Mumbai: Eight years on, no end to Babulnath garden's beautification

Updated: 16 December, 2015 09:12 IST | Hemal Ashar |

Locked out of a park for eight years, Babulnath residents ask BMC, when will your beautification end?

Babulnath Bandstand garden, also known as the Seth Tulsidas Kilachand Garden, is known to south Mumbaikars for the stunning rotunda structure it holds. On it, hangs a banner that reads: ‘For those who want to book this space for jazz music, please contact..’, and a telephone number follows.

The ‘library’, built as part of the beautification plan, has no reading material
The ‘library’, built as part of the beautification plan, has no reading material

Residents of 1st Dady Seth Lane, tucked behind the iconic Babulnath mandir which is a short walk from this garden, say let alone enjoying music, they haven’t been able to access the garden ever since the the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) closed it to the public around 2007.

(left to right) Samir Modi, Hemant K, Bakul Shah, S Anand and Sheetal B
(left to right) Samir Modi, Hemant K, Bakul Shah, S Anand and Sheetal B

Most residents remember spending their evenings here as kids. “When it closed in 2007, we were told it was for beautification. Does it take seven years to beautify a small garden?” asked an upset resident.

Babulnath residents in discussion. Pics/Onkar Devlekar
Babulnath residents in discussion. Pics/Onkar Devlekar

In 2013, this paper had reported that it was the construction of an underground water tunnel that had prolonged the closure of the garden. Delays in constructing a 6-km-long tunnel, 2,200-mm-wide, stretching from Malabar Hill to Cross Maidan via SK Patil Udyan, had led to delays.

Then Garden Superintendent, Vijay Hire, had assured that work was nearing completion. It’s been three years since. Motorcycling enthusiast and rallyist Sheetal Bidaye, a resident of the area for 10 years, says the garden has been shut without logical reason. “We wish to use it to play badminton. It is a fine green space in a prime area. Why waste it?”

Bidaye and others like her from the neighbourhood gathered at the garden, persuading the security guard to unlock the gate and let them in. Dr Raju Modi, 70, was one of them. “There was a walking track that ran right around the space. There were benches for senior citizens to sit on. Where is all of it now?” Mitesh Thakkar and Samir Modi have fond memories of the park.

They said while some of his friends learnt to cycle here, others were perennially to be found in the play area, racing home only when their mothers called out from the windows of homes opposite it. Bakul Shah scoffed at BMC’s beautification attempt, calling it “half-hearted. Some semblance of a Japanese garden has been made on one side. The beautification is only lip-service,” he said.

The biggest eyewash, say residents, is a ‘library’ constructed in one corner as part of the beautification plan. Except, it’s bereft of reading material and instead, holds cement bags left over from previous renovation. Keeping legitimate walkers out means after dark, it’s a haven for those indulging in nefarious activities by scaling its modest fencing.

While the front portion of the garden, facing the main road, is in good shape, with strobe lights painting it pink at night, the rear end is a mess. The BKM School sits right opposite from it. Its principal S K Anand added, “Our students could have used the park for band practice, but we have been locked out all these years.”

The chains will fall away; kids will play
Jyotsna Mehta, local corporator, arrived at the scene while residents were speaking to this reporter. The corporator, who shares a rapport with the residents, listened to their grievances and assured them that the garden would open soon. Although no date was fixed, she said it would definitely happen within this month.

First Published: 16 December, 2015 07:35 IST

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