Mumbai Celebrating International Workers' Day In Madanpura, One Of City's Oldest Manufacturing Hubs

Mumbai Celebrating International Workers' Day In Madanpura, One Of City's Oldest Manufacturing Hubs

On International Workers' Day, an occasion that passed without much commemoration in a city largely built by industrial workers, a diverse group of people - poets, businessmen, a lawyer, and workers met at Madanpura in Central Mumbai to acknowledge the millions of hands toiling in the city's workshops, factories, and vast construction sites.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Thursday, May 02, 2024, 10:55 PM IST
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Mumbai Celebrating International Workers' Day In Madanpura, One Of City's Oldest Manufacturing Hubs |

Mumbai: On International Workers' Day, an occasion that passed without much commemoration in a city largely built by industrial workers, a diverse group of people - poets, businessmen, a lawyer, and workers met at Madanpura in Central Mumbai to acknowledge the millions of hands toiling in the city's workshops, factories, and vast construction sites.

It is not odd to see Madanpura as the venue for a 'Yaum e Mazdoor' or 'Labour Day' function. The area has been a hub for small industries for over a century. Advocate Zubair Azmi, who also leads a cultural group called Urdu Markaz, said, "Right from handlooms in the 1930s and 1940s to power looms, buff polishing, then injection molding, and now bags and ladies' purse manufacturing, the area has hosted various industries," said Azmi whose father left Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh to work in a handloom factory in Madanpura and then went on to become an entrepreneur.

Madanpura, largely settled by members of Muslim weaver groups from Uttar Pradesh, first flourished as a handloom manufacturing centre in the early twentieth century. With electricity, the handlooms were replaced by power looms, till rising rents forced the factories to shift to towns like Bhiwandi and Malegaon.

In the days when poets and writers of the Progressive Writer's Movement, a left-leaning literary chapter in the middle part of the twentieth century, lived in the area, the stories of the struggles of the factory workers made their way into their writings.

Poet Sohail Akhtar Khan, who read a poem titled 'Makaan' by poet Kaifi Azmi, said that he had written his poetry to read at the event. "But I remembered one of Kaifisahab's poetry and read that. That poem haunted me when I first heard it during a reading by Kaifisahab himself. The opening lines were about a sleepless night on the footpaths when the air was hot and still," said Khan who added that the areas, defined by pin codes Mumbai 8 and 3 a fountainhead of leftist thoughts, with institutions like the Red Flag Hall commune, where Kaifi Azmi and other writers lived, to the Awami Idara library.

Madanpura, therefore, was an apt place to pen an ode to workers in a city that was built on their labour. Zubair Azmi dedicated a qata, a four-verse poem, to the workers from the manufacturing units who had gathered in the afternoon to listen to the poetry. Azmi's poem reminded listeners that human civilizations were built on the labour of farmers and artisans.

Despite the changes, the area still pulls in migrant workers. "The nature of industry has changed, but workers remain," said Azmi. "There is this thing about Mumbai. Labour Day may have passed without much fanfare but the city still attracts workers. My father came from Uttar Pradesh. Mumbai is still where people from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, and South India come for work. There are more workers than ever in Madanpura," said Khan.

The verses:

Dharti ke sulagte seeno par..

Mazdoor ka rang jab dhalta hai..

Tehzeeb ke unwaa bante hai...

Faslon ka daur nikalta hai

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