The first half of the title and article appeared last week.
This two-part is the result of an email sent by an ex-Chembur, current Antop Hill resident, who keeps coming to Matunga on a regular basis. An editor herself, she is frustrated by the way the businesses have slowly but surely taken over all the pavements and empty roads, with the attendant lack of civic sense, the consequent filth and rubbish all around and the traffic jams and grid-locks caused by the ever-increasing traffic and the illegally parked cars.
Take the Sahakari Bhandar lane. In the evenings during peak shopping hours, cars and scooters forget that the lane is one way and drive in whichever direction they want. Some chauffeur-driven cars linger outside, engines on, obstructing traffic on this small two-lane road, while the owners go in to get their groceries. The pavement next to the store is occupied by illegal hawkers from whom too people stop and buy vegetables, thus obstructing the pavement, pushing pedestrians on to the road and further adding to the chaos.
It’s all interlinked. As the number of high-rises have increased, the cars used by them on the Matunga roads have gone up as well and given that the roads in Matunga haven’t changed in size or number over the last few decades despite the flyover over the Circle, the extra vehicles land up clogging the small and large roads both, with cars sometimes double and even triple-parked or just cruising along and adding to the logjam.
The area near Pankaj Juice Center for example, is a disaster in the evenings and at night. Cars are parked whichever way, straws and tissues are strewn all around and the smell of rotten fruit and food is so pervasive that even the perennial smell of the Mysore Concerns coffee can’t obviate this. A similar situation is seen on the Matunga Market road with tons of roadside eateries and stalls that just seem to keep mushrooming. Try going onto Bhaudaji road from near the Post Office junction and it takes 5 minutes sometimes just to cross the 100 meters or so near the flower-stalls.
Walking on the Circle in the evenings is like navigating an obstacle course. If you like noisy places and crowds, you will have nothing to complain about. But, if you like to be able to walk at least a few meters without being jostled, pushed or having to watch out for scooters and cars that don’t bother to see if you are in their way, then you will have a significant problem. The pavement vendors that include both the book-sellers and the vada-pav guys add to the obstruction and leave little space to walk despite the Circle boasting some of the widest footpaths in this city.
And it goes on. The road outside Rasna Panjab and Classic is tough to navigate in the evening hours and nights, and in the mornings and evenings, the Marubai Gaondevi temple devotees block the road going towards Garnish, a situation made worse by the fact that the pavement outside the temple has also been virtually usurped by it.
It’s not too late or difficult. If the eateries and shops, both small and large, could have a little more civic sense and if the residents were to use their cars a little less and if those driving within Matunga were to follow some basic traffic rules, we could still stem the rot that is slowly creeping in. Matunga is nice place to live in and a good place to come to. Let it not become another Bandra.