Wednesday, August 1, 2012

‘Once Upon A Hill’ by Kalpish Ratna

Island of Bombay
"Soon Carter was reading his Red Sea findings at the weekly meetings of the Asiatic Society. In 1847, he was appointed its honorary secretary. His interest in geology was now centred on the city he lived in. In 1861, Carter drew the map that would finally explain Gilbert Hill to me.'
"Gilbert Hill does not appear on this map – its northern limit is Bandra. Nevertheless, Carter's map reveals a hidden perspective.'
"Carter's Island of Bombay is actually the artificially welded product of Worli, Bombay, Colaba and Parel, and yet his map shows a geological continuity, a ring of rock, with outcrops of basaltic columns far out at sea. The rock is marked for the main part as basalt, shored up with large areas of breccia.'
"What a lot of hills there are!'
"The only ones that survive today are Malabar, Cumballa, Antop, and to some extent, Mazagaon.'
"Nowrajee Hill is gone, as is the puzzlingly marked Camdens Colongee Hill.'
"Lowgee Castle, which I visited in the breathless company of Marianne Postans (circa 1838), stood on 'Chinchpoogly Hill.' The deliciously named Chinchpokli is a station I've often passed, wondering why the city moves so far below the railway track.'
"On Carter's map there are outcrops of basalt all around Bombay. It is not a map but the surface marking of an iceberg. There is a submerged city beneath, one that can barely keep its head above water. Prophetic metaphor for today's Bombay? Or geological puzzle?'
"One glance at his map and I am avid to discover what Carter saw. I decide to stroll with Carter around the island of Bombay."
(pp. 102-3, 'Once Upon A Hill' by Kalpish Ratna - Harper)

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