that the various gymkhanas were a subtle way of separating the religious communities (divide et impera); and before WW II, “Pentangular Cricket Matches” were held on those grounds. One can imagine nothing more sneaky that religion-based cricket teams!

    However, despite those policies, Bombay is fortunate not to have witnessed a wholesale civil war on the scale of Beirut and its Cornichon. But Marine Drive does not the serene emptiness of Havan’s Malecon.

  52. amita nayar bajaj December 28, 2015 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    I was born in INHS Asvini n lived in Reveira Building as a child. I have no living memories of it but was told that a drive restaurant-theatre existed at the place where Air India building stands today. Later in 1975 whilst living in Navy Nagar n studying in Elphinstone College I have travelled in the famous 123 number BEST double-decker, to go to Bhola’s Classes behind Babulnath Temple! I live in Mumbai now since 1994.

  53. jessica January 6, 2016 at 5:22 am - Reply

    Nostalgic memories.
    grew up in Churchgate A road and it was a beautiful time.
    even now when visiting Bombay I have to pay a visit to churchgate my old haunt

  54. Minnie Dastur January 18, 2016 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Reading the article was a trip down memory lane.
    I lived near the Gateway of India and studied at the Sydenham College and Government Law College, both at Marine Drive. I remember standing on the second floor balcony of our home and seeing Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip driving past in an open convertible. Similarly I also saw Krushchev and Bulganin drive past in the same convertible and they would wave to the crowds that had lined up to see them. No security gunmen or bulletproof cars. Oh how far we have come from those “halcyon days of yore”. Only a siren car in front and a couple of motorbike escorts for honour.

    Sydenham then was the best college for Economics and Business Studies and had students from Africa and Asia also studying there. We would walk over to Marine Drive in a group, sit on the wall and laugh, joke about professors and fellow students, idealize Jawaharlal Nehru and his 5 Yr plans and Panch sheel doctrine…all of which are being debunked today!

    I had a moment of sheer joy on seeing the old traffic circle in front of Soona Mahal which I remember from my school days when my father would take us for a drive down Marine Drive in his Studebaker Champion.

    The ”C” route (later 123 route) bus stop was located just at the corner of the Sydenham “B”” road opposite Nargis” home – Chateau Marine. I would see her many times come in there in her car. The door of the ground floor flat was mostly open – rarely closed. Nobody bothered her and there were no gawkers waiting for her then.

    It was a time when Bombay was Bombay…we learnt in school that it was derived from the portuguese word for Bombay which was Bom Bahia..meaning good harbour. Mumbai was a vernacular corruption. Whatever you wish to call it now, you have to contend with the fact that Bombay used to be disciplined, clean. People polite and civic conscious. I remember gentlemen getting up to give their seats to any lady who was standing. I dont recollect any roadside harrassment. I believed Bombay was the safest place in the world and quite beautiful.

    Thank God that Marine Drive and its environs are till this day relatively cleam. The bay is spectacular by any standards. Hope to God they dont mess it up with ill-conceived plans of statues in the sea to break the beauty of the vista. It is as beautiful as the much acclaimed Bay of Naples. Can you imagine the Bay of Naples with a huge garish park and statue in the middle of it!

    Thanks Sidharth and everyone else who have contributed to this “Memory Bank””


  55. Cedric Santos February 3, 2016 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Thank you for taking me back to the city of my birth!! Bombay ! So good to read your piece, so much nostalgia. Thanks again Cedric

  56. Dhanoo Khusrokhan February 6, 2016 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    I can never forget the BEST # 123 C route as I sat in it twice a day as a child, from home at Hughes Road to St Anne’s High School at Museum and back. The best part was sitting on the upper deck on the first seat and dreaming whether I would ever be able to live in front of the beautiful sea at Marine Drive. After school fate sent me to Sydenahm College of Commerce & Economics, then the best college in India, for Commerce, and all the budding financial wizards of today are from that Institution.
    After school I dreamt of being in Air India and lo and behold from 1970, when the AI Bldg came up, I spent 33 years of my life at the AI building on the 17th floor of the AI building with a breathtaking view of the Queen’s necklace.
    At the Sydenahm College I met a boy who would be my future husband and guess what ? He lived at Marine Drive right next to the then Nataraj Hotel, where I stayed for 14 years of my life. So Marine Drive is pulsating in the blood of most Bombayites with wonderful memories. Thanks Sidharth and all who have contributed to this wonderful article.

