On Instagram, two residents of Dadar Parsi Colony are showcasing their neighbourhood, known as the largest Zoroastrian enclave in the world.
It is impossible not to be taken up by the verdant beauty of Dadar Parsi Colony, and it may so happen that the next time you are sauntering through its lanes or driving past its parks, you may take a few shots on your smartphone. And, if you are posting your pictures on Instagram, then go ahead and use the hashtag #dadarparsicolony. The neighbourhood, known to be the largest Zoroastrian enclave in the world, with a population of about 8,000, now has two dedicated Instagram pages, thanks to the efforts of its steadfast residents.
Dadar Parsi Colony was established under the Dadar-Matunga-Wadala-Sion scheme of 1899-1900, the first planned scheme of then Bombay. Through the efforts of Mancherji Edalji Joshi, the area was built by the British, with emphasis on sanitation, mixed land use, and well-planned parks and gardens. Building heights were restricted to three-storeys when the colony was developed in the 1920s, and, in this covenanted area, the Parsis came to establish a way of life, with the Dadar Parsi Gymkhana and the Rustom Framna Agiary.
The two Instagram pages showcase the rich architectural heritage and life in this colony. The names of these buildings are a linguist’s haven, from Minoo Mansion and Gulshan Terrace to Dinu Villa and Gemfrina. This is also where you can spot an odd vintage relic or two, like a Lambretta parked in someone’s courtyard.
“There is calmness as well as commotion in Dadar Parsi Colony,” says the person who runs the Instagram page, @dadarparsicolony_dpc, and wishes to remain anonymous. Having spent 28 years of his life here, this Parsi resident decided to host a page in January this year as a way of celebrating the locality. “At noon, it is so quiet, that you can have a peaceful nap by the side of the road. While, in the mornings and evenings, it is noisy and cheerful, with school buses gathering and dropping off children,” he says.
The Instagrammer points out that unlike many other Parsi colonies in the city – the baugs as they are known – Dadar Parsi Colony is a public space. “You can walk through the area or play in the gardens. There are no boundary walls here.” As a fine example of neighbourhood-planning, the orderliness and charm of the colony is accessible, which is what he wishes to showcase through the Instagram account.
It is not very often that an entire neighbourhood finds an Instagram avatar. New York’s Central Park and London’s Royal Parks are just a couple of examples, with accounts on which you can watch the seasons change post after post. These are more than just information portals – these are odes and archives.
It is also the reason why Kayomi Engineer, 45, born and raised in this very colony, chose to set up @dadarparsicolony in July last year. On her daily evening walks, the heritage enthusiast, who was formerly with the Kala Ghoda Association, saw that her area was a treasure trove of architectural gems. As a covenanted area, the buildings, many of them owned by trusts and the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, have been largely safe from rabid redevelopment. “But, take Daruwalla House. It was an Art Deco structure and now there is a high-rise in its place,” she remarks. :I want the Instagram page to be educative, to show people this place I call home,” she adds.
In the last decade, the residents have tried their best to stop the area from becoming a hawking zone. The colony is still largely exclusively for the Parsis. “We call it a colony, but it is so much more than that. You will find Parsis and other communities mingling over sports and cultural activities. We are, after all, a fun-loving community,” says the other Instagrammer. As he re-posts photographs of Dadar Parsi Colony on Instagram he has found out a curious thing – that most shots are taken by those who the community refers to as “non-Parsis”.