The escape room
An increasing number of Bombaywallahs are finding solace in their beloved balconies during the lockdown. We dissect the love affair with this space haven
First things first. My humble 1BHK didn't come with the coveted balcony. With all the extra-curricular activities that have been announced during the lockdown (so far), where junta is egged on and expected to show their solidarity with joint public exercises from their homes – vocal, aural and wattage-related, the lack of this all-important extra FSI, doesn't do wonders for current motivation levels and morale.
After the kitchen, the balcony seems to be the most discussed section of one's home on the Internet in this lockdown period. Below are just some of the examples of the showing-off giri that we have been subjected to across social media platforms:
I took a masked selfie with an empty traffic junction in the backdrop. Bombay meri jaan.
Look at my sunset photography skills from my 33rd floor home. Bhai, what composition! What play of light!
Check out the sea view from my home…oh, and do I spot seagulls, er, maybe crows?
Mumbai at my feet. Look at my selfie [ignore ugh-looking, hirsute legs], as I enjoy me-time over chai.
Watch my video of the Indian mynah perched on a tree opposite my balcony. Shall I send it to Nat Geo?
It's as if a considerable chunk of Bombay is rediscovering the joys of having an attached balcony. And just as home chefs are unravelling their genius (or something like that) in the kitchen, these balconywallahs are happy to strut their stuff and post just about anything from there.
Yes, I am envious, so let me quickly admit that I would have always loved the idea of having one, despite the sometimes obnoxious views and sights jutting out of their homes; blame it on the short-sighted architect of my housing society.
As the lockdown gets extended, I can almost hear a round of collective sighs because this possession is not just a cool prop for the showing-off bunch. There are others as well, who are finding sanctuary and solace in these airy spaces. Away from the decibel-defying volumes of the TV set in the bedroom; or from the tantrums of their nearly-teen kids, the balcony is that ticket to temporary nirvana. With nuclear families and tiny homes where everyone steps on each other's toes all the time, a la like foot space on a Churchgate Fast, the balcony has come to everyone's rescue.
The earliest examples of community living in Bombay were sown in our chawls, and it is this microcosm of the city where the concept of the balcony emerged and mushroomed. The space was the adda for gupshup, as members mingled with their neighbours on the same floor, if not the entire unit. Soon, two-three storeyed buildings emerged on the cityscape, with large balconies, and the same connections were established and practised, albeit in a slightly tweaked way. Yet, the sense of interaction with your neighbours, at least on the same floor, remained intact. And then came the high-rises, where the idea was more inward-looking than the opposite. With it, the concept of the balcony seized to exist in its original template, at least if we were to look at Bombay from a social viewpoint.
Balcony-spotting in Bombay can be a brilliant pastime. Try it, when things return to normalcy. It is a remarkable window (ha! pun intended) into the dynamics of a multicultural city and how it grew over the decades. From Dadar Parsi Colony and Sion Circle to JJ Flyover, Cumballa Hill and Kalbadevi, I promise, you will be wowed by the diversity on display.
Anyone who's walked past the Art Deco buildings that line Oval Maidan or Marine Drive is sure to marvel at the gorgeous designs that dress the facades. You guessed it – those beauties happen to be my favourite pick, if a fairy godmother were to grant me a wish for a dream balcony; the home can come later.
Then again, if someone out there is giving out wishes, I'd rather route it for a safer Bombay that emerges stronger from this villainous pandemic, on this blessed Easter Sunday.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana
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