From Mills to Malls

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I am a 90’s kid, who is had spent some years of her life at Shivaji Park, Dadar. I am a 4th generation Mumbaikar, with roots from Kerala. My great grandparents, had come down to the city, as Mill workers, and my grandmother and her entire family, were earlier located in and around Central Mumbai, which is where all the Mills were there. During those days, as many as 4 to 5 families cramped in a small room which barely measured 180 to 200 sq.ft. Stringent, landownership laws, restricted common man from purchasing a house of their own. Only the rich landowners/ builders, could construct buildings and give them to tenants for a meager rent of Rs.1/- per few month. This was called as Pagadi system. During those days, even that was expensive for an ordinary man.

During those days, the mill siren would go off at 9 am in the morning and the men would leave for their work carrying the home made lunch. Children would be sent off to school by their mother’s who would then sit and cook lunch and other snacks. Children played in the huge corridor, sat together and studied. Festivals, were the time, when the entire floor came together and celebrated in physical form. Clicking pictures was something that they never did, but they created real memories those days, which are cherished until today. I grew up listening to these stories, from my mother and other relatives, how 30 to 40 cousins would stay under one roof and yet there would be no ego issues or any problem.

From 2004 till 2010, I used to stay at Shivaji Park, with my grandmother. By then a lot of our relatives, had shifted from Lalbaug Parel Area to far flung suburbs of the city. But that locality still bought back memories of the olden days. I still managed to visit a couple of friends and relatives, in those buildings and attempted to imagine, how life would have been different those days compared to today.

Yesterday, I had been to the same locality for a conference. When I had visited Lalbaug, Parel, during my childhood, the mills had stopped working, but the chawls still existed and were almost being vacated and some on the verge of demolition to make way for the big towers. Yesterday, when I visited there, it was like going to an entirely different world. The city where once stood huge Chimneys from the factories, now stood Huge corporate parks, as big as your eyes could capture. The bridges and roads, which were meant for single lane, could not handle the present day traffic and had to be heavily controlled. Roads being constructed above and below the present Road. Metro, work in full swing.

 A place, which once, held families together, now holds corporate families together. The lanes, which once celebrated the festivals in full swing, battle traffic jams every moment, cars and cars in every direction. Every lane now, atleast has one building exclusively for parking. The towers rise as high as your eyes can see. A city, which was once a heartland of the Mills and Mill workers, now houses the corporate big wigs. 

Time has changed, but for old timers like me, emotions still run high, while visiting those places. Somewhere, while walking down those memory lanes, I try to search landmarks for those old memories. I don’t think I have enough words to describe the feeling of  the area which transformed from Mills to Malls.

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