  57. Adi Ghandhi February 6, 2016 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    To all those who loved the Drive,
    The Marine Drive is not called the “Queens Necklace” for nothing. It is one of the most beautiful and scenic places in good old Bombay.
    I lived in Soona Mahal which was at the end of Churchgate Street. We stayed on the 4th floor looking in towards the Brabourne Stadium and enjoyed the top circular pinnace as a private place. Often have we slept up there and I would sit at the window in wonder looking out far away to the horizon where a few lights from ships passing by would glimmer. The terrace itself with all its tanks and pipes used to be a great place for hide and seek games.
    The time for a boy to really enjoy the drive was in all its isolation during the monsoons. Would get into a pair of shorts and a shirt and run away on some excuse from my mum. Then a walk down a lonely stretch of the Drive with the wind and the waves lashing at your face and virtually sweeping you off your feet was a challenge to stay upright. An even greater challenge was to cross the last buildings and get onto that stretch of the Drive which had no protection on both sides right up to the tip of the break in the wall. It was cold, it was soaking wet just being able to stand straight was the fight against natures fury. It was like winning the ‘Indy’ I am sure. Then of course back home to a hgue firing with my ma saying ‘Maro dikro mari jate naa’, followed by a sting rap on my head as she toweled me down. Despite this it happened quite often just could not resist the call of natures fury with water lashing against your face and the wind tearing your feet from under you. Boy what a time for a young lad.
    Along this route which goes beyond Marine Drive we had a famous restaurant called “Friend’s Cabin”, on Foreshore Road wonder if anyone remembers the taste of the mutton samosas that we served.
    Parisian Dairy brings back memories of a great friend the, cook who Joquim, who would serve us some delicacies as we passed getting back from school, Campion of course.
    Staying on the rear side had its own advantages because from our balcony we looked straight into the stadium and watched all the cricket matches and other shows in style with eats from home.
    Oh there is no end to the stories from Marine Drive surely the heart of my youth. I chose the sea for a career because of where I stayed, but ultimately landed up in the air force flying fighters for 42 years thanks to the great show put up by the air force in 1960.
    Thank you Siddarth for bringing back fond memories.

  58. Horace Coelho February 17, 2016 at 5:12 am - Reply

    Excellent article! I was born in the ’40’s and raised in Bandra and Mahim. I recall driving down the “Queen’s Necklace” with my family and attending many functions at the Catholic Gymkhana and CCI, where my parents were members. I studied at St. Xavier’s College and Govt. Law College. Bombay, in those days, was beautiful and the view from Malabar Hill was indeed outstanding! We now live in Canada, just outside of Toronto but Bombay will always be my “home” – Horace Coelho

  59. Niloufer Gupta February 17, 2016 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful piece of “art” .
    I guess I am going to ramble on about “The Chowpatty ” now known as “Girgaum Chowpatty ” , where once the Lat Sab “the Governor of the erstwhile Bombay Persidency ” would drive in his phaeton down the beach ,in low tide ,from his Residence into the covered porch of the Orient Club ,a building ,not Gothic but Edwardian which still stands out with grace ,in between the well maintained “Noor Mansion” & another magnificent building ,now grimy and dilapidated,called “Adenwala Building ”

