Mumbai might be ‘city of dreams’ but it’s a walk through the lanes of Khotachiwadi that turns out to be the dreamiest. The city is incredibly fast paced, but at Khotachiwadi time has decided to stand still. The bright coloured houses, quaint cottages with slanting roofs, and meandering lanes take us back to what the city must have looked like in the 18th century. It’s one lane of houses that have been preserved over centuries. The wadi (lane) originally belonged to Dadoba Waman Khot, a rich Maharashtrian, who later sold the land to many East Indian Christians who built few of the existing bungalows and had chosen to settle there. Apart from Khotachiwadi, Matharpacady is also another area that the East Indian Christians resided in. They settled there before railway lines were introduced. They worked in the shipping industry and were connected with harbours. Subsequent generations now keep up the style and culture. And the name, derived from the original owner of the land Khot, translates to ‘Khot’s lane’. 

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Narrow Lanes And Beautiful Sights Of Khotachiwadi

Khotachiwadi can be considered a small village in Girgaum, Mumbai. The locality makes you feel like you are in Goa, with narrow lanes, stray cats at every turn, a man strumming the guitar at a corner, and an overwhelming smell of frying fish. There are single-storeyed cottages on either side of the lane, coloured in bright yellows, pastel pink and green. These beautiful houses have verandas, spiral staircases and wooden panels that reflect Portuguese architecture and distinguish them from the taller buildings surrounding the village. There is also a beautiful chapel at the entrance of the village. The chapel was built to thank God for saving them from the plague in the 1890s. On a wall outside the chapel is a colourful graffiti of Mary holding a young Jesus. She is surrounded by white flowers, leaves, branches, and fruits, and seems to be sitting on a lotus. Some of the houses in Khotachiwadi have slanting roofs where you can see cats sunning themselves. The village is a sight to behold in the monsoons, its brightly coloured walls and lush green trees even more colourful against grey skies. 

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Khotachiwadi Village Mumbai

Different Cultures But Same Community

The village exists in a whole world of its own. There are modern bakeries, salons, and the noise that accompanies ‘development’ around the picturesque village. It seems like this small part of Mumbai stayed behind, while everything around it raced ahead to embrace modernity. Khotachiwadi is one of the first places to be declared a heritage site in Mumbai, and it’s why its residents treasure the place even more. Earlier it was predominantly a Christian community, but now has a considerate population of Hindus and other communities. Mumbai, a hub of cultures, has rubbed off on Khotachiwadi too, with the  mix of communities like Jains, Marwaris, and Gujaratis living alongside. The beautiful houses at Khotachiwadi aren’t just cherished for their  architecture, but are also repositories of memories from many childhoods and dreams. 

A Resident’s Voice And Life

The entire area of Khotachiwadi is supposed to be reclaimed land, as the sea was closer to the village centuries ago, according to Wilfred Felizardo, a resident of the village. His family has been a part of Khotachiwadi since the earliest days. His house is filled with different items he claims to have recycled or bought from Chor Bazaar (the city’s most infamous flea market of second hand goods), including a fountain with multiple lights. His house has a lot of green, with  potted plants, creepers, a cross, and imagery of Christ. The door is low, made of bamboo shoots. The house gives off an artistic vibe with a guitar in a corner and Felizardo lounging around in his shorts, loose shirt, and a hat. Until 30 years ago, Khotachiwadi’s residents were only Maharashtrians and Catholics, adds Felizardo. The community used to actively take part in  Christmas celebrations with Felizardo playing the role of Santa Claus and strumming his guitar singing carols. In recent years, it’s become an expensive venture for him, so he’s stopped them.  He now makes his living teaching basic guitar to kids in the neighbourhood. He also has musical sessions with friends. 

Khotachiwadi
Wilfred Felizardo’s residence in Khotachiwadi.

A Place For Peace

Felizardo says, there used to be 56 houses in the village, but because of corporate builders, it has come down to 26 houses. Some people have sold their land and shifted to more buzzing areas. Felizardo, whose family has lived here for generations, chose to stay for the quiet, and stays in touch with his roots. He often has foreign musicians visiting his house to indulge in music. The community is dwindling in size, but the residents have filed petitions to revive their  heritage status. James Ferreira, fashion designer and activist, is also part of this initiative. As kids ride bicycles and adults bikes through its lanes, the calm in Khotachiwadi stays undisturbed. The sky with its beautiful colours and the cottages give off a homely feeling, and the whole place invites you to slow down  and stretch out your legs for a while. 

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