Since July 1 midnight, Mumbai has been divided into those who have journeyed across the Bandra-Worli sealink and those who have yet to.
But not for long — judging by the thickening snarl at the mouth of the city’s top-rated attraction on a Friday night.
This, however, wasn’t the sort of tiresome, aggressive and noisy traffic jam that the city is captive to daily.
The engineering marvel envisaged as the solution to Mumbai’s traffic nightmares has, after all, already gone beyond being a structure of simply utilitarian value: as India’s first sealink, it is a monument of pride for the city, grand in scale and design and the only one of its kind for
the experience and view it offers of the island and the waters off it.
It is the new-age Howrah bridge that everybody — no matter their socio-economic-religious background — wants to see and get a feel of.
As the clock hastened towards the weekend, families, in most cases 10 to 15 members strong, packed into SUVs, sedans, hatchbacks and black-and-yellow taxis, descended on the cable-styled bridge to test its full strength.
It was a merry lot, pleasantly poised for a promising journey, armed with the necessary sightseeing tools — digital cameras, mobile cameras, handy cams, steaming flasks and styrofoam cups.
Adnaan Ahmed (in his mid-50s), a sweet-mart proprietor on Mohammed Ali Road, shut shop early on Friday to be able to bring his wife, four children and neighbours’ children to the sealink.
Ahmed and his family, dressed in their Sunday best, drove to Bandra to mount the bridge across the sea.
“It seemed like the traditional route to take even though Worli was closer to home. The kids had been clamouring to see the bridge as some of their school friends already had and so we’re here,” he said.
Though the growing number of cars thwarted any hopes of cruising down the sealink, children stuck out their heads from windows and sunroofs to have their pictures taken, unthreatened by the rain.
“It’s my son’s birthday and he asked that we drive down the bridge with his friends to bring it in. We also have a cake, which we will cut once we get to the other side,” said Manoj Shah (in his mid-40s).
The Chembur resident was marshalling a group of eight boys.
Almost luminescent in the relentless rain, the towering white cables extracted maximum gasps of awe and cars even dared to pull over for quick pictures, unheeding of the rain-soaked traffic policemen racing towards them.
“It’s a proud moment for us. It’s a remarkable bridge and a milestone for India,” said 28-year-old interior designer Hetal Nair, who had travelled all the way from Borivli, with a group of 12.
Making tourists of residents, the Worli-end of the bridge saw a lot more camera action. It was also the picnic end of the sealink.
The harrowed owner of Mafco Farm Fair, a stall selling hot snacks and flavoured milk, implored his overworked staff members to stick around for 10 more minutes.
“Our shift ends at 11.30 pm. Ever since the sealink was thrown open to the public we’ve been working close to 1 am. It’s good for the business I suppose, but my staff is mutinous,” he said, too busy to give his name.
Seizing the touristic opportunity the sealink presented, a corn vendor on Worli seaface admitted to increasing the price of his grilled corn from Rs 15 to Rs 20.
He rued that no TV crew had yet arrived to document his little enterprise as he fed hungry Mumbaiites into the wee hours of the morning, and through pouring rain.
Rajan Kori, a 30-year-old professor from Bandra, boasted of a 4 am drive down the sealink to a group of friends.
“There were a few cars but you could actually speed down for a change. Many took pit stops for pictures as it was Day 1 and the policemen didn’t appear to mind, given the hour of day,” said Kori, who had returned for his second trip to celebrate a friend’s birthday once they crossed over to Worli.
“The first time it took me 14 minutes, today it’s taken us 40, but it’s worth it each time,” Kori added.