Mumbai Memoir- Glitter in the Labyrinth
On a typical working day, Grant Road in Central Mumbai, is a buzzing hub of business, commuters & traffic chaos. For an outsider, streets of Mumbai are like a labyrinth, through which one can get lost. Most of the South Mumbai roads and institutions were designed and constructed during the British rule. Both British officers and generous Indians have contributed to lay the foundations of the current ‘order in the chaos’!
A special mention of Sir Robert Grant & Nana Jagganath Shankarshet can be highlighted when it comes to their contribution towards building Mumbai (then Bombay)
During the British colonial rule, Sir Robert Grant was appointed the Governor of Bombay (now Mumbai) in the year 1834. Sir Grant was an eminent judge, writer & a progressive politician. In his tenure (1834-39) as Governor, he was instrumental in upgrading the social standards of Bombay. Mumbai’s Grant Medical College and a railway station (Grant Road) on the Western line of Mumbai is dedicated to Sir Robert Grant.
Very close to the Grant Road railway station there is an area called ‘Nana Chowk’. This area is a crossroad where multiple roads merge. The statue of one of Mumbai’s great philanthropist from yesteryears, Jaggannath Nana Shankarshet, silently witnesses the cacophony of all things that happen around.
The area in which the statue is hosted is called ‘Nana Chowk’ in honour of Jaggannath ‘Nana’ Shankershet, an elite Marathi businessman, philanthropist, social reformer and a revolutionary educationist. A noble man to his core, he had dedicated his time and wealth to build Mumbai’s (then Bombay) architecture, culture and character. Born in 1903, he generously donated land and money for building schools, theatre and a crematorium. He was the first Indian to be nominated to the Legislative Council of Bombay and was also the first Indian member of the Asiatic Society of Bombay. He championed the cause of women’s education, inspite of fierce opposition from the orthodox communities of those times. His benevolence earned him equal respect from all walks of the society namely, the British, native elites and the working class of Bombay.
Post-independence, as the population of Mumbai started increasing, in order to accommodate the ever-increasing need of people, good public facilities have been provided by the authorities. In an organic manner, over the years Mumbai’s canvas got painted where one can see modern designs blending with colonial structures.
One such modern structure is a Skywalk that connects the Grant Road Railway Station to Nana Chowk area. In order to lessen the traffic congestion and commotion, Mumbai’s town planning authority initiated a plan of building a skywalk in the area. The skywalk’s main objective was to connect the Grant Road railway station to various roads through a bridge which is only meant for walking. The execution of this plan started from 2009 and ended in 2014. The Grant Road skywalk has become yet another ‘monumental’ feather in the city’s cap. The magnificent & innovative design mesmerizes the commuter especially when its fully lit at night. It looks as if the ‘London Eye’ Ferris wheel structure has horizontally been placed in the midst of Grant Road!
The picturesque structure has been implemented by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) Ltd on behalf of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). The 585 meters long structure is earthquake & wind proof, which costed the government Rs 43 crores. Here’s a link that gives a time-lapse visual from top of the skywalk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG_OHryRSH0
Today, as people of all section of society commute over the skywalk, both Robert Grant’s & Nana’s soul would be happy up there in the heavens above. The skywalk symbolically overlaps the new with the old (structure wise), of West overlapping the East (design idea) and above all glitter overlapping the chaos and commotion of the labyrinth called Mumbai!
Photo credits: Free internet source, Vikrant More, Mid-day newspaper.