A Place to Call Their Own


A Place to Call Their Own

Illustration: Namaah


or as long as Umaji Isande can remember, he has never missed the annual pilgrimage to Mumbai on April 14. He started visiting the city as a boy and continues the tradition with his family of five. The cramped 16-hour train journey from northwest Maharashtra’s Nandurbar, the sea of people, the endless queues, the irritated locals, everything fades once he bows his head at Chaityabhoomi that houses the remains of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar.

It’s a short walk to Shivaji Park, traditionally considered a Shiv Sena stronghold. But on two days in a year – April 14 and December 6, Ambedkar’s birth and death anniversaries – Babasaheb has an advantage over Balasaheb. The streets around the Central Mumbai neighbourhood brim over with families camping in the open. Vendors sell memorabilia, statuettes and bright posters of Ambedkar, to the visitors; one of their own, the leader who showed them the path toward restitution, and the Buddha, the deity he led them to.