When I first rang the bell at one of the Dhuru houses on Dadar’s Swatantra Veer Savarakar Road, I had a minor heart attack. As the wooden door opened, I realized that there was no one standing behind it. I peeped through the hinges and still saw no one. In one flash of a second I had several thoughts. “Is this a haunted house? There’s no sign outside that warns people (yes I actually did think that).” It hit me that there was no gate at the boundary wall. The Esteem parked outside was dusty and there were no signs of life.
I was still in the deer-caught-in-the-headlights phase when a young girl (no she wasn’t a ghost) appeared at the top of the wooden staircase and guided me to the first floor. While the owner of that house didn’t want it to be featured, he guided me to his cousin Digvijay who lives next door at Dhuru Lodge.
The first thing that I asked about was the door. “I designed it. Later, my cousin asked me to fix one at his house as well,” said Digvijay, who is an engineer by profession. He showed how a simple switch turns a piece of iron at the door into a magnet, pulling the latch away.
The house which has been around since the 1800s has several such interesting features. There is the verandah bench that, because it is so heavy, has a back rest that can be flipped depending which side you want to face while seated. There is also a hat and a stick stand in the first floor living room. “Earlier people would wear hats everywhere they went and carrying sticks was a fashion,” said Digvijay’s elder brother Ajit, a retired media professional. They say that the furniture of the house has never been changed and thus, what we see now is easily over a hundred years old. It’s evident from the grandfather clock and the table that is so exquisite I want to spend an entire day just photographing it.
“The house was built by our great grandfather Cassinath Dhuru’s father Deoji,” said Ajit. There have been a lot of changes since then, the brothers say. A floor has been added and a balcony extended and converted into a small room. “The house grew as the family grew.” Cassinath built another house on the property for his second son (this is the first house I visited).
In the 1930s the property had a stable for horses as that was the popular mode of transportation. “It would take three hours to reach Fort then. Going there was almost a day’s picnic.”
The family history is as interesting as the house. Cassinath and his son, Dr Ramachandra, were at the same time bestowed the title of Justice of Peace by the British government. “Those who held this title worked as justices of minor issues.” Cassinath and his sons were engaged in several charities and because of which the road around the house that circles the house has been named after him.
Built in a typical British Villa style the house was, in the mid-1990s, included in the heritage list as a Grade D structure. However, in a later revision of the list it was taken off the list.
There are of course, some disadvantages of living in a house of this vintage. “When the house was originally built, all the bathrooms and toilets were outside the main structure. So, when we installed toilets and bathrooms inside, we had to put them in one corner of the house and not in each room as is common in most apartments these days,” says Digvijay. There is also the issue that every room has at least three doors to it, leaving people with little privacy.
Does it invite many curious passersby?
“Well earlier,” laughs Ajit, “People would see the sign ‘Dhuru Lodge’ and walk in asking if rooms were available. So, we had to move the sign inside.”