    Noor Mansion housed the family of Abubaker Begmohammed & Noormohammed Begmohammed ,owners of the Imperial Cinema ,which still exists in Lamington Rd. The upper floors of Noor Mansions are still occupied by the Begmohammed Family and their progeny.
    Adenwala Mansions has had a chequered history- the building having changed hands after the original tenants lost their wherewithal.
    Orient Club has descendants of two of the original occupants- ” the west side flats of the building ,2nd & 3rd floors.”- I happen to be one of them ,in fact the only living person who was born in this building. In 1936.
    My grandfather moved in along with the occupants of the west & east side flats of the 2nd & 3rd floors of the building when the Carlton Chambers were dissolved- these chambers housed the members of the visiting British Judiciary – 4 flats resulted from this dissolution – all 2 bathroom flats !
    The Chambers were ensuite! In true British style- a living room which led into the bedroom into a bathroom .These faced the magnificent Arabian Sea with its own bay .
    The second bathroom belonged to a single room ,this did not have sea view but the Breeze.
    The flooring was of Burmah teak and the Beams that held the roof up were from Manchester -iron ,1896 is the stamping.
    The beach was cleaner then – I built castles as a child as did my children !
    The horrors of partition never visited Bombay as they did Calcutta ,however the scars of The Drug Trade did!
    Bombay is still a City of Gold ,as my forefathers felt- they came from the arid area of Kutch ,which was ruled by a Maharao ,in the early 19 th century ; even though the Gold is not of 24 Carat Purity in its Tolerance !
    Siddharth ,once again. ” bambai meri Jaan” hai.

  60. Avan N. Cooverji August 1, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    What fond and beautiful memories come flooding back ! Nothing is now the same, happy days and sad days, glittering and silent nights, peace, joy and love, hopes arisen and dashed, dreams fulfilled and unfullfilled . Have seen it all.
    Goodbye Marine Drive, Goodbye beautiful Bombay. Those were the days , never to return.

  61. Avan N. Cooverji August 1, 2016 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    What fond and beautiful memories come flooding back ! Nothing is now the same , happy days and sad days, glittering and silent nights, peace, joy and love, hopes arisen and dashed, dreams fulfilled and unfullfilled. Have seen it all.
    Goodbye Marine Drive, Goodbye beautiful Bombay. Those were the days , never to return.

  62. Mirza Nasrollah kazemi September 24, 2016 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    Hi everyone

    My father owned and we still own the Marine Restaurant next to libertyCinema across from the Mosque. From 1947 to 1968 i lived across Metro cinema. I enjoyed Long walkover night along Marine drive with my friends and jog every morning before sunrise Plenty of memories. For the last 46 years i have been living San Francisco Bay Area.
    Miss all my friends and good food.
    Love you all.

  63. Crude December 10, 2016 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    A big Hi to all residents of Riviera building who had been staying here since 1940s!! Its still best place in mumbai to stay guys. Any one knows exactly when this building was built?? Any memories of Air India building explosion of 1993??

  64. DILBER DUMASIA February 2, 2017 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Thank you Sidharth for this beautiful trip down Memory Lane! It is a testimony to our beautiful Bombay that your very engaging article has evoked so many nostalgic memories from my fellow readers!

    God Bless You and God Bless our Bombay!!

  65. Rajiv Krishnan March 26, 2017 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Thank you Sidharth for unearthing a treasure I took for granted. I spent the first 20 years of my life on B Road. Every line of this beautifully written piece resonated with me, especially the leisurely rides on the 123 for 10 paise (or was it 25 paise?)

    • Dinesh Mirchandani April 13, 2020 at 12:12 am - Reply

      Hi Rajiv, please get in touch, drop me an email.
      best Dinesh [email protected]

  66. vinay joshi April 3, 2017 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Can somebody post photos of Krishna Mahal and the ground floor apartment where late actress and singer Suraiya lived.

