April 01, 2006

No particular place to go

Memories of Providence ... Where I lived, in that city, the roads were broad and largely empty. One evening, I came home in my rusting '72 Dodge Colt. Parked on the road, because I planned to go out again soon. But that plan got trashed and I stayed up in the apartment I shared with my department buddy Matt. Forgot to take the car in, though. Next morning, there was a ticket tucked neatly under my wiper: some dollar amount that, to my student eyes, seemed enormous.

In Providence, it was an offence to park on the street overnight.

Now suppose I had been downstairs when the cop was writing out the ticket. Suppose I had called down my neighbours and thrashed the man. What would you think? What would have happened to me?

Absurd questions, you think? But something like this seems to have happened on Walkeshwar Road, which runs up the side of Malabar Hill in Bombay, a couple of days ago.

This is a very heavily used road, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. Last Saturday, the traffic police declared that there would be no parking on part of this road during rush hour. However, according to the Hindustan Times (March 30),
    The residents of the buildings [in this zone] disagreed, and continued to park on the street in defiance of police orders. They had nowhere else to go, they said.
On Wednesday, cops and tow-trucks showed up to take away the cars that were parked in the no-parking zone. The residents emerged to protest, there was an altercation, and:
    According to the police, trouble started after they tried to push the residents off the road. The residents reacted violently -- some 50 of them started to beat the policemen. The police retaliated with a lathi charge.
A mess all around. But in all I've read about this incident, I'm most struck by one sentence: "They had nowhere else to go, they said."

What's this about? You buy a car, there's no space for it in your own building, so you park it on the street? You insist that it must remain there, even if it is an obstacle to heavy traffic, because you have "nowhere else" to put it?

(Hey, I've run out of shelf space here at home. May I build myself shelves on the road outside and put my books there? After all, I have nowhere else to put them).

Besides, in pretty much every building in this city, if you park your car anywhere except in your originally allotted space, you pay a monthly rental. Why then should you expect to be allowed to park it on the street?

What if you bought yourself 10 cars, would it be OK to park them on the road outside your building because you have nowhere else to put them? 100 cars? 200?

Of course, now I'm thinking I should have told the cop in Providence, "I had nowhere else to park my car, please don't give me a ticket."

Then I should have beaten him up.


Govindraj Ethiraj said...

Hi Dilip

Thanks ! Point taken about AR Antulay, am sure you would know better ! Am just saying that the concept of New Bombay in specific and decongestion in general is old. If its 60s/70s as you say, then well, it only makes it worse..

Meanwhile, many parts of Bandra, I imagine, are good candidates for the space patrollers !



Anonymous said...

There's two issues here:-

a) What if what is the road today was land hat belonged to you, but was simply usurped by authorities and society for larger good? From what i understand, that was the case here. Would you rather the people just built a fence around it?

b) Why did the Mumbai/Maharashtra Police want the parked cars moved? because a "VIP vehicle" was due to pass by, it seems. What is a "VIP vehicle", incidentally?


Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks Govind! Yup, those part of Bandra -- I stay away!

gbo, "land that belonged to you but was simply usurped" would be a good description of pretty much any land that's been used for public purposes. In some cases I think it is justified, in some cases no.

As for VIP movement, yours is the first mention of it that I have seen -- I know certain VIPs do move along that road, but in the reports of this fracas, this is the first mention of it I've seen. Though this doesn't mean I have any synpathy for it -- the VIPs should take their chances in our traffic like the rest of us. Besides there's another issue of what VIP means at all.

WHich reminds me, you drink rum?

eswaran, it may have been an overnight decision -- or at least one that gave very little notice -- which is certainly unfair. But I was reacting, really, to that "we have nowhere to go" complaint.

Anonymous said...

I am from malabar hill and my father was also involved in this controversy.
I think they are some things you people need to get clear. Our cars are not being moved for traffic but for the ego of the governor who lives on the street. We are not elite people who are making a fuss but are victims of elite people who make a fuss. Most of us have humble backgrounds. The fist fight only started when the police demanded a bribe. Futher most of us were not involved in the fist fight. Everyone from my building was only tring to leave for office when they were grabbed and shoved into a police van. They were not allowed to meet a lawyer(forget meeting us) were abused and some of them were also brutally hit. So i think you need to realize we are not really the VIPs here but are rather being abused by the VIPs

Dilip D'Souza said...

Abhay, thanks for your note. I'm not trying to say you are VIPs, nor do I have any sympathy (as I indicate earlier on this page) for the way VIPs drive about and push other traffic around. I fully believe there were attempts at bribe-taking and completely innocent people got victimized.

My sole point is this: in more and more buildings, there are so many cars that people are parking them on the road. Is this acceptable? Is "we have nowhere to go" a reasonable answer to this problem?

Anonymous said...

no dilip i agree that it's not right to park on the road but then we have to park somewhere. You know space is a problem in Mumbai and most of the roads have back lanes where cars are parked. On malabr hill we dont even have those back lanes. Futher many buildings here are small we are trying very hard to fit the cars and scooters in here but it is proving to be difficult. We only park out in turns and that to usually at hours when there is no question of traffic. Now the police have stopped even that

Dilip D'Souza said...

Abhay, sorry for taking a couple of days to get back here.

Yes, space is a problem in Bom, and especially on Malabar Hill (I used to live there). I appreciate all of you taking turns and so forth, and I empathize with the trouble you face, now from the cops too.

But here's the part which perhaps you won't like: surely, surely, residents of buildings where there is limited space must think about that before buying more cars and scooters? Where am I going to park that new car; and if I can't answer that, I must not buy the car.

What do you think?

Could we meet sometime? If you leave an email address/phone number, I'll get in touch and then delete your comment right away.

Unknown said...

Hi Dilip Abhay here

the guy whu just commented Kanhai( i dont know if he commented or not)
is my younger brother im not sure about what he wrote if he used abusive language (which he claims he did) then please excuse him he is young and from Cathedral School

Btw he is my younger cousin brother and his father that is my Kaka also got involved in this so you can see all of us are facing a problem

I got you email on the Bombay Blasts and i was deeply saddened by the news

Hope you are well