As I make my way through the narrow lanes of Pydhonie with the sound of Azaan being relayed from a nearby mosque, I am greeted by an entire strip of light shops.This is the infamous Chor Bazaar where people search for that out of the ordinary souvenir among the bric-a-brac which is virtually non-existent any where else. It is here that I arrive to have a word with Hatimbhai the owner of Taher Allys.
My tryst with the proprietor begins with a number of phone calls to his den, albeit the person is busy each time I call. I finally manage to get an appointment for an interview with Hatimbhai on a Saturday evening.
It is four hours past noon on a Saturday when I am introduced to a talkative middle aged man “Hatimbhai” by his man Friday, Ali. After Ali and Hatimbhai exchange a few words in Gujarati our chat begins. “When my dad started the business there was a lot of awareness about our kind of products, but the awareness was restricted to few educated Indians with the majority being foreigners. Forty years later, fellow Indians too have become every curious and interested in the kind of franchise we offer, this has been a welcome change,” he remarks on an opening note.
Procuring the age old chandeliers, candle holders and lamps apparently require a lot of patience and as a buyer you need to channelise or communicate very effectively with the gang of brokers and sub-brokers involved, since they are the points of contact to that prized zhoomar.
“A lot of what you see has been procured from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Kolkata,” says Hatimbhai. He is quick to add that the exquisite pieces of this by gone era crop up everywhere and is not confined to a handful of locations. “I even travel abroad to acquire the kind of lights, vases, Victorian silverware and other pieces that you can discover in our shop.”
Taher Allys has an enormous collection of decorative art deco and art novo lights and if you are looking for that one of a kind Osler chandelier you should definitely have a word with Hatimbhai. For those who came in late, F and C Osler of London and Birmingham was founded by master craftsman Thomas Osler in 1807. The company, which specialised in high-quality crystal chandeliers started in 1807 and closed down in 1920. Almost all chandeliers made by Osler are at least one hundred years old and they are a collector’s prized jewel! At this juncture Hatimbhai informs me, “These days a lot of heritage hotels are coming up and many a time they want the right kind of lights and artefacts which will gel well with the interiors.”
Though Taher Allys is not the place you would expect customised goods, Hatimbhai informs me they do have a workshop dedicated to what he refers to as ‘partial or minimal’ customisation. He points out to a fan which looks new but is reminiscent of the Raj that reaffirms his concept.
If the decorative lights and fans are not enough, let me add that I also managed to chance upon a ship light in the shop which was probably used on an old sailing vessel. However to someone who has grown up watching Baywatch, it looks more like a light used in search and rescue operations considering it enormous size.
Taher Allys is lined up with antiques, though lights are the most prominent products.Other pieces that grab attention include antique display cabinets, jewellery boxes, Victorian silverware, candle holders and the likes. Unbelievably an old M F Hussain painting catches my eye and so do the numerous Raja Ravi Verma prints.
The cabinets itself and their contents of tea sets and vases are enticing, and post my interview with Hatimbhai, I am taken through the inner passages of the shop which showcase these exquisite pieces. It’s nothing less of a wow moment – the sheer collection of antiques reminds you of the jewels that Alibaba finds in the cave!
Incidentally, they have yet another secret shop close by, but entry is strictly by appointment. If this treasure trove is fascinating enough I guess that specially kept secret would be even better. Maybe during my next visit to this neck of the woods I can send an official intimation in advance requesting visiting rights.
Text By Vikas Bhadra
Photos By Snigdha Hodarkar
Pydhonie, 150, 28, Opp Cafe Paradise,
Mutton Street, Masjid, Mumbai – 400003
tel: (022) 23471367