My first sight of Kamala mills came many years ago, when I went to the then-new passport office in the compound. By then the place was already a big media hub. I finished my work at around lunch time, and walked around a bit trying to locate a place where I could get a quick bite. There were already several restaurants and pubs there, although the main entertainment hubs were then a couple of other mills nearby.
Mumbai’s enchanted years started during the American Civil War, when its cotton exports boomed. The cotton mills expanded until the beginning of the last century, and collapsed after the Japanese industrial resurgence in the middle of the century. The Govani brothers bought the moribund Kamala Mills in the 1990s when the government stopped trying to revive the mills and decided to allow redevlopment.
Now this is a landowner’s paradise. Decrepit buildings have been retrofitted into acres of restaurants. It is amusing to walk around a tall block which looks wonderfully swank from the front. The back is a crumbling post-industrial dump-yard (see the featured photo). Kamala mills comes alive in the night when the young arrive in droves to the water holes hidden behind each of the windows that you can see. The back is dark and invisible at night.
Look around and you find other lucrative reuse of land. Part of the parking lot has been turned into a go-kart track. Just next to it is what looked like a mini bungee-jumping set up. Opposite to that is a paint-ball hall. Is all of this legal? This remains a matter of debate even after last December’s fire. Still, the rentals are expensive, and restaurants have to make very large profits to survive. There is quite a turnover, as you might expect. Behind the mills stand the stalled towers of mid-town, brought down by the sluggish economy. Everything here seems to be marking time for an upward turn in the economy. But at night it does not look like the economy is doing too badly.