Bhendi Bazaar's women and their stories of change!
N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE (IANSlife)
There is no ideal concept of a perfect life; while one may be uninterested with their life or achievements, they may be significant to another person. This story is about a woman from the Bhendi Bazar community setting an example for all of us, an example to view life in a different light rather than grumble and do nothing. To dedicated your life to supporting society and creating lifelong emotional memories in these communities as she has.
The market was originally built as a part of the inner-city neighbourhoods created to meet the housing requirements of the labour force supporting trade and commerce activities in the harbour of Old Bombay, as it was then known. The history of this thriving Mumbai city and Bhendi Bazar are intertwined, a tale that crafts the epic saga of Mumbai becoming India's financial centre, is the tale of Bhendi Bazar.
The colloquial pronunciation of Behind the Bazaar (Crawford Market) became Bhendi Bazaar. Businessmen from various communities like Dawoodi Bohra, Memons, Gujaratis, Sindhis, Parsis, Katchis, etc., seeing an opportunity owing to its strategic location, moved into Bhendi bazaar selling things as diverse as hardware and foam, to clothing and antique items.
The houses in Bhendi Bazaar were developed in a 'chawl' or dormitory fashion, which were designed to accommodate single men who moved to the coastal city for livelihood. Slowly entire families started moving into these chawls.
Tasneem Yusuf Boxwala, Sakina Rampurawala, Sakina Shirazi, Mariya Arsiwala, and Jamila Burhanpurwala together have closely worked for the Bhendi Bazaar community, they speak to IANSlife and share about how forced closeness resulted in a distinct culture, organically bonding over living almost each other's lives.
Everyone aspires to live a comfortable life, so why would you choose a job that is difficult to sustain?
Tasneem Yusuf Boxwala: I have been residing in transit accommodation with my husband for the last 10 years. Being a homemaker, I take orders for tiffin and my husband has a business of making boxes. Overseeing the community halls upkeep is a job that gives me happiness and fulfilment. I believe in serving the community and helping the elderly with their daily tasks. With the help of SaifeeBurhani Upliftment Trust, I am able to provide a helping hand to the people of my community, The transit apartment gives me the freedom to own a space where I can host family, friends, or neighbours to celebrate a special occasion. I find myself very comfortable in the company of my family and community.
Describe how the community hall is kept up in more detail. What aspect of this profession do you like the most?
Tasneem Yusuf Boxwala: The daily maintenance of the community hall, cleaning process, and other arrangements are looked after by me. We are a team of 7-8 people and have staff to do the cleaning and washing of the community hall. If the hall is being used for some occasion, we make sure all the utensils and floors are clean. I do this for my satisfaction and service to society. I am very satisfied with the work I do.
Is giving back to the Bhendi Bazar community impotent to you?
Sakina Rampurawala: Cleaning and managing the Markaz (community centre) is important to me because it is where people gather for prayers and community functions. I am a social worker across all committees, and we organise fun fairs, health awareness programs, etc. for the people of our vicinity. It strengthens my bond with my home and the people who share it with me. This is my way of giving back to the community. I devote half of my day to community work and will continue to work for my community as long as I am able and standing. I find meaning in life by giving back to the community by helping others. Giving liberates the soul of the giver. I would say that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Our community leader His Holiness, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin counsels us "to always be grateful for what Allah has given us, and always be helpful to those in need." This teaching guides me to undertake all my community services.
How do you balance your personal and professional lives when you come from a large family, especially if you have kids at home?
Sakina Shirazi: I live with my husband, three children, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. We were living in a cramped and dilapidated house in Bhendi Bazaar for a very long time. For the past few years, we are living in a transit apartment provided by SaifeeBurhani Upliftment Trust as part of their redevelopment project work that is underway. Initially, things were difficult for me, but my family has been extremely supportive and that's the main reason that I can manage my personal and professional life in a balanced way. Fortunately, my family also takes an active part in organising these social events for the people. My late mother-in-law, who was 95 years old, was equally supportive and always showered her blessings on us. I'm very grateful to my family and the Trust for giving us the opportunity to pursue our hobbies and provide the best to the people.
Why do you think that meetings like religious services, potlucks, medical camps, and educational sessions are crucial for communication?
Sakina Shirazi: Religious services, community programmes medical camps, and educational sessions are important for bonding with each other. Our objective is to provide the best services to our community. The aim of these meets is for the society's members to get together and enjoy a pleasant evening with each other. Events like 'Pani Puri Day,' in which we invite a pani puri vendor to the complex and serve everyone a plate, have been a big hit in terms of strengthening ties within the neighbourhood. Recently we organised an exhibition which was a great success and even organised games for the kids, which they enjoyed very much. A variety of gatherings have been organised and it has resulted in bringing all of us closer to each other. We are obliged and thankful to His Holiness and the entire team of SBUT for truly uplifting our lives and taking up the responsibility of redeveloping Bhendi Bazaar.
Do you believe that Trusts like SaifeeBurhani Upliftment Trust are beneficial for your community's development in terms of families and entrepreneurship?
Jamila Burhanpurwala: I work closely with my community. SaifeeBurhani Upliftment Trust has undertaken the responsibility of redevelopment well. There will always be difficulties in such a massive project, but their vision is clear. I am residing in the Anjeerwadi transit home, and I would like to say that we have been upgraded already. Given the living conditions at Bhendi Bazaar, this is already a huge shift in providing dignified and healthy living spacesOur house in Bhendi Bazaar had water, hygiene, and safety issues, but here we have solutions to all those problems. Even though I know we are in a transit facility, I can say that when we return to Bhendi Bazaar in the next couple of years, it will be much better and I am very hopeful about all the positive support given to the people of Bhendi Bazaar.
What can the community do in terms of entrepreneurship to support both the women of Bhendi Bazaar and outsiders, in your opinion?
Mariya Arsiwala: I have stayed at the transit location at Ghodapdeo for almost 10 years now. I do volunteer work for the Dawoodi Bohra community hall with the larger team. The community hall is used for offering prayers primarily, but we also have families hosting their functions at the hall. Everyone has designated responsibilities and I look after the registration of stalls for exhibitions and the logistics behind it. We have exhibitions conducted at the community hall, and it is good to see so many women entrepreneurs participating. By giving them a platform, we are helping them promote their ventures, which becomes a great networking spot for the women of Bhendi Bazaar and outsiders.
What would you like to say to people attempting to establish a better life for themselves and others?
Mariya Arsiwala: I am a resident of Bhendi Bazaar and belong to the Dawoodi Bohra family. I started my professional career by designing Jhablaizaar (a long dress and trousers worn by young girls). I have faced a lot of obstacles in my career and overcame them, as it isn't easy to manage a balance between my family and profession with two children at home. During the COVID-19 lockdown, my workshop was put on temporary hold as the workers travelled from the suburbs. However, I'm very thankful to SaifeeBurhani Upliftment Trust, since the transition to Al Sa'adah Towers, which is part of a massive upliftment project of Bhendi Bazaar, gave me the chance to run my business comfortably from a much larger and better home, and allowing me to fulfil my breams better. I would motivate all the people and encourage them to follow their passion. You might face obstacles, but the result will be better than expected.
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