Mumbai: Park outside CST, closed for 15 years, to be opened to public

A new green lung, Bhatia Baug, gives Fort locals their omigosh-it’s-open moment after 15 long years

The Tairsee Bhatia Baug, more popularly known as Bhatia Baug, is a garden nestled in the busy intersection of CST and Azad Maidan opposite the well-known McDonald’s restaurant at Fort. It has been inaccessible to the public for nearly 15 years, but will finally open on March 20. A number of problems, including bureaucratic tussles had rendered the Baug out of bounds to the public for so many years. Now though, Fort area locals will no longer be denied and get the green gift, which has been restored by the BMC at a cost of Rs 1.75 crore, Ganesh Sanap, Shiv Sena BMC corporator said, “This big chunk of land in the busiest area of Mumbai was lying unused and ill maintained. Locals appealed to me to give them access to the Baug. After much work we will open it on March 20,” Sanap said.

The Bhatia Baug was shut for nearly 15 years. It now has a walking track, work is on for a water fountain and an open air gym. Pics/Bipin KokateThe Bhatia Baug was shut for nearly 15 years. It now has a walking track, work is on for a water fountain and an open air gym. Pics/Bipin Kokate

This garden, a rare green space in throbbing commercial heart of Mumbai, is named after LR Tairsee, a freedom fighter from the Bhatia community. The Bhatias are one of Mumbai’s oldest business communities. They were also the textile kings of Mumbai once upon a time. This rapidly dwindling community was formerly mainly concentrated in the Fort area, though with time, the demographic has changed considerably, with real estate rates zooming and growing families, all combined to make many Bhatias sell their old Fort homes for bigger spaces in the suburbs.

The work for beautification of the Bhatia garden is still underway
The work for beautification of the Bhatia garden is still underway

When we visited the garden yesterday, we were assailed by the smell of paint. Finishing touches were being given to this 4500 sq mt. green lung, which will give Fort residents and office goers, a breathing space, amidst fumes from vehicles in the traffic-dense area. Red and yellow blooms inside flowerbeds made a pretty picture, and grass planting made a green carpet. Now, a gazebo, like a shamiana, for senior citizens to sit will be installed within the garden, in time for the inauguration, said Sanap. The garden department was given specific instructions to ensure that the garden is disabled-friendly, with a ramp for access.

Corporator Ganesh Sanap (centre) with Fort residents at Bhatia BaugCorporator Ganesh Sanap (centre) with Fort residents at Bhatia Baug

While the BMC has asked the A ward, to keep the garden open for public from 8.30 am onwards, residents wanted the garden open from 6 am to 9 pm. “I expect permissions to keep it open longer to come in soon. What’s the use of opening a garden at 8.30 when most people leave for work?” said Sanap. The children’s play area will have rubber mats to avoid slipping. Fountain installation work is also underway.

Residents, many who have been waiting for years for access are ecstatic. Ratna Ramaia, Bora Bazaar resident said, “My children yearned for a garden for years, and now, after they are grown up, the garden has finally opened. Most of us had to take our kids to the garden at Girgaum Chowpatty instead. I’m happy that the children in our area will not have to go as far now,” she said. Beena Daundkar, local and member of the Shiv Sena’s women’s wing said that a yoga instructor has also been roped in, who will conduct free yoga sessions every morning, while an open-air gym is already in place at the garden.

As March 20 looms, there is a frisson of excitement in the air. The sentiment is justified because every bit of green space opening up in Mumbai is one to cherish and relish.

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