Walkeshwar residents: The Ganga maa will give us justice'

Houses along the sacred Banganga tank steps receive BMC showcause notices; residents facing possible eviction say faith will see them through

On Monday morning, smoke and chants filled the air around the Banganga steps, when we visited. We saw people performing pujas, with pandits joined them in prayer. A gaggle of geese were in the water of the sacred tank at Walkeshwar. Youngsters were playing cricket. On the surface, it looked like just another day.

Krishna Pashte sits along the Banganga steps
Krishna Pashte sits along the Banganga steps

There was joy all around as Banganga local Mohit Dalvi 16, was recently honoured with the National Bravery Award, for saving the life of Krishna Pashte, 10, who slipped into the tank in 2014. Joy was mixed with sadness too, as 13 houses in the area have received a show cause notice.

Residents have lived here for the last 80 years
Residents have lived here for the last 80 years

These houses include those of Dalvi and Pashte.

Anil Pashte, Krishna’s father, house keeping supervisor in Vandana building at Walkeshwar says, “I live with my children and wife. My mother-in-law Nanda Talar, who lives with us received the notice. She massages newborns in the area, while my wife cooks food in people’s homes. My wife’s family has been living here for years. She tells me stories of growing up chasing the geese and ducks along the banks.”

Locals often serve as lifeguards. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Locals often serve as lifeguards. Pics/Bipin Kokate

Suraj Singh, painter and mandap decorator lives here with his grandmother Nirmala Manwal. He says, “We have been running from pillar to post to save our homes. Living here has helped me learn swimming.”

The residents’ lives revolve around the Banganga tank. Rakhi Mandavkar says, “We offer our houses to devotees who come to Banganga for a dip, to change their clothes and for the pandits to rest. The authorities put lights around the tank only because we insisted. This is our home.”

Residents wonder how they can be illegal if they have been living along the bank, for eight decades. Vasant and Narendra Bhosle are the Banganga sweepers on the temple trust ‘s payroll. “We have a ration card, electricity bill, adhaar card, election card. They state this area as our home. We share the history of this complex, with visitors,” says Vasant.

Armed with documents dating back 70 years, residents went to the BMC office yesterday. Narendra says, “I only trust Ganga maa who flows here. She will give us justice. This is our house, and, all our documents say so.”

Walkeshwar area residents attest to how Banganga locals make up the eco system that surrounds the neighbourhood . that’s associated with a legend from the Ramayan.

Harsha Tailor, who lives at Teen Batti says, “My driver Pravin Gaikwad hails from here. His wife is also a dedicated worker and has taken care of my children as their nanny. A large part of the household work force serving Walkeshwar families comes from there. Their stress affects us too.”

Malabar Hill resident, Vinita Thakore, a fashion designer says, “My family is religious and often take our family pandit along to perform puja at Banganga. The locals are very hospitable. They have small houses but big hearts.”

As the sun sets at Girgaum Chowpatty, residents look into the sacred waters, some worried, others hopeful as they ponder about their future.

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