  67. Cmde PCB NAIR April 23, 2017 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    What a pieceof real estate!
    How many billions have walked there and how manybillions more will
    We were fortunate to stay there at Reveira gazing at the Arabian sea . We miss those wonderful days

  68. Mitali Bakhai May 23, 2017 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    This is such a wonderful piece! Unlike most of you who have commented, I’m a relatively recent inhabitant of Churchgate (the building that houses Purohit) , but a fourth generation resident!

    This article is so beautifully written that it makes me wish that I lived there when it had a completely different charm!

    It’s amazing how so many people from the area have connected with each other through the comments here. :)

  69. Anita Jasani Taheer October 28, 2017 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Such a nostalgic article……”The truth is I never left you
    All through my wild days. My mad existence”….Those were the days, Bombay.
    I grew up in Colaba, took the 123 bus to school. Walked down Marine Drive on weekend evenings hoping to bump into Neel. After 47 years we’re still good friends and talk about those good old days.
    Thank you for the memories.

  70. Manek Premchand December 25, 2017 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Wonderful read! Just remembered, since you mentioned the Suraiya story, that composer OP Nayyar lived on A Road, across Jaihind College, and his inspirations came from his daily walks along the corniche…8 kilometers!

  71. Ziauddin Sherkar June 26, 2018 at 11:43 am - Reply

    I’m from Poona. I’m currently staying at Malabar Hill for an internship in Bombay. Reading this article and the comments below, it really takes one back into time; to the Bombay of the 50s and 60s. Would love to explore the hidden gems of Marine Drive. If anyone from the above old timers still stay around, would love to get together for a walk.

    P.S. Although the 123 sea route hasn’t lost it’s charm, I hardly see a comment which mentions the 108. It travels from the Hanging Garden to CST, across the entire expanse of the Marine Drive promenade, right from Chowpatty to Nariman point; unlike 123 which takes a turn towards Grant Road from Wilson college. That being said, Marine Drive locals, do get in touch.

  72. bulbul August 5, 2018 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    what a wonderful visit to Marine Drive after all these years away..I grew up in Shanti Kutir , the third last building before Nariman Point, now maybe some more have been added?,, with a whole bunch of kids in the same building, waiting for the school bus, cycling on the palm lined roads with hardly any traffic and the goda gadis trotting along , catching scuttling crabs on the rocks, no skyscrapers or any building on the point for that matter, a blissful carefree youth….all this in the 50’s into the early 60’s…a few of the old families are still in the building and I have met up with some of them recently, Peter who is now in Los Angeles and Tarla still in the building….

    • Rajinder Mody August 12, 2018 at 5:10 pm - Reply

      Is that Bulbul Kantawala? Sister of Deepika … 1st Floor Shanti Kuteer …where r u now? Get in touch with me … it would be awesome to connect again after maybe 55 years ..

    • Rajinder Kumar Mody August 12, 2018 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Bulbul … presumably of Shanti Kuteer …. sister of Deepika … where are you? I am still in CCI Chambers …. opposite the club .. I remember the early morning bicycle rides … rented from the shop at Churchgate street .. idyllic days … my E-mail is [email protected] …. get in touch ..

    • Peter September 24, 2018 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      Hi BULBUL!

  73. Pradeep B Chinai August 9, 2018 at 10:17 am - Reply

    Very interesting and informative article.

    I have been staying St James Court , probably the best managed building on Marine Drive, for the past over 65 years. Most of us in the building have spent our childhood here.

    Times have changed though. In old days Bollywood celebrities , as mentioned in the article , have occupied apartments. In recent past Hollywood has also shown interest ( Liz Hurley)

    Former Prime Minister Mr Morarji Desai and Mr S K Patil ( who was then known as King of Mumbai) had lived here.

    The traffic of vehicles is well organized with minimum honking

    No matter which part of Mumbai I go to, when I reach Wilson College I get a feeling of coming to the most civilized area !!!

