How Chembur’s Changed

It has been a little over nine months since I returned from my old workplace in Bharuch, Gujarat. In this time, I’ve been lazy enough to not go out for my evening stroll through Chembur. Today, I finally made the time. I am totally amazed at the ongoing change in what was once a lazy eastern suburb of Mumbai.

Walking out of Chheda Nagar, I see concrete and steel rise up into the air, the beginning of the Santacruz – Chembur Link Road. The project was scheduled to open in 2008 and recent reports suggest that it will not be open even in 2013. The World Bank funded project that is being built to enhance East to West connectivity has also marred some of the stunning views of sunsets and the visual observation of the planet Venus that I was offered on my evening walks. But, as the board says, Thank you for putting up with this inconvenience now to enjoy a better tomorrow.

The Sky Walks are the next treat. The concept conceived by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) in 2007 as a way of de-congesting the area near the railway stations has been built over old shady roads that were my walking ground in days of college. It has also made me change my decade old walking path. To it’s credit, it’s not as shoddily designed and is built over a route that commuters are used to and helps them avoid going down and climbing up a flight of stairs each.

The old BEST bus stand at Ambedkar Garden now has a commercial complex consisting of shops at the ground level and houses hospitals and coaching classes at the upper levels. It now becomes easier for kids stressed out at coaching classes to visit the doctor, I guess. The bus goes beyond this structure at the back of which the pass counters and conductors rest places have been built.

The Central Avenue Road that stretches from the Chembur Railway Station to Diamond Garden on the Sion – Panvel Highway. This road, once a road sided with shade trees and independence era bungalows on both sides of the road, are now lined with high rises and buildings which houses several banks that have opened branches here.

On the return road through Ahobila Mutt, Sandu Garden, Chembur Head Post Office down to the market, things almost remain the same. Here too, there are some changes. The hall where my first year birthday party was held stands torn down. The hall, my father jokes, would not have seen any event more important than my birthday party. Through the gap one can see the Monorail station coming up. Usually I was able to see the Fine Arts Society, where I gained training in carnatic vocal music as a kid. As I go to the base of the Chembur market bridge I see a skeleton of the Sky walk that would connect the monorail station to the railway station.

As I walk to the corner store at Amar Mahal to grab a Coke, I am thankful for something remaining the same in the past decade. I do not believe that humans are built to witness this speed or scale of change around us. I think we need these things – parks, buildings and corner stores that are permanent so that we can sit, observe and contemplate on the fast changes that have been transforming Chembur. Whether for good or bad, now, only time will tell.

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