If you actually remember the lovely restaurant at Kemp’s Corner, which was the precursor to all things Indigo…man, you are old! And no this article is not about that at all!
It’s amazing how things can sometimes turn a full circle!
A few weeks ago, in response to one of my articles on the deterioration of Matunga, Dr. G. Venkataraman sent me an email saying, “My most important feeling about Matunga is the death of the middle road in Vincent Road where myself and my wife walked many times without brushing against anyone”. Vincent Road is what Ambedkar Road used to be called in the olden days. In the 60s and 70s, the tramway used to go through the middle of the road from King’s Circle to Dadar TT (tram terminus) and prior to that I guess people used to be able to walk in the middle of the road.
These days, if anyone were to talk about walking along the middle of a main arterial road, he/she would be considered a little mad. And yet, that is exactly what has become possible because of the recently constructed Sion-Dadar flyover.
Flyovers create all sorts of problems in the areas underneath them, including the nuisance of parking lots. Similarly, the “under the flyover” area (UFA) of the Matunga segment of the Sion-Dadar flyover should also have become a giant parking area. But somehow, the UFA has been spared this fate and except for the presence of some towing vehicles and presumably some towed cars that are parked within the first 100 meters or so, there are no other vehicles within…and ideally, these should go as well.
And because this is now a 530 meters straight stretch of concrete (I have measured with my GPS) with two-three steps and a small slope in the middle, it has gradually become a “walking” area. Trust Matungaiites to grab the smallest opportunity that allows them some recreation for free…I first saw some “walkers” about two months ago during one of my early morning runs…and I too ran a short segment within the UFA without incident. When I returned a couple of weeks later in the evening, I found even more people, both adults and kids, walking, playing and cycling.
During light showers, the flyover above offers protection from the rains…you are outdoors and yet sheltered from getting wet and the UFA is now my designated alternative running area this season. It is also an interesting experience to walk/run through the middle of an arterial road with traffic on either side and the associated noise and smoke. But trust me…as Mumbaiites we know how to shut out noises of all kinds and despite all the traffic, it is possible to zone out in the UFA.
Two weeks ago, I found vagrants sleeping in the UFA and thought that soon the UFA would become another homeless haven, with people cooking and shitting, etc. However, and I thank whoever is responsible, the homeless have left for other unprotected pastures.
I am not sure how long this status quo will remain though. The UFA property seems too inviting not to attract the attention of builders and other opportunity grabbers wanting to start some “development” scheme or the other and to take it over. One way to protect it I guess would be to fence it and convert it into an official garden, if that is even possible.
But, at least for the time being…Vincent road, or at least a part of it…where people can walk through its middle for about half a kilometer…is back!