Hope Cooperage garden doesn’t get a band-aid treatment from Mumbai civic body | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Hope Cooperage garden doesn’t get a band-aid treatment from Mumbai civic body

Mumbai city news: The almost 150-year-old structure was among those that used to be the hub of music and cultural activity in SoBo before it went into disuse and got dilapidated

mumbai Updated: Jun 01, 2017 23:39 IST
The restoration of Cooperage Bandstand will hopefully pave the way for several other such.
The restoration of Cooperage Bandstand will hopefully pave the way for several other such.(Hindustan Times)

The Cooperage Bandstand, I understand, is to come alive again soon. The almost 150-year-old structure was among those that used to be the hub of music and cultural activity in SoBo before it went into disuse and got dilapidated.

Of course, such a story has emerged almost every year in the past decade (HT too reported this on December 20, 2016) so one doesn’t know how sincere the BMC is in executing the renovation plan.

Already, the repair cost for the Bandstand and adjoining precincts has spiralled from Rs50 lakh as reported last year to Rs60 lakh as is projected now. But cost should not be an impediment to giving the project the green signal and finishing it in time for a band to perform at the Bandstand on Independence Day, as has been mooted.

For the scope and scale of work, it can’t get prohibitive unless there is some devious inflationary tactics at work. Given the BMC’s current resolve to stamp out hanky-panky, surely this should not be an issue.

I must admit to a personal interest in seeing the Cooperage Bandstand being restored because it used to be a family ‘haunt’ growing up in the 1960s and 70s.

Across the road from Oval Maidan and cheek by jowl with the MSLTA tennis courts, the traffic police academy and the Cooperage Football ground, the Bandstand was a haven for families to spend an evening out.

When music reappeared here in the late 1960s, the bandstand became even more attractive. People would throng here, particularly on weekends, listening to various bands of which the most popular and admired would be that of the Navy.

By the mid-1970s, however, the place started to lose its popularity as bands moved away and the music died. In 2009, the bandstand was restored by the Oval-Cooperage Residents Association (which has been doing sterling work) but the ‘benevolence’ of the BMC was missing: hopefully that will happen now.

Nevertheless, the issue is not just restricted to the Cooperage Bandstand. Rather, several such open areas that were once the pride and delight of South Bombay. The Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which pushed for the revival of bandstand culture in Mumbai in 2013, lists on its website several such places that existed when this culture was vibrant.

After the walls of the fort in South Bombay were demolished in mid-19th century, the website informs, “Bands also played on the new reclamation at Apollo Bunder… once or twice a week at various clubs, including Byculla Club, Bombay Gymkhana, and subsequently Willingdon Club.”

Later, according to the Bombay Chamber website, bandstands came up at Horniman Circle, Girgaum Chowpatty, Victoria Garden, Hanging Garden, King’s Circle, Dadar Parsi Colony and Borivli National Park, all of which were maintained by the BMC.

Point is that while Mumbai may be India’s best city – regardless of pretenders – it always fails in an international reckoning. The reason is simple: our city’s minders and we ourselves have not yet learnt — or in some cases forgotten — how to harness its open spaces and make them culturally vibrant, and unique.

The clichéd complaint is that the city is short of space. True in most cases for the northern part (and which requires a different solution), but untrue when it comes to South Mumbai.

Here are wonderful open ‘pockets’ that added substantially to the delight of people for many decades, but are ignored and unloved today. Revamping has come to mean make everything shiny or inaccessible – like say the malls, residential and office buildings of Lower and Upper Parel. But there are also examples to show how things could be different. Thanks to the Kala Ghoda festival and Mumbai’s hardworking conservationists, the beautiful Horniman Gardens has been reclaimed and re-used.

The restoration of Cooperage Bandstand will hopefully pave the way for several other such.