  74. Cawas Lalkaka August 12, 2018 at 12:35 am - Reply

    I sure have memories to cherish re
    Marine Drive where I moved into Zaver Mahal
    facing the sea in1939 as a 7 year old.
    I do hope I can continue here as long as
    God wants me to be around!
    What a beautifully written article.
    I personally know so many old friends mentioned.
    So many are not with us anymore.
    Very happy and some bitter sweet memories.
    Still love everything that was and is on Marine Drive.

  75. Sushil Bahl August 21, 2018 at 2:11 pm - Reply

    Hi Sidharath,

    Wonderful. I have always lived there — near Jai Hind College. May be you missed out some personalities like O P Nayar, Nimi, Mumtaz (started her career there), Mukri, and Murli Deora, livin on “A”Road. Of course Nargis and Suriaya on the front. I saw them grow as you have painted in your article.
    Rajesh Khanna and Jitendra visited the Perisian Dairy (Now Pizza by the Bay). Babusha — Zeenat Aman – was also there in the evenings just when she aspired to be a film star!

  76. Nergish Madon nee Doodhmal August 22, 2018 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    Excellent. I am from Fort area and went to Marine Drive every weekend with family. I too have travelled round the world but nothing matches Bombay and who can forget those old songs of 50/60.

  77. Maneck Bhujwala August 24, 2018 at 6:29 am - Reply

    Nice article ! i used to sit on the place above the tetrahedron blocks, once tried fishing st Nariman Point strip at the end jutting in the sea, and of course Chowpatty, Bandstand. I even leaned driving from a college friend on Marine Drive.

  78. Sidharth November 16, 2018 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments on the piece and more important, the lovely memories you have shared. Clearly we remember the Bombay and Marine Drive of the time fondly. One day if I expand on this piece, I will incorporate these comments and stories. Pl keep adding your comments here.

  79. Ashok Gupta January 28, 2019 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    I am not only the new owner (12 years) of Zaver Mahal but am also the VP of Marine Drive Citizens Association. We are planning to celebrate 100 years of Marine Drive early next year. I would like comments ideas suggestions or anything else from your esteemed readers who like me love Marine Drive.

  80. Ashok Gupta January 28, 2019 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Very good article Sidharth. I must correct all the pessimist’s, Marine Drive is still the most Regal place to live in. It still has all the charms and the promenade is still the best. Obviously the traffic has grown, but then where has it not grown in the whole world.

  81. Kishor Merchant September 9, 2019 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    At Nariman Point,where the weekly documentaries were shown, on the front side was the Anando Milk centre. One took the bottle behind drinking and watching the documentaries. particularly on a Sunday evening. Fantastic article By Sidharth Bhatia, wondering, same person from K.C.College???

  82. Kishor Merchant September 9, 2019 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    From Malbar Hill (Walkeshwar road) where I stay, we could see, admire and boast of the Queen’s Necklace, but two horrendous Government buildings came up a few years back, blocking the full view. Many visitors miss that old view.

  83. Sandy Angus October 25, 2019 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    What an interesting article and some great responses. My Grandmother (Margaret Booth) lived at 217, Marine Drive from 1942 till about 1946. I have a Mah Jong set with her name and this address at the top of the book of rules.
    We used to play Mah Jong, at home, when I was much younger. She died just before I was born in 1963 and other than a few old photographs, this has all been a bit of a mystery, as nobody really spoke to my generation about those troubled years, within the family. Remarkably, I now find myself working in Mumbai and wanting simply to put this piece of my family’s jigsaw into some sort of perspective. Both my great aunts were born in Myanmar (Burmah) and were raised there (Rangoon), escaping up the Irrawaddy to Mandalay, as many others had to, in those terrible times. They all ended up as émigrés in Bombay, for a time. My eldest aunt made it to within 10 days of her 100th birthday, outliving all of her generation. My Grandfather was a Tanker Captain for the Burmah Oil Company, as well as being a Temporary Lieutenant in the Indian Navy and it was during this time that I have several photographs of the family, the house and the gardens.

