Cotton Green if you are hearing it for the first time is a railway station on the harbour line that plies through Mumbai..Is it green with Cotton? You might ask. It seems that the name was coined because of the Cotton Exchange building in the east that came up in 1924 and the sprawling warehouses that used to store the grains from the goods rail road. That is where we grew up in the 70’s. Most of the buildings in the Abhyudaya nagar comprised of 4 storeyed ones being home to atleast 90 tenants in each. The ground floors of some of them had shops. In the 70’s Cotton Green was a pretty sight. The bullock carts carrying kerosene and ice blocks, the kulfiwalas(ice cream vendors) and the salt vendor all on hand pulled carts. Cars were a rarity so as to say even though you had good roads everywhere, the big sprawling mota (means big in marathi) maidan now renamed to Shahid Bhagat Singh maidan where good cricket tournaments were held. During the summer vacations, you could see atleast 30 active cricket pitches where different groups drawn from the various buildings around used to play. If not attentive you would be fielding for a team other than yours, not to speak of the hits you used to get from the various balls from all quarters. During the rainy season, the ground would be transformed to football playing ground. During a long lasting shower, this could become a mixture of fine clay, that one get the inclination to become a potter.
The roads in Cotton Green used to get flooded during torrential rains causing us to wade in the waters. The main road parallel to the Cotton Green railway station used to resemble a raging river especially when trucks plied through the water way. Those were pretty and sometimes horrible sights, to memorise, especially when some of us use to fall struck by such generated ‘tidal waves’.
There were a lot of colonies in this area, a great community of people living in M.H.B colony, Bombay dock labour colony (BDLB), Bombay Port Trust quarters, the Police quarters and so on. Since most of the buildings had atleast one of our school mate staying, the whole area of around 6 square kilometers used to be one big playground. There were instances of parents sending out other kids as patrols to locate their wards.
Notable places included the Cotton Exchange buildings standing as ramparts of the olden British era, the popular soothing Ram Temple, The inaccessible Air Force station in Cotton Green east. Towards the back of the cotton exchange was the ship container yard where we used to play and study. In fact the godown or the so called warehouses areas had study groups where some members including me used to be seen perched on trees and studying. Come exam season, you would see atleast 100 plus students studying either sitting, walking or as said earlier, in trees or sitting on the old platforms for goods trains in the ware houses section. We used to walk up to the next station – Reay Road while studying. Every day we used to walk atleast 4 kilometers.
The Abhyudaya Education Society High School, Ahilya Vidya Mandir, The Shivaji Vidyalaya and the Municipal School were the most prominent schools in the Cotton Green area, from where most of us did our education.
The most prominent festivals were Ganesh Utsav, Janmashtami, Diwali and Holi. Abhyudaya Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav Mandal and the one in the Cotton exchange now referred to as Cotton cha Raja, were the most prominent Ganesh mandals. We were close to Lalbaug where we had Lalbaug cha Raja and Ganesh Galli at a distance of 15 minute walk.
Famous Family Doctor was Dr. S.R. Pandit who used to commute from dadar area and was always present in his clinic at Building 33 at sharp 9:00 AM. He should have treated atleast more than 10000 patients in his time in our area. I recall, he was one of the very few persons of that time who owned a car. A blue Premier Padmini.
Another Doctor was Dr. Hegde at Abhyudaya Nagar at his Dental Clinic. Over the years, the dental specialist has taken good care to root and canal himself among the local community.
The Lalit Kala Bhavan at Cotton Green came in the early eighties thus creating one more avenue for pastime. Another one was the nearby Jijamata gardens at Byculla where we used to go even without slippers even though it was a good 30 minute walk. Sometimes most of us children used to come down to play without footwear and take a decision there and then to visit “Rani baug” as it was called in those days, the moment we had some money with us. The entry fee was only 10 paise at that time.
During our walk in those hot afternoons, we had to run or jog, as the smooth tar resembled burning coals atleast for our tender feet. In the summer we used to trail the bullock carts carrying ice, so that the vendor when he used to remove the saw dust and cut the ice with his knife, we used to collect the pieces and gobble them up.
We were also welcome/unwelcome visitors to wedding parties in and around Abhyudaya Nagar, especially to savour the ice cream and the cool drinks that were served. I rarely remember of having ventured deep inside the reception hall to see the bride or the groom during those parties.
For long term residents and people looking out for traders in Cotton Green this might come handy to relive nostalgic memories..
Ration Shops, especially, the one in Building 33 and 32 on Shrikant Hadkar Marg was always busy with queue of about atleast 50 people especially when the kerosene cart drawn by bullocks from Sewri Oil terminal used to make their port of call. During my school years, i used to chip in helping the dealer dole out grains especially when his only assistant had his hands full.
Dinesh Medical Stores was another big medical shop in those days and looked very neat as all medicines and other items were well arranged, and the assistants at the store looked professional.
2 Irani restaurants dotted the G.D Ambedkar junction to Shrikant Hadkar marg. It was a nice joint with rickety chairs and marble tops and most of us would order bun maska and lemon soda. The lemon soda was a combination of good old days Dukes Lemonade with a soda. This combination was enough for a gang of 3 or 4. Tea, also ordered as cutting chai was popular for a quick meeting between comrades, be it college mates or medical representatives.
Amar Opticians & Watch Co. was always a shop to watch at, especially when things could go wrong with your time pieces or wrist watches or clocks.
Tasgaonkar Egg & Chicken Shop on Shrikant Hadkar Marg(Road) was a favourite place to shop for eggs and chicken.
Metro Stores was a good place to shop for school stationery and books, especially at night, when we discovered to our horror, that one of our notebooks was full, or the ink pot was empty.
Town Stationary another shop close by to Metro that you could depend on, for school stationary items, especially text books.
Pals Hotel on G.D Ambedkar Marg the only hotel at that time and still standing.
Mumbai Photo frames on G.D Ambedkar Marg(Road) was a favorite haunt for religious people to frame their favourite pictures or marvel at the photos of gods and goddesses..
Laxmi Jewellers another favourite place for shoppers of gold and silver jewellery..and
if you had trouble reading this blog, it is time you visited Amar Opticians on Shrikant Hadkar Marg.
Thanks for reading, and let me know your comments 🙂