The Tank


The Rail Line

Life In Chembur

Winds of Change



Chembur and Trombay had independent local bodies. Many parts of Chembur towards the north and east (present   day Tilaknagar, Cheddanagar and Pestonsagar) were submerged by backwaters during high tide. The saltpans in those areas were under the jurisdiction of the Salt Commissioner. Country boats were used to transport the salt to places on the coast. The creek on the Chembur-Ghatkopar border was the terminus of the boats. The road from Chembur to the creek was extremely narrow and lonely and had no lights and yet it was a favorite place to spend an evening either alone or with a friend. There were mangroves and shrubs along the creek. There were many large haystacks on the bank of the creek and fires were frequent. Cattle would graze lazily in the vast open areas of Chembur, Govandi, Deonar, Borla, Trombay, Ghatla, Mahul and Cherai. As there were no shops or stalls in that area, one had to buy  “chana’ near Chembur station to enjoy the lonely walk towards the creek! During the low tide, some areas near the present Cheddanagar were used to cremate the dead. There were no slums in Chembur prior to 1956. Except for the area near the station, there was no shop or house along the road to Govandi. This road was deserted and lined with huge trees on both sides. None ventured far on this road, as it was lonely and dark. Most of the social activity was around the Chembur naka, Station Avenue, Central Avenue, Chembur Camp and the fishing hamlet of Trombay.


The tahsildar's office would function from a tiled house in the camp area. The Beggars Home was set up by the government on the Ghatkopar-Mahul road near Chembur naka and the Home for Destitute Women on Sion Trombay road. One is left wondering why the government chose to locate both these homes in Chembur when vast areas were available in the north and west of the city.    Deonar, Trombay, Govandi, Mahul, Maroli, Cherai, Vasinaka, Ghatla, Mankhurd, Wadhavli, Borla were villages around Chembur. There were some paddy fields in Ghatla and other villages until 1955. Chembur and these villages were merged with the Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1949-50 and referred to as “extended suburbs”. Several schemes for water supply for Bombay city were taken up and implemented from 1856 to 1957. Subsequently other water supply projects were taken up to meet the increased needs of the city. Prior to the merger with the city, the suburbs were not provided with sewerage facilities. The inhuman way of manual disposal of sewage was disbanded in 1950. A sewerage pumping station was constructed in Deonar and Ghatkopar. Population figures of Chembur prior to 1930 are not available. Population of Bombay city (census of 1901) was 7,76,006. According to a special census in 1906,the population was 9,77,822(density of population being 35273 per square mile). The city’s area was then 22 square miles. Though rough censuses were undertaken in 1698,1744 and 1814, a properly organized census was initiated by Sir Bartle Frere in 1864 that recorded a population of 8,16,502 for the city. There were no hospitals in the area! The oldest English medium school (St. Anthony’s High School) was started in 1932 in the present pavilion consisting of a single large hall. Wooden partitions were used to separate each class. Initially there were four classes from Std.I to Std.IV Each class had about 20 students. Students would have to continue further classes at a sister school in Byculla up to Std.XI.The school was shifted to the present spacious premises in 1953. It was a co-ed institution until 1961 after which a separate school was set up for boys. Schools in Marathi medium were set up near Chembur Naka, Ghatla, Mahul, Govandi and Trombay.


The area near the station was generally referred as the Hindu colony and the area around the St. Anthony’s School and the roads from 11th to 16th as the Christian colony. The post office with two counters was in a rented single room in a building called Ganga Nivas on plot No. 59 at the junction of Station Avenue and road number 20. It was later shifted to a spacious tiled old dilapidated building on Sion-Trombay road for a short period before it moved to its owned premises at the present location. There were two deliveries of letters- the first in morning at 10 a.m. and the second at 2 p.m. The postal number for Chembur was then “Bombay-38”.