Maximum city, maximum use of space

April 19, 2012 / By

The city of Mumbai has an uncanny knack of pushing everything to the limits, and it certainly does so for optimally utilising its every square foot of space surrounded by the sea from three sides. Mumbai teaches its citizens to be focused on one’s own work by remaining oblivious to what happens just an arm’s length away and like a true Mumbaikar, Mumbai’s spaces radiate dynamism in making numerous activities happen on a time share basis!

Mumbai’s suburban train stations are surely the world’s most vivid spaces. Every single day their spill-over nooks and corners are time share offices, relaxing areas, communication hubs, retail joints, food spots, business centres, logistics points and what not! The foyers and enclosures are greeted by the vendors of perishable goods at 3 am and for the next hour or two one can see a flawless, well lubricated distribution of their goods to retailers who will take the goods door to door, neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

With sunrise, also emerging on the horizon are hundreds of high school and college students on their way to schools, colleges and private coaching institutes. Where else in the world would schools decide on their timing based on the need to beat the morning rush hour! People not belonging to Mumbai often find it crazy to see college rush hour dawning as the sun emerges but soon they sink into their own memory lanes once among the sea of young hearts.

What follows next is a march past by office goers; men and women, rich and poor, bankers and carpenters, engineers and clerks, sales girls and fashion designers all forming an order like a never ending parade of ants coming in and out with precision personified. About 10,000 people walk past 1,000 sq m access controls in less than 6 minutes, if they fail, the next batch of people drifts them away in no time.

Office goers gone, the place assumes a relaxed mood. This is when it is at its productive best. Diamond dealers do trade worth millions of bucks, medical representatives master the art of symbiosis, interviews happen and candidates are selected, real estate agents broker deals, courier services sort out their mail, insurance agents solicit their clients and by now it is time to make way for the food stalls. Mumbai’s famous Dabbawallas (tiffin carriers) are ready for their final leg to the offices, people emerge from all sorts of bee hives for lunch and hundreds of food stalls dishing out most cousins of India rule the station area for the next couple of hours.

Come afternoon and the place turns gentle and caring for those who seek solitude, who seek their beloved’s company for some magic moments of love, affection and romance. This does not last long, for it is time for the petty retailers to set up their shops selling novelty items and daily needs to thousands of commuters who have no time for shopping and truly, this is “convenience shopping” for them on their way home in the evenings. Trading density during evening hours in suburban station areas of Mumbai is easily ten times that during crowded weekends at any malls and the kind of high rent retailers pay for this time slot is often two times higher than that for a popular high street.

The buzz finally starts receding around 10 pm when the hard working work force is making its journey back after doing “overtime”, friends catching up and hanging out, plans being made for the late night movie, the suburban station starts wearing its humane cap in providing the less privileged their shelter for the night. Mind you, it will be merely three hours of peace as the railway house keepers and gangmen do their daily repairs and maintenance, and there will be yet another busy day for all of Mumbai’s suburban railway stations! An ordinary Mumbaikar’s rightful public space for the tax he pays.

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