Winds of Change
 

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Chembur was a clean sleepy village until 1954 when large industries and establishments came to be set up. The two refineries, the Atomic Energy Establishment (as it was then called), the Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers factory, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, the International (earlier Indian) Institute of Population Studies came up during 1954-60. The construction by the Bombay Housing Board of houses in Station Colony (Subash Nagar), the Shell Colony, and the Township Colony (Tilak Nagar) in 1955-58 transformed the area into the then largest residential township in Asia.

 

The first ever visit of the Prime Minister to Chembur was in 1956 when Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the Atomic Energy Establishment the refinery at Mahul and laid the foundation stone of Shell Colony -a residential colony for the refinery workers near the station.

 

Earlier in 1950, another dignitary to visit Chembur was Bharat Ratna Dr.M. S.Subbalakshmi who gave an excellent music performance (her first in Chembur) at the then newly constructed hall (Sunderlal Khimchand hall) at the municipal premises on road No. 10. It was a memorable performance by the young singer who shot to fame a little earlier. The hall was packed to capacity by a local Marathi audience and many who were eager to listen to the concert had to stand in the road. These were the beginnings from which Chembur developed into a major hub for culture and fine arts.

 

There were few schools, both English and Marathi medium. There was no college in the Trombay Island. Children passing matric (then Std.XI) had to go to the nearest college in Matunga or the city for further study. There was neither bank nor a good eatery. The first bank to open was that of the Canara Bank Ltd on 2nd.April, 1959. It is astounding to mention that there are as many as 18 branches of cooperative, private and public sector banks today on the Central Avenue (present Swami Dayanand Saraswati Marg) of Chembur.There are presently several bank branches in Govandi, Mankhurd, Anushaktinagar, Chembur Colony, Tilak Nagar, Cheddanagar, Peston Sagar, Swastik Park, Sindhi Society, Trombay, Borla, Deonar and Mahul.

 

Much more can be written about good old Chembur.You have the old world charm, the fishing hamlets, the modern glossy paneled offices, the refineries and atomic energy establishments which are of strategic importance to the country juxtaposed alongside the largest slum in Bainganwadi-Deonar belt. If you are residing in Chembur or have some connection with this place, consider it a privilege to be associated with its marvelous grooming from a sleepy village of crabs and fields to a bustling commercial city of great significance to the country! Strive to relive the quite and clean past! Yeh hai Chembur meri jaan!