Anywhere but here, say Shivaji Park residents

Updated: Dec 03, 2016, 10:18 IST | Hemal Ashar |

Shivaji Park residents brace for lakhs descending on the area for December 6 Ambedkar homage day; affects exercise and walking routines, sports practice

Uday Deshpande in the background during a mallakhamb training session at Shivaji Park
Uday Deshpande in the background during a mallakhamb training session at Shivaji Park

Corrugated iron sheets have come up around Shivaji Park, cutting off the nursery of Indian cricket from public view. Bamboos and barricades have replaced cricketers and nets, as from this weekend, the maidan and the area around will play host to lakhs of Dalits who will flood the city for Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar's death anniversary on December 6.

Bamboo barricades inside the Shivaji Park in readiness for December 6
Bamboo barricades inside the Shivaji Park in readiness for December 6

However, for the swathe of residents from Dadar to Shivaji Park, who have a slogan behind their address — 'proud to be from Dadar Mumbai – 28' — lives will be thrown out of gear.

Rupal G, fashion consultant
Rupal G, fashion consultant

For many regular morning or evening walkers, the days entail a route change. Celebrated architect Shashi Prabhu, for instance, says, "I will be taking my daily walk at Worli Sea Face, instead of at Shivaji Park. The space is effectively closed off now. I must say though that things are improving through the years. Last year, post the anniversary, I saw the Park very clean in just a day, so that's a good sign."

Sweating, but not in style
For fashion consultant Rupal G, "walks at the Shivaji Park are out. I am under house arrest in a way, like so many others," she laughs ruefully. Some women at the Park even ditch their lycra and spandex, dressing more conservatively for exercising as they are uncomfortable with the stares from the throng of people.

"What really hurts though is that our sporting facilities are taken away," says top mallakhamb coach, of the Samarth Vyayam Mandir, Uday Deshpande. Deshpande considers all the preparation that began as early as a fortnight before, as necessary but unfortunate. "We are unable to practice outside; cricket pitches are also damaged. Now, December, January February is competition time in Indian sport, so it is really difficult when practice becomes impossible," says the 63 year-old, adding, "However, there is hope that the Indu Mill, close to the Park, will apparently be used in the near future to house those coming from outside."

Need to find a balance
Om Naik (11) was cycling around the park on Friday morning. He said, "From today, I will cycle in my Dadar society, not outside. I love cycling on holidays, this weekend though, it is shorter circuits at home, cycling in my compound."

Life also falls out of loop for Amber Pendse, who uses Shivaji Park and its vicinity for "walks, jogging, and playing volleyball, near the swimming pool." Pendse says that like the others, he has great respect for the ideals of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, "but there needs to be a rethink on how this is done. The fact that Shivaji Park is left in a shoddy condition after the event leaves a very bad taste with the locals and an unspoken dislike for the people who come to pay homage."

It even means switching dates for birthday celebrations. Pendse adds, "My mother's birthday is on the same day and though we would love to celebrate in a grand manner, we always end up holed in our house and celebrate either in advance or later."

But while many residents prefer to be out of Mumbai, not everybody can exercise that option. It is time to find a solution so that locals and visitors can find a happy balance — one where they can pay homage, but without heartache to Dadar residents that is a part of the "appeasement politics".

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