Sharda Sadan: Bringing Kashmiri Pandits Together
It was a chance meeting with Late Shri TN Monga at a social get-together in 2001 in Vashi. As usual, post-exodus events were being discussed. These discussions were nothing out of the ordinary then; they are nothing out of the ordinary today.
Nonetheless, Late Shri TN Monga spoke about how he could not see a possibility of return to the Valley and that’s why he had thought of having a cultural centre of our own at Navi Mumbai. His thought emerged from the many such centres of other communities that had come up in the area.He spoke about enabling the community to preserve its identity.
He on his own, on behalf of KPA, Mumbai, had approached CIDCO in mid-nineties for allotment of land to build the community centre.While his efforts of almost three years had earned assurance from the authorities for the allotment, reluctance on the part of the then KPA office bearers disillusioned him and he gave up pursuing the case. The file containing the correspondence with CIDCO got confined to the archives of KPA.
In the November of 2002, with the new Board of Trustees (BoT) helmed by Late Shri ML Mattoo in charge, on the insistence of some of the biradari members of Navi Mumbai, the file was retrieved and the pursuance of the case was restarted.
It is important to mention here that on hearing that KPA has envisaged building a community centre,Late Shri Mohan Lal Bradoo, appreciating the effort, sent a cheque of Rs. 3 lakhs to kickstart the project.It provided the necessary boost and reaffirmed the resolve of making the dream come true. Shri SK Kaul, (of JNPT) was requested to use his good offices to expedite the allotment from CIDCO.
By now,Late Shri TN Monga’s file was declared time-barred by CIDCO. A fresh application along with the relevant documents, meticulously prepared by the then general secretary Shri CL Raina (2002-2004) and Late Shri ML Mattoo, were submitted to CIDCO.
On July 8, 2005, the combined efforts of Late Shri ML Mattoo, Shri CL Raina, Shri JL Kak (vice president), Shri SP Kachru (general secretary 2004-2007) and Shri SK Kaul bore fruit and a plot measuring 600.02 sq.m. (6458 sq.ft.) was allotted by CIDCO at a concessional total cost of Rs. 7 lakhs.
M/S Sanjay Razdan and Associates were appointed architects for the building, which was named Sharda Sadan.The estimated cost of the building then was Rs. 1.65 crores.
It took almost two years to get the project approved by CIDCO and other government agencies, and to raise funds to start the construction.
Shri JL Kak, a qualified civil engineer with decades of experience, was made the project director while M/S Globe Engineering Company was appointed as the building contractor following a tender process.
Late Shri Mohan Lal Bradoo, along with Late Shri ML Mattoo and other members of the BoT laid the foundation on the auspicious day of Navreh (March 19, 2007).
The arduous task of building the Sadan commenced with the laying of first pile of foundation on April 9, 2007. The depth of the numerous piles measured from 3.5 mts to 7 mts. The plinth was completed on October 31, 2007, under the expert supervision of the architect and Shri JL Kak.
Late Mattoo Sahab would regularly visit the site, and on one such visit, he broke his ankle at the site and had to be plastered. But it did not stop him from working tirelessly for the project. When not at site, he would be busy raising money for the project. His personal connections and his will to connect the people who mattered, brought in donations to keep the work going.
Meanwhile, the efforts of a few trustees, who went door-to-door, also yielded some monies.
First slab was casted on January 30, 2008.
With the building taking shape, the faith of community members, who were initially apprehensive about the project, was restored.
On suggestions of Shri PN Miya, a biradari member, KPA approached Government of India’s Ministry of Culture to seek a grant under ministry’s programme for preservation and promotion of culture.
After numerous visits to Delhi and submitting the necessary documents, Late Mattoo Sahab was able to get the grant of around Rs. 17 lakhs sanctioned. This whole process took more than a year. Eventually first instalment of Rs. 6 lakhs was received after the relevant expenditure on construction was submitted.