The bus stop near my office overlooks a parking lot beneath the Big Bazaar flyover in Lower Parel. Every evening as I wait for my regular bus there, I see atleast 2-3 couples camped there. The parking lot is clear of vehicles by this time and is fairly dark. So these couples stand near the pillars, the guys resting against them and the girls gazing up adoringly at them and sometimes doing more. Reminds me of the movie Piya ka ghar. In a city starved of space and privacy, any and every remotely empty space quickly gets occupied.
But privacy starved couples are not the only ones who prefer the somewhat dark and damp surroundings beneath flyovers. A whole world exists beneath Mumbai’s flyovers. The flyover near the Dadar West station for example. Flower vendors, clothes hawkers, cobblers, vegetable vendors – you name it and you can find them there. That flyover is always bustling with activity. There is even a full fledged, fully operational successful restaurant there. Optimum utilisation of space is something that one should learn from Mumbaikars. Of course, this flyover is also congested and the pungent smell of spices makes it almost difficult to walk past it. But the constant activity and hustle and bustle leave you amazed.
Flyovers also solved one of the biggest problems that south Mumbai faces – decent parking space. Parking slot leases earn the flyover managers a tidy sum every month. As you walk past, you see the weary drivers lounging in the expensive gaadis of their bosses who have gone for a meeting or are busy shopping. One door of the car would be open and the driver’s leg would be jutting out of it and Himesh would be playing loudly from the stereo. Or else you would see them chatting up other drivers and maybe playing cards. There is even a second hand vehicle dealership shop under one of the flyovers in Parel.
Then there are the homeless. Families that beg on the signals also live under these flyovers. Their children can be frequently seen running around naked and playing under the flyovers. Even children from chawls use these spaces for their cricket matches on Sundays. With most of the recreational grounds encroached upon by high end clubs or slums in the city, these spaces beneath the flyovers are also alternate recreation grounds. In some places, even slums have come up underneath the flyovers. There have even been drives to evacuate these encroachers, but more often than not, they return in a few days.
At night you find these spaces taking on a different and somewhat dangerous hue. At night, these are gambling dens. Drug dealers wait about and some of the flyover spaces also serve as pick up points. The weary daily wage labourer who doesn’t have a roof over his head also comes here to rest. The chaiwalas who sell chai and bun on a cycle all night can also be found near some of them. But at the crack of dawn again these spaces are bustling with activity and the cycle starts again.
Then there is also the life along the flyover, which I had mentioned in my first post on this blog. The life in the homes whose windows overlook the flyover. Homes that stand naked in front of the traffic buzzing past, a traffic that hardly cares to look into these open windows, so atleast that way, the privacy of these homes is safe. These spaces again are a distinct feature of Mumbai’s somewhat crazy, somewhat distinct lifestyle. All this can happen only in a city like Mumbai :-)