The House at 43, Hill Road tells of the aristocratic Braz Rodrigues, who built his house in the mid-1800s, on the plot where it all happened, with family vignettes, and how his grand daughter-in-law Lydia made the address known worldwide for the exquisite wedding gowns she designed. It goes on to provide a meticulously documented account of how government authorities actively assisted land-grabbers who were out to take over that property in Bandra’s prime commercial area.
For six years, the author, Brenda and her husband, Joe, great grandson of Braz, single-handedly fought over 70 cases, faced assaults, threats to their lives, and even had to hide their children in a distant place.
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What happened next is something I cannot explain, but that moment will always remain etched in my memory … without moving a muscle, I felt myself being lifted out of the chair. I had absolutely no intention of going down after Joe as I normally shied away from confrontations. Yet I found myself opening the front door, leaving it wide open and walking down the stairs. All this happened in just a few seconds. When I peered over the parapet of the landing I saw many of Celect Corner’s people on the ground floor, bunched up at the exit from the staircase, and realized that they had set a trap for Joe.
I ran down the remaining steps at top speed, and as I reached the first floor, the door of Flat 11 opened, and three persons emerged. I raced down to the lower landing almost colliding with Joe who was rushing up, followed by Hitesh Parekh, Manu Parekh who had a knife in his hand, and several others. They had planned to sandwich Joe on the landing between the ground and first floor, definitely to steal or smash the video camera and possibly to bash him up – we’ll never know for certain what was in their devious minds. His escape upstairs was to be cut off by those waiting on the first floor.
My unexpected appearance made them pause, but not stop. Joe was down on his knees and elbows, shielding the camera with his body. I crouched over him for double protection. To my dismay and utter shock I found that the shopkeepers and their gang had no compunctions about attacking a woman. I was being yanked and pummelled and my repeated cries of ‘Stop it.’ had not the slightest effect on them. That’s when I suddenly called to mind the starring role I had played of a woman being murdered in, ‘Sorry, Wrong Number’. I opened my mouth and began screaming my lungs out as if I were actually being stabbed. That brought residents and neighbours flying out of their afternoon naps. The shopkeepers were still struggling to wrest the camera out of Joe’s grip. But when they realized that too many outsiders (potential witnesses?) had gathered, they finally went off mouthing more threats. After we had got our breath back I breathed a fervent prayer to the Lord for sending me down after Joe in the nick of time — a moment too late and he would have been isolated and on his own.