Sunday, 26 June 2016

A Walk down Memory Lane

To paraphrase a lovable character from a memorable film - "“Memories are like a box of chocolates…once you open, you can't just eat one piece”. We recently realised how true that can be when Mrs. Dilnavaz Variava, Chairperson of Bharat Floorings and Tiles, recalled the landscape of the place from where Bharat Floorings started its journey.
Mrs. Variava is the youngest of all the cousins who share cherished memories of growing up while history was being written around them.  Reading the stories and experiencing all of it first hand is a totally different matter. So when Mrs. Variava found this picture, and shared those fond memories with not only her family but also with the entire team at BFT, we decided to share it online - with you, our extended family.

Mrs. Variava fondly describes Bharat’s first tile factory, built in Mora, Uran, in the sheds where her father’s family once distilled liqueur from a variety of fruits and flowers for the crowds who arrived in sailing boats from Bombay for a day’s picnic and merriment. When the British started their own distillery and closed this enterprise, the first cement tile factory was started in the disused distillery sheds. No civic amenities existed. Water came from the wells and electricity was generated by huge diesel generators that hummed loudly day and night.  These ran all the machines of Bharat’s tile factory and later of Grindwell’s, India’s first grinding wheel factory – started by Bharat’s owners   when cement supplies for tile manufacture were halted with the outbreak of World War II. When electricity finally came to Mora, and the generators were closed, the staff complained that it was too quiet to sleep!

Going down memory lane, Mrs Variava recalls the private pier that was built by the company for docking the sailing boats that carried the tiles to Bombay.  She recalls the delight of the children as they jumped on and off the open carriages, pulled  by a little engine,  carrying tiles  between the factory and the pier. The little engine was eventually retired to the playground on the adjacent hill. Mrs. Variava and her cousins swam in the sea and made mud cakes decorated with icing of coloured cement and marble chips. That was their entertainment while their fathers were busy at work producing some of the early tiles of Bharat Floorings.

In a huge dormitory, right above the factory shed, the families of the owners – Pheroze and his nephews Rustom Sidhwa and  Noshir Sidhwa (who was  later in charge of Grindwell) - stayed  together and had a good time. The young cousins had to wind the old gramophone, while everyone relaxed on the beds around the ‘dormitory’, with the sea swishing in the background. The dormitory led to a huge kitchen, connecting to the house of the factory manager, Shapoorji Madan. He was the head of the Uran Municipality and uncrowned King of the area. She remembers him, in his white Parsi coat, as a kindly but formidable man, who owned a big rifle for hunting and took snuff to produce huge sneezes.

From remembering ‘The Guest House’- with it’s stuffed sofas and a handsome sideboard with porcelain statues of white horses held by liveried footmen - Mrs. Variava could give you a detailed description of anything and everything of those early days. The Company’s post office, the guest house verandah with   wrought iron railings having the profile of Queen Victoria, the ingenious bench-cum-tables where the workers ate, the Agiary, the dispensary which later became a small hospital for the workers: the old picture brings back a thousand memories of the early days of Bharat Floorings and of charmed childhoods. 

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