The Lovers’ Lanes of Matunga

This one is tricky and you’ll need to apply your mind!

In the part of Matunga where I live, are four quiet, tree-lined blocks. From late morning till early evening, the place is pretty much dead, except for the occasional house-help, a few residents running errands and some minimal vehicular traffic.

Over the last year or so however, some enterprising kids/young adults have suddenly “discovered” this quiet oasis and sometime in the early afternoon, the area quietly converts itself into a lovers’ hangout. Young girls and boys seem to as if crawl out of the woodwork… every 100 metres or so, you suddenly find a couple or two lurking in the shadows, sitting on the ledge behind the cars or standing next to a tree or just hanging around, the parked cars allowing some privacy and the trees giving some shade. Some of them even walk up and down the lanes, especially if they are still in early courtship or perhaps are having a fight. A few girls quickly pop in and out of the buildings as well, where they change out and in of their burkhas. The girls probably study in the SNDT or Khalsa colleges nearby and the boys…they could be studying anywhere or perhaps nowhere. They all belong to a class between Lower and Middle. Some of them have bikes.

Those residents of the 30-40 odd buildings in the area who continue to be at home find all of this reasonably irritating. Some have politely asked the Romeos and Juliets to leave, while others have even shouted at the couples…but to no avail. And there is no question that when you come home early and are walking around and have to feel embarrassed in your own “galli”, because you seem to be interrupting someone’s deep eye gazing or sweet nothing murmurs, it does get to you.

Not that I don’t understand the plight of these young lovers. There is nowhere to go in Mumbai if you want to be together and are a little cash-strapped. They can’t afford the Cafe Coffee Day nearby, obviously can’t be seen together in and around their colleges or homes and still need to be discrete. While the Five Gardens has always been a place for young couples to “cootchie-coo”, that too is quite difficult these days with activists and policemen, moral or otherwise, constantly driving people away if they seem to be behaving inappropriately.

Last week, someone who was obviously very upset called in the police. A van came and picked up one of these couples; the policemen thrashed the boy, while a policewoman slapped the girl. The couple resisted…the police and the kids both knew that there was no case…but they had no support. The residents of the locality obviously were not going to come to their help and all the other lovers, perhaps some their friends as well, just vanished.

All of them were back the next day…it is difficult to keep lovers and love at bay!

So, here’s the open question. Do the residents of a locality have the right to “police” their area to make sure that it looks and behaves the way they believe their neighborhood and environs should? In which case, do they have the right to “drive” away people, in this case, lovers, because their behavior seems inappropriate for that particular locality? Or in a free country, can a citizen go to any public neighborhood or locality and pretty much do whatever he or she wants, as long as it is legally permissible?

Is there a straight and simple answer?

23 Comments

  • Honestly there is no straight answer. Our laws are so convoluted and open to interpretation the way they want it to. But must admit your article brought back memories of when I used to walk back from school (DPYA) via that samosa garden what is now known as Hoopers basketball and we used to whistle and make noises at such couples. Used to get a kick out of that then. But these days seriously these sights are so frequent that they are embarrassing to say the least. I wonder how my daughter (Aged 7) would react maybe 2 or 3 years down the line at the sight of these couples or maybe she would have gotten used to it already thanks to Bollywood!

  • This ‘lovers’ zone – now extends to MOST skywalks built across the city.

    Most of these skywalks – are NOT used to their maximum capacity.
    + they have nice steel benches & good breeze on most days.

    P.S. the ‘nuisance’ you are referring to – extends all the way around 5 Gardens all the way upto the calm serene lanes of Wadala.
    I have witnessed this even in the ‘posh’ areas of J.V.P.D. – especially the 10th to 13th road.

  • Ideally in a free country, one should be able to behave as one wants to.

    But if we were really free in India, we would be living in a world where you wouldn’t be writing this article.

    Since the time we were kids, adults have been telling us about how relationships (among many other things) are taboo and that one should be a “good girl” and get married to the “good boy” that your family finds for you.

    Why can’t people accept the fact that two individuals can like each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together?

    If we understood this, we wouldn’t raise our eyebrows as a couple takes a walk on the beach, holding hands or wanders around their own neighbourhood pouring their hearts out to each other.

    I am sorry, but if our society were more tolerant, couples wouldn’t need to sneak around and go to bandstand or some random community trying to find some quiet time with their lover. Nobody likes being slapped around by policemen, moral or otherwise.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    That is true as well SV but when it is in your face outside your verandah…it is irritating.

  • P.S – I am not saying that one needs to endure daily displays of public affection in one’s neighbourhood.
    I am merely saying that if a couple didn’t feel restricted enough to sneak around, they wouldn’t have to coochie-coo in public places.

