July 13, 2024

Cross Roads

The vale between the two hills, link from Chowpatty to Haji Ali and Nana Chowk to the junction at Warden Road (now Bhulabhai Desai Road) gave us the Cross Roads. The cross roads, which for those of us who grew up in Mumbai have many memories – even today called ‘Kemps Corner

 

Memories of thewonderful pharmacy that leant its name abound. Years before medicines werebranded and manufactured in factories, physicians would write dispensing prescriptions and pharmacists would mix the required medication. They were given in coloured bottles with white labels marking the doses to be taken.There were no pills, but horrible tasting doses for making faces, closing  nosesand swallowing as ordered by ones parents!
One of the most famous of these pharmacies in this city was Kemp & Co. Ltd.  

The pharmacists were trained in England and after the Crown took over ruling of India in 1857, regular advertisements appeared in the English pharmacy journals for young, well-trained pharmacists to come work in the cities of the Raj. One of these adventurous young men was David Skinner Kemp. He had qualified as a pharmaceutical chemist in Scotland and came out voluntarily in 1860 as an Apprentice. In Bombay he took on two local partners and established the pharmacy at the Cross Roads. On 27th June 1882 this undertaking was registered under the Indian Companies’ Act VI of 1882. After Independence the Company was issued a fresh Certificate of Incorporation in August 1948.Kemp remained as manager until 1885 and returned to Scotland a very rich man. 

The pharmacists were trained in England and after the Crown took over ruling of India in 1857, regular advertisements appeared in the English pharmacy journals for young, well-trained pharmacists to come work in the cities of the Raj. One of these adventurous young men was David Skinner Kemp. He had qualified as a pharmaceutical chemist in Scotland and came out voluntarily in 1860 as an Apprentice. In Bombay he took on two local partners and established the pharmacy at the Cross Roads. On 27th June 1882 this undertaking was registered under the Indian Companies’ Act VI of 1882. After Independence the Company was issued a fresh Certificate of Incorporation in August 1948.Kemp remained as manager until 1885 and returned to Scotland a very rich man. 

One young resident of Cumballa Hill, Gautam has vivid memories of his visits to the pharmacy. His mother would ‘dress him in weird shorts, polka dot shirts and bow ties’. Whilst she placed an order for the prescription to be filled for his snotty nose, he would ‘head straight for the large weighing scale, like the ones on railway platforms, with a clock face and a red hand’. He would jump up and down as hard as he could, in the hope that the hand would turn the full circle and surprise his mother. It never did, but it angered the grumpy old man behind the counter and he got a smart whack for his efforts from his mother!

Next to the pharmacy, in the same building was Palmer & Pierotti, owned by an Italian. It made the most delicious confectionary. Even today my mouth waters for the delicious, large and creamy chocolate bars we were privileged to get only on Sundays. Unfortunately, with the sweets came dental cavities and several painful visits to the dentist!  

The tree-lined road that one could drive up and down from. The quaint building with the pharmacy and confectionary disappeared. Today, in its place there is Om Chambers, with shops and restaurants, and riddled by controversies. 

1964 broughtfurther development. To meet needs of traffic going north/south from residential suburbs to the new office areas at Nariman Point, a flyover was planned and constructed by the renowned firm M/s SHIRISH PATEL & ASSOCIATES CONSULTANTS PRIVATE LIMITED. It was the first flyover in the city & country, and first to be completed within one year. Also, the only one to be completed within the estimated budget of Rs.17.65 lakh – no escalations! It is formally named ‘Dr. GopalraoDeshmukhUdanpur’, but we all know it as the ‘Kemps Corner Flyover’, opened on 15th April 1965. 

Challenges there were many. The ground on both sides had to bear the heavy weight of the structure. The clearance from the road had to allow for plying ofred double-decker buses on the roads below. 

In words of Shirish Patel‘flyovers and similar infrastructure interventions are usually driven by public servants
who take upon themselves the sense of ownership of the project—the engineers, or planners and architects employed in Government or in one of its agencies. It is the quality of these public servants that ultimately determines the quality of the results. The Kemp’s Corner Flyover was driven by M S Nerurkar. It was he who pushed for it, and discussed and approved each suggestion for change in design or construction method.’ They did it jointly for their city.

Disillusioned by unplanned urban growth today, Shirish Patel comments – ‘As its principal designer, I suffered some forced jubilation in 1965 over its being the first flyover in India. Had I known then of the succession of flyovers that would follow, some spectacular, some disastrous, and what they would do to the fabric of our cities, I might have been even more reluctant in my enthusiasm.’

Anita Garware – Chairperson, INDIAN HERITAGE SOCIETY-MUMBAI,Resident of Malabar Hill