mid-day Garden Audit: Dindoshi's Sheila Raheja garden is too popular for its own good

Jun 08, 2018, 16:00 IST | Pallavi Smart

Albeit a few niggling issues, Dindoshi's Sheila Raheja garden is well-maintained and in a better shape than its peers; ironically, that very thing - huge, well-kept and offering pleasing attractions - is affecting it, courtesy overcrowding

mid-day Garden Audit: Dindoshi's Sheila Raheja garden is too popular for its own good
In several places, tiles in the seating area at the garden are either broken or missing. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

Dindoshi residents love the Sheila Raheja garden in their area; in fact, they love it so much that they are gradually suffocating it to death. This huge park spread over seven acres fares much than the others when it comes to maintenance, but because of its size and the facilities provided, it seems as if the entire Goregaon flocks here on any given day, not only leading to overcrowding, but also giving the perfect cover to miscreants, who slip through and wreak havoc inside. Several regular visitors have complained of vandalism, breaking out of arguments during busy hours and, at times, even eve-teasing.

The garden boasts of a 600-metre jogging track, made of paver blocks, besides designated sections for different activities — three play areas for children, large swathes of lawn, a couple of areas for exercise, a shed where youngsters practise dance, a small amphitheatre, a maze and a pond.

Children crowd around one of the swings, fighting for their turn on it
Children crowd around one of the swings, fighting for their turn on it

"There are four security guards during the day and two at night, besides support staff to maintain the garden," said Vasant Kharade, supervisor of the garden, adding that though the land belongs to the civic body, the garden's charge is with the Sheila Raheja Foundation, which maintains it. At a measly entry fee of Rs 5 per person, it's no wonder that overcrowding and miscreants are its biggest threats. Locals' grouse is a group of boys from the nearby slums damaging property inside the garden and catcalling girls who come there.

"Young boys standing outside or roaming inside taking selfies do cause issues sometimes. We have to then inform the guards who shoo them away," said Neetu Patel, 19, a student of Parkar college who frequents the garden with her friend. Two years ago, she was trapped inside the twisted slide with two boys blocking both openings. "It was when I started shouting that they ran away," she recalled. Overcrowding also results in swings, each meant for a maximum of five kids, seeing double the number on them, leading to arguments.

Another common complaint of parents and grandparents is youths hogging the play area meant for children, which has also lead to several arguments and fights
Another common complaint of parents and grandparents is youths hogging the play area meant for children, which has also lead to several arguments and fights

Whose area is it anyway?
The garden has two toilet blocks, one at each ends, already insufficient to cater to the huge footfall. To make matters worse, the block at one end is always locked, leaving only one block with its three cubicles to accommodate the thousands visiting daily. And to make matters further worse, the available toilets are in such an unsanitary state that only one out of the three can be used at any given time.

Rajesh Modi, a businessman who visits the garden daily, said, "The toilets stink so bad that we smell it even while just passing by them while jogging in the morning." Some of the other problems are broken benches, made of tiles and concrete, and broken steps leading to the amphitheatre. And the only pond on the premises is perennially dry.
There are three sections of play areas for children having age-specific equipment in each. But, many times, older children are found in the area meant for younger ones, leading to fights. Some older children also bring cricket or tennis ball to play inside the garden.

"As there is no separate section for outdoor games, they play on the lawn next to the jogging track. So, either the ball or boys running to fetch it end up coming in the way of joggers, which is dangerous. Anyone can get injured," Shivraj Kamble, 68, a resident who visits the garden frequently with his granddaughter.

Local corporator Suhas Wadkar said, "This garden is completely maintained by the foundation. There is hardly any interference from our side. However, if there are issues troubling residents, we will look into them. I will ensure that the toilet problem is resolved soon. Many who come for walks in the mornings suffer from diabetes and need this facility. "As far as there not being another big garden in the area, residents should also consider Meenatai Thackeray garden. It is slightly smaller than Raheja but well maintained by us."

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Concerned citizens
Anushree Maru, a regular visitor
Anushree Maru'The play areas for children should have more security. There are older children bullying younger ones. Sometimes, due to this, even parents get into an argument. Also, even senior citizens come in these sections with their grandchildren; all the more reason to have extra security'

Tukaram Bondre, retired govt employee
Tukaram Bondre'There need to be more such gardens in the vicinity, equally big and maintained. Because this one is the best in the area, no one goes to the other smaller ones around, adding to the burden here. The security is bound to miss some corners, because of which we see broken benches or swings'

Prime problems

  • Overcrowding
  • Vandalism by miscreants
  • Insufficient and filthy toilets
  • Broken benches and swings
  • Crumbling steps leading to the amphitheatre

Approximate daily footfall

Area of the garden in acres

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