    I hope you don’t find my post intrusive, as I have enjoyed all the enthusiasm that this article has generated and hope that we can all enjoy our own piece of nostalgia with Marine Drive. I plan to visit from Navi Mumbai, very soon (Maybe Monday, as it is a holiday) and if anyone can share any insight as to exactly where 217 Marine Drive is/was or is better known as, I’d appreciate your feedback. Google maps has it on Churchgate, at the corner of Madame Cama Rd. So it may be the last of the Deco flats, before the Air India Building, which may also be the corner shown in the Photograph, in the article above. But I’m not so sure how accurate Google is with house numbers. I’d love to hear from anyone who may be able to help me find this part of my roots.

  84. Homi Khusrokhan February 6, 2020 at 8:10 am - Reply

    My grandfather, after retiring as Director of Public Health, Bengal around 1934 decided to settle in Bombay and temporarily rented an apartment in Alana Chambers, Cumballa Hill, for a couple of years, while the building he had set his heart on, ‘Meher-Abad’, 137 Marine Drive, (renamed ‘Jyoti-Sadan’ in 1950) was being built. I remember my mother telling me that several members of our family tried to dissuade grandpa from staying there, saying that it was one of the first buildings coming up on the waterfront and would certainly be bombed if the War spread to the Indian subcontinent. ‘Meher Abad’, was then a 3-storied building and visitors who did not know the area were told to look for the only 3 storied building on the Queen's Necklace. 2 additional floors were added after the original Parsi owner decided to settle in Karachi in 1949 and the building was renamed ‘Jyoti Sadan’ by the new owner. I can still remember the names the 11 original tenants, and among them were some fairly well-known Bombay families: Nathalal Parekh, Pravinchand Gandhi, Jayantilal Trivedi & Nusli Pudumjee. I recall my parents telling me that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had stayed in our building with his friend Nathalal Parekh in the late 1930’s. Perhaps that is why Marine Drive was renamed Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Marg a few years after Independence. Today, the Parekhs and my daughter, Behnaz Khusrokhan Bhandare are the last of the original 11 tenants. Jyoti Sadan stood between the Bombay Club (which later became the Nataraj Hotel and later the Intercontinental) and Poddar Mansion. Some indelible memories of those days: Dad coming come from the office, ashen-faced, on the evening of 30th January 1948, with the news that Gandhiji’s been assassinated and the decorative lights on Poddar Mansion for a family wedding being switched off at 6.30 pm. Peeping into the ground floor flat of Chateau Marine, hoping to get a glimpse of Nargis, each time I visited my friend Jaffer Hussain. Hoards of family and friends, who descended on us each time there was an air display, a military march-past or a dignitary passing, such as the President, the PM, the Pope, the Queen – any excuse for Dad to bring out his trusty Rolleiflex camera and take snaps of the visitors and the sea of teeming humanity from our first-floor balcony. I really could go on and on. Thanks, Sidharth, for stirring up lots of wonderful old memories.

  85. sidharth bhatia February 23, 2020 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    I . am researching this a bit more and ould love feedback about stories from teh 1950s and 60s from old timers and also from earlier, based on what your families may have told you. Any histories of the buildings would also be welcomed. You can reach me at [email protected]

  86. Ravi Subramanyam March 14, 2020 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    Excellent article about the erstwhile upper class Marine Drive families.I was born and lived at “Shalimar”, the last but one building on the end towards Air India . We lived on the 1st floor on the rear side and our neighbour was the famous Mehboob Khan,owner of Mehboob studios and also of “Mother India” fame. His second wife, Sardar Akhtar ,who was the heroine of “Aurat” ( the original “Mother India” movie) , was a wonderful cook and full of life.We had plenty of celebrities coming in and out all the time…….Wonderful memories !! Thanks

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