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Sunday, 23 September 2007

Builders of Mumbai are knocking on our doors....

Every Thursdays and Sundays for over two hours, there is a spiritual discourse of the religious gathering in the open compound, at the end of the lane. During these two days, the lane is converted into a crowded, busy, market place with a people selling food stuff, fruits and vegetables. But that noise and crowd is acceptable to the residents of this lane because the tranquility return after two hours of commotion and traffic. 36th road of Bandra is the lane that has cradled my building for more than 40 years. Although this lane is clubbed between two busy roads, S V Road and Linking road, it maintains its silence and its serenity. During the early morning hours, you can hear the chirping of the birds through the thick foliage that border this lane and during the late evening, the lane is filled with sweet fragrance of flowers and leaves. It is the lane that has no shanties and no serious architectural disasters except one, which is under re-development plan. Each building in this lane stands proudly. There are no beggars, no slums nor are there any yawning garbage cans. On sunny afternoons, the ground is spotted with intricate designs made by the rays that pass through the rows of green flowery trees on both sides of the lane. It is believed to be one of the cleanest streets of Bandra. It maintains its cleanliness and ownership by driving out every family of beggar that attempt to spread their tattered sheet at the corner of its street. However, beggars are allowed to rest for a while and they are permitted temporary residence but not for more than twenty four hours. There are security guards posted on both ends of the lane to ensure the safety and security of the residents in this lane. The salary of these security guards is billed against maintenance tax of every resident. The lane is tarred regularly with cheap material that lasts for one season or six months. Using a cheap material is the norm in Mumbai city and it is no different in this lane too. Two years ago, this lane was decorated with potted plants. To stop the stink from the drainage pipes, the gutters on both sides of the lane were covered with huge concrete slabs and a wall of two feet was raised around them. Investment was made on mud, soil and plants to make the street look colorful and beautiful. It has thence, become the walking plaza for health conscious people, who stroll in this lane after dinner. Many of them walk their pets, who poo at dark corners behind the parked cars. Many dogs have found their mates here. Stray dogs have a peaceful existence too, with their regular supply of meals provided by some kind hearted, dog-loving residents. This lane is a zonal paradise for those who are looking for free parking space. During the day, all the rich students of the nearby colleges park their cars in this lane. During late evenings, visitors from various suburbs, visit Bandra for shopping or a movie, drive into this lane to find a free parking spot. The residents don’t mind these parked cars if they are shiny and of good brand. But if they are dusty and are parked for too days then there is whimper from the sulky folks who force those dusty cars to move away. Grumpy residents of this lane don’t like anything ugly to pollute their lane, because they love to enjoy the view of this green laced lane from their balcony or from window. On the days, when there is nothing interesting to watch besides K-series of family drama on TV, they prefer to gawk at the young college crowd that walk down this lane throughout the day, especially, those teen-aged couples, who walk, their hands entwined, lovey-dovey’s style, stealing brief kisses behind those shiny expensive cars. Many of those college students surround the idliwallah, a rice cake hawker, who has found an unlicensed spot, under the shade of bougainvillea, near to an abandoned architectural salad of broken stones, tins and poles. This iddliwallah is pampered by the residents, some of them offering him buckets of water for washing and cleaning. Everyday morning, at 11 am, he comes to this lane on his bicycle. His bicycle is a portable kitchen, fully equipped with stove, steamer, batter for idlis, sambar, chutney, wadas and utensils. He serves tiny, steaming hot rice cakes with spicy sambar and chutney, which is appreciated by the college crowd and the lazy residents of this lane. He returns home everyday as soon as he finishes all the food-stuff. In the evenings, idliwallah is replaced by bhel puri wallah who comes to occupy this unlicensed spot. Bhel puri wallah brings bhel and pani puri in his huge basket and is parked at this spot for over two hours. He is boon to the residents because he saves them from the hassle of cooking and can be summoned to the house to serve the invitees, and all guests love his tasty panipuri and batatapuri. Outside the lane, on both ends of the street, there is a long queue of builders, waiting to raze down the old building and built Shanghais that Mumbai has promised to build. Will the resident get enticed with the green wads of notes that are promised to them for a secured future? Will they allow the builders to destroy their tranquility? It waits to be seen…….

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