  • shaukatali wrote:

    There is no way to curb this, now it has become a reality that Mumbai has to live with. The haves can afford the privacy of their car or even rent a room but have nots or have less who will be visible. I remember the times of my parents who I have never seen even holding hands, my generation went few steps ahead. People tend to get used to the changes. There will be a time when couples in love will go the whole hog in public places and some people will objet others will support it.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    With your article the last bastion of privacy in Matunga will fall! Unjust to those who need a little space for themselves away from the hustle and bustle of the this mad city.

  • Dr. Sunil Kamath wrote:

    L.O.V.E….is a FOUR LETTER WORD…Only, it is BEAUTIFUL unlike the other four letter word that is freely used nowadays…

    I, myself having fallen in love…once upon a time…a long time ago….I really wonder whether, the majority of today’s youngsters even understand the REAL MEANING of the the word ‘LOVE’.

    Most of the time it is PURE LUST rather than LOVE and ends up in their respective HORMONAL DISCHARGE

    Today it has become a ‘fashion’ to have a Boy / Girl friend and if one does not have any then he / she is considered a ‘NERD’ and not being with the ‘Times’

    As far as the ‘MORAL POLICING’ is concerned…I have coped with it, when THE ELDERS were much more STRICTER and the society was NOT SO BROAD MINDED….AND I NEVER HAD TO INDULGE IN INDECENT BEHAVIOR…IN-SPITE OF THE VARIOUS CONSTRAINTS PREVAILING THEN.

  • Ravi Gadiyar wrote:

    Sir , As usual a brilliant write up.. writing articles and mailing individually gears up the momentum.

  • Frankly, it’s nobody’s business what two young people do together, as long as it is legal. The old biddies in Matunga need to wake up and smell their Mysore Concerns coffee a bit more 🙂

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    The problem is Deepa that the Mysore Concerns coffee isn’t as good enough as well any more.

  • jamnav wrote:

    A few years ago a tadipaar youngman used to sneak into the city .We did not mind when his mother sneaked him some food and cash But once he started romancing his girl in our parking lot and on our terrace in a compromising position. we told him firmly to clear out and not enter our building. Felt bad, but we had very young children playing and they would watch with interest at the goings on of the couple.

  • sujata morab wrote:

    To the so called lovers : with freedom comes responsibility. they should know when to draw the line as concerns their behavior.
    To the so called moral police : have u forgotten your youth when u craved for privacy with your loved one. or r u just plain jealous now that romance is gone from your life?
    That’s the simplest and straightest one can get!
    Thnx.

  • Maitri Maroo wrote:

    Well Reclamation, Bandstand and Five Gardens were not enough that they have started over flowing below residential buildings also. Its just very irritating. Society members have every right to drive them away.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    But Maitri how do you about enforcing this?

  • muhbeen shaikh wrote:

    well times are changing. we have to probably learn to accept these situations. also the population is also increasing so much that there is hardly space for these couples to go anywhere. in priyadarshini park at nepean sea road u will see daily such couples sitting on benches and at the sea side and indulging in PDA openly. it is definitely very embarassing for us to walk with our children in such public parks. but i don’t think there is any solution but to learn to ignore them

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Muhbeen and Jamuna aunty – I gues if this behaviour were to affect the kids adversely then that would be a legitimate reason to try to stop such behaviour as well. Bhavin.

  • PREM MAHTANI wrote:

    I stooped going to dadar beach as i had to hop skip and jump over used condoms and needles,these guy’s just dont care,they are all over on each other,the girls take the lead n guys look like wimps.poor cops must be wondering why they cant indulge in such pleasures,so must be venting their frustation on the so called lusty couples

  • Jayesh wrote:

    The root cause is absolute lack of open spaces in Mumbai, This lust is nothing compared to lust for money by builders and politician. That is what has given rise to such situation. It affects our air our environment our daily life. we should have shivaji park size play grounds in all suburbs, five gardens in all suburbs then this situation will not arise. But we are too timid to fight for our right of clean air and open spaces against politicians and builders, so what do we do? complaint against powerless and poor to police who are also like us, they will slap and thrash poor defenseless people but cower in front of BMW and red lights even though they break rule as routine. So if you are disturbed or limits are crossed politely tell them, don’t call slap happy police. I am sure most of them will listen and understand your concern.(unlike politician and builders)

  • Perhaps d bmc shud earmark some zones where its allowed for couples to ‘hang out’ n soe zones where its not.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    And the next step would then be hotels as well like in Japan…

  • OK…..so I am a female who grew up in Matunga area. I remember these 5 garden areas where lovers would get together and we would make fun of them. As I got older, I remember once just talking to a boy from my class. Mind you, I was just talking to a boy. My grandfather called me every cuss word in the book. Things have changed these days…..My grandfather made me feel so cheap for just talking to a boy. I was so humiliated that I did not step out of the house for months except for college. It kind of scarred me. Very sad !!!!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Ranee…that I guess was unfortunate. Still happens depending on the make-up of the elders.

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