That Mumbai loves exercising to stay fit is well known. Come January 1 and gyms around the city record a rise in memberships as more and more people resolve to lose weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle. But time constraints and work pressure ensure that the dropouts are equally high the next month. However, in keeping with the city’s famous resilient spirit, fitness freaks refuse to give up.
Lack of open grounds and gardens have resulted in Mumbaikars finding unusual places and methods to keep their health regime going. “There is no need for designated places to walk. Just get off three bus stops earlier and walk home,” says Suraj Karnik, 28, MNC executive. Others just make use of the space around them. “I have seen people exercising on terraces and in parking lots. With such little space available, it makes sense to utilise whatever you do have to the fullest,” says Sushila Shah, 33, housewife.
Public places like skywalks offer another option. “The skywalks are a great place to take walks. And it helps in the rainy season, as there is a covering and we don’t get wet,” says Tanuj Sharma, 60, retired teacher. Even places like train platforms are inviting morning walkers-cum-commuters waiting for their mid-morning trains. “It’s convenient and healthy. You aren’t wasting time because you’re already on your way to work. Since it’s early, the platform isn’t even crowded,” says Ashish Chowgle, 37.
Even commercial establishments understand this need and are opening their premises to this growing tribe with mall walks gaining popularity in Mumbai. A new concept in India, it has been prevalent for a long time in the US and UK. “We started the Mall Walk in May 2010 and have several walkers and joggers who use our premises to exercise,” says Nishank Joshi, AGM, marketing communication, InOrbit Mall, Malad.
The 1.3-km skywalk, which connects the Bandra railway station’s eastern foot-over bridges to Kalanagar, passing over Anant Kanekar Marg, D P Road and Nandadeep Garden on the Western Express Highway, is estimated to be used by around three lakh pedestrians everyday. When the skywalk was first thrown open to pedestrians, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Vilasrao Deshmukh had suggested that Mumbaikars “could also use the skywalk for morning walks or even evening walks.”
Well, this was a suggestion that people took seriously. Pass the skywalk on Sunday or in the morning and you can see several people using the area for their morning walk. “Since pedestrians do not use the skywalk as much at these times, at least we do not let the space go to waste,” says student Kiran Kamat, 22.
Vile Parle station
Sticking to the idiom when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, 37-year-old Ashish Chowgle who stays in Vile Parle East makes the most of his morning time to get some exercise. Chowgle, who works in a bank in Fort, takes a morning stroll on the harbour line platform of the Vile Parle Station while waiting for his 10.35 am to CST.
“I have time to kill after I get ready for work and I live two minutes away. So I come in by 10 am and walk for 30 minutes. It’s not crowded because few people take this train and since the weather these days is good, I don’t even exert myself,” says Chowgle.
Inorbit Mall, Malad
At 5.45 am, Inorbit Mall, Malad, is a flurry of activity. The mall premises, with an area of half a million sq feet, is used by patrons for their regular morning walk. Called Mall Walk, this unique concept was introduced keeping in mind the paucity of green space around Malad and the increasing awareness towards a healthy lifestyle.
The Mall Walk starts at 5.45 am daily and has around 100 regulars. Entry is free. After passing the regular security check, patrons can use the entire area of the mall (first and second floor) as well as the car park for walking or jogging. No shops are open at the time, though water fountains and washrooms can be accessed.
There is also no restriction on the direction or duration of one’s stay. There is also a trainer present to give fitness tips. A majority of walkers are either middle-aged or elderly. Patrons can stay on the premises till 9 am when the mall needs to start opening preparations.