Lata's Neighbourhood Of Rip Van Winkles(Pix: Mumbai Mirror)

Didn't expect Lata Mangeshkar to stand by her attack on the new Pedder Rd flyover. The denial that followed was almost inevitable. Particularly since the heat got a little unbearable. And she was being pilloried for stalling development et al.

Yes, the whole city of Bombay is polarised over whether we should have a flyover here or not. This is the part of Bombay, south, where influential people live. So, you can't have flyovers sailing over their balconies so to speak. Particularly when one of the Bombayites sipping a cup of tea in the evening in one of those balconies might be singer Lata Mangeshkar.

But a Lata Mangeskhar and her ilk can hardly be expected to welcome a flyover that whizzes past their drawing rooms, with open arms. Their protests are understandable. What is not understandable is how all of south Bombay, where all of the city's most influential and richest people reside didn't see this coming. And worse, how they slept through all the decades they should have done something about it.

Planning Failure

The Peddar Road problem flyover or the need for it didn't materialise last week. This is the second attempt to push it through. The last time around, in 2001, Ms Mangeshkar threatened to depart for Dubai if it was built. Most people were more stupefied by her choice of destination than the fact that she opposed the flyover. Anyway, the project was buried. But it didn't strike too many people that there was an urgent need for a larger solution. As there is not now.

And that's a serious problem. The Pedder Road issue represents a complete and total failure of anticipation and planning. Including by politicians like Sharad Pawar who live there. Correction, own property and have lived there. Who have ruled over the state and city off and on and have never thought or acted on what the city's needs could potentially be. Not since A R Antulay tried to create a New Bombay has there been a serious attempt to address the city's economic and people balance.

Of course there have been hundreds of proposals, thoughts, ideas. They've been followed up with zero action. And finally that's what matters. Bombay should have had a western sea link connecting Nariman Point to Worli and Bandra 15 years ago. The concept if I remember right is at least 30 years old, if not more. Here we are still debating it, even as the island chokes itself to a standstill.

Bypass surgery

At this stage, obviously a Peddar Road flyover makes some sense. So does, possibly, a bypass surgery for a patient who has had cardiac arrest. Has it struck anyone that Manhattan does not have flyovers zooming all over. Or central London. Many cities actually choose to go under rather than over. Sure, Manhattan does not have the same dimensions as Bombay but the traffic crush is similar. And of course it has an efficient metro, like London. Which we are still debating over.

Peddar Road's residents have reacted by rejecting the flyover. They still fail to comprehend that their very neighbours could have acted a few decades ago to save this city. To ensure that economic activity shifted in such a way and infrastructure created in a manner that the whole city was not moving in one direction in the morning and another in the evening.

Today, its both ways. And its choked on either side. And we are slowly but surely entering a permanent gridlock. Join me on my morning ride and I will be happy to demonstrate. And its going to get worse because there is absolutely no solution in sight for a few years. Of course there are many plans on paper. So, a flyover is but one of many scotch tape jobs that this city might unfortunately have to settle for.

Waking Up After Two Decades

The reason we need scotch tape and band aid jobs is not because the city has grown to unmanageable proportions. That it has. Its because, we have a whole half-island of Rip Van Winkles who've just woken up. They include some of the country's richest businessmen who've created billions of dollars of assets, powerful politicians, noted artists, media barons, legal eagles to name a few. And of course singers. Even the period fits, twenty summers, from around the time Bombay began its irreversible decline to now. The question is: will they will now smell the coffee.

The writer lives in north Bombay, obviously.


Bombay Addict said…
They better smell the coffee, before it's too late. Yet, I wonder, if the larger body of ordiary citizens of this city have themselves to blame for the steady decline and fall, that you mentioned, of the last 20 years. It's a recurrent thought for me especially post 26/7.

While the legislative and executive of this city have largely failed us, couldn't we as citizens have done something to prevent our fall? We have had a few good men at the BMC, like Mr. Tinaikar and Mr. Khairnar. Couldn't we back them, much like the people of Pune backed Arun Bhatia?

Your earlier blog seemed to offer hope. That a few good men might still be out there trying to make a difference.

Coming back to your current blog, indeed, the current lot of Rip Van Winkles seem to be a self-centred one making a hue and cry over issues - as you correctly point out - that they should've woken up to much, much earlier. With this current ruckus, they sure as hell aren't gaining any sympathies from anyone.

Today's HT quotes Ms. Veena Singhal of the PRRA demanding one lane on each side of Peddar Road to be reserved for its residents and the entire road on both sides being made one-way during rush-hour. Yes, four lanes for Bombay and two lanes for Peddar Road residents. And no, no flyover. I wonder what's next- convert Jaslok Hospital into a multiplex? with entry only to people with cars above a Merc?

Btw, I've added your post to my blogroll on my post on this issue.

And yes. Like the author of this blog, the author of this comment lives in North Bombay, obviously.
Anonymous said…
I don't understand the malicious glee some people seem to be deriving out of attacking Lata Mangeshkar. Don't we have any icons left anymore? Does everything have to be dragged through mud. OK, fine, she might have said things attributed to her. As anyone affected by such a project, she has every right to ventilate her sense of unease at a project, which is going to affect the Pedder Road residents. It is upto the decision makers to take a rational decision. Those people (Vilasrao Deshmukh et. al.) have failed their duty. When, the issue first came up in 2001, what was there to prevent these so-called visionary leaders to put in place an alternative plan? So, guys please direct your guns towards these worthy targets and leave an old lady with her dignity.

Also, those who think the flyover will be a magic wand, will soon see the logistical nightmare it is going to be. The construction will throw the entire traffic out of gear like never before. It may be comparatively simpler to put up a flyovers at both ends; at Haji Ali and Chowpatty , to effect flow segregation. No need to have the entire Pedder road to be dug up.

FWIW, I, too, live north of Pedder Road.
Dilip D'Souza said…
Govind old chum, I'm keeping my thoughts on the P Road flyover for another time and place. For now, I only wanted to react to your mention of Antulay and New Bombay.

ARA had nothing to do with New Bombay, which was planned and set in motion in the late '60s/early '70s when VP Naik was CM. (ARA was Law Minister at the time, I think). There's more to this too, which I will also keep for another time.
Hi Dilip

Thanks ! Point taken, am sure you would know better ! Am just saying that the concept of New Bombay in specific and decongestion in general is old. If its 60s/70s as you say, then well, it only makes it worse..


Anonymous said…
Axshully Govind, now they even have labour type men protesting on the streets in Dubai too, what men, what next? Bettertolivewithaflyover inPedder Road.


Anonymous said…
From my understanding Lata M never made a statement about her leaving Mumbai for Dubai. The alleged comment was attributed a few years back to her sis Asha Bhosle who later was quoted as retracting her comment. That is if media did report it correctly.
Unknown Indian said…
The Western Sea link is needed - but given our environmentalist friends' opposition, it is unlikely to be ready for another 20 years. Hence, the Pedder Road flyover is the best we can hope for. What surprises me is that the PRRA opposes the flyover - they should just go to Mohammed Ali Road and have a look - the JJ Flyover has significantly reduced noise pollution there. I believe that once the flyover is built, even Lata will appreciate its benefits
Anonymous said…
80-saala - buddi chinaal paagal ho gayee hai. It is high time, the cheap and mean buddi, Latabai.. goes to hell. She has lived enough. She has become a pain in the arse. - Asha
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