Mumbai Memoir 57- ‘Sky-walking’ through Central Mumbai.
On a typical working day, Grant Road is a buzzing hub of business, commuters & traffic chaos. The ‘Nana Chowk’ area especially 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. 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 was only meant for walking. The execution of this plan started from 2009 and ended in 2014. Since its inauguration one more modern construction marvel got added in Mumbai’s infrastructural decorum. Besides the Bandra-Worli sea-link bridge, 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. The area in which the structure 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.
Today, as people of all section of society commute over the skywalk, Nana’s soul would be happy up there in the heavens above. Last week when I stood by, admiring the skywalk, I noticed an uncanny resemblance between the shape of the skywalk and the shape of Nana’s pagdi (Marathi traditional hat)! I felt, as if a beautiful infrastructural ‘pagdi’ has been placed in midst of Grant Road, for Mumbaikars to enjoy a smooth skywalk in the heart of Central Mumbai!
Photo credits: Free internet source, Vikrant More, Mid-day newspaper.