It’s just the worst timing; those who had plans to enjoy a romantic Valentine’s Day at Girgaum Chowpatty will have to change their plans, as most of the beach has been barricaded for a ‘Make in India’ event there on the same day.
Driven out from their favourite spot under the trees, some couples are making the best of the barricades
When mid-day visited the beach, volunteers were already in the process of shooing away the cooing couples there, using shrill whistles and shouting ‘Hato, Hato’ to clear the area. The Make in India Week (February 13 to 18) will feature just one event — a cultural performance — at the SoBo beach, but work is on in full swing from the Bandstand end of the beach to the entrance across from the Charni Road station bridge, a major chunk of the area stands barricaded with tin sheets.
Preparations being made for the cultural performance titled Maharashtra Night, which will be held at the beach on February 14, as part of the Make in India mega event. Pics/Shadab Khan
Sunil Rana and Preeti Yadav, who frequent the beach, were disappointed that they will be deprived of their favourite Valentine’s Day spot this year. “We went to a SoBo college, so this was where we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day. We made it a tradition to come here every February 14. This year, due to Make in India, we will have to break our tradition,” said Sunil, while Preeti added, “This is a public space, so the idea of it being closed is crazy. They are not even allowing us to sit at the back of the beach. Our favourite spot towards the Wilson College side has been taken and we are being treated like children, shooed away from various spots.”
Several couples were unhappy that their favourite spots under the trees had become inaccessible, forcing them to move further towards the main beach. “This is no place to love,” said one couple rather dramatically, even as others used the barricades as backrests while indulging in displays of affection, setting the thin tin sheets shaking rather precariously.
Estelle D’costa and her boyfriend, Wayne Fernandes — both Byculla residents — said, “We will have to go to Marine Drive on Valentine’s Day, but it will be too crowded. Already, with the barricading, the only sliver of beach that is open is packed. Beaches are a nice place to romance but, for us, Juhu Beach and Dadar Chowpatty are too far.”
It’s not just Cupid that has his wings clipped, thanks to Make in India. Senior citizens and families too are chafing at their favourite spots being taken away and are worried about the disturbance the upcoming event could cause. “If Prime Minister Narendra Modi happens to grace the occasion, residents are also going to be inconvenienced, as security will be at an all-time high,” said Yogesh Zaveri, an elderly resident of Grant Road, who was taking a walk at the nearby Lokmanya Tilak Garden when we met him.
'Can’t make money'
Small time beach vendors are irked too. T Sharma, a chaat stall owner at Girgaum Chowpatty, said, “The open feel of this beach has been destroyed by the barricades. The number of people visiting the beach for snacks has also reduced since they put up the barricades nearly a week ago. Make in India is not allowing us to make money, which is ironic.”
Prashant P, who rents out mats for R20 to visitors, said, “There is talk that the beach will be closed in the weekend; that will be a huge loss.”
As the sun was setting, couples were still busy playing hide and seek with Make in India volunteers determined to puncture their ardour. With lovers put off their game, vendors seeing profits plummeting and residents worried about the inconvenience, the one thing the event is making, is a bunch of pretty unhappy citizens.