Life under the Flyover
On an urgent trip to Chinchpokli on a 2 wheeler, I had the opportunity to travel on the famed Muhammed Ali Road. Since I was driving a 2 wheeler I could not use the JJ Flyover. The flyover at 2.2 kilometers was one of the longest when it was built. Building it was no mean task as it overlaid one of the mostly densely populated commercial and residential hubs in Mumbai. There were major issues with its alignment, hence its notoriously meandering positioning. Also since the windows on the neighbourhood's upper floors opened right on to the flyover there were privacy and noise issues. Nevertheless, it was built and is often quoted as an achievement of collective good over provincialism. A refrain commonly heard is " ... if JJ flyover could be built then so can this be ...".
However, the flyover as much of a convenience is also notorious for its accidents much because of the tendency of motorists to speed over its sinuous curves. You can be expected to be confronted by speed gun bearing traffic policemen at all times. That is one reason that 2 wheeler traffic is banned on it.
But life below the flyover? I had first hand experience of it last week. While it would take about 3 or 4 minutes in reasonable traffic to negotiate the stretch on the flyover, below it would be an easy 15 minutes even on a 2 wheeler. The road is wide enough for a 6 lane carriageway. But 1.5 lanes on either side are occupied by doubly parked cars, commercial vehicles, hand carts and cabs. The central median is occupied by dilapidated dust covered cars. On the available tarmac there are BEST buses, taxis, hand carts, 2 wheelers, people and more people. There are crossing roads every few metres with traffic lights that neatly depict the time to green. But nobody seems to mind them and its a free for all. This often leads to minor brushes and injuries holding up traffic. The markets on either side are the iconic wholesale markets of Mumbai that sell you everything from Metalware, Antiques, perfumes, clothes, wood and god knows what. The buildings are smacked back to back and are all dilapidated. In between you find a mosque, a hospital, a petrol pump or a school. All of them sport multiple window air conditioners like a teenager with acne. It is quite atmospheric if you are not in a hurry. And then there is the shade from the flyover above which is saving you from the scorching may sun of Mumbai.