Fifty-one-year-old Pratap Kulkarni remembers the days when he had to go to Andheri from his Aaram Nagar house in Versova to even buy a matchbox.
“Today everything is available at our doorstep. Earlier this was a village on the outskirts of Andheri,” said Kulkarni, who was the first resident in the MHADA colony of Aaram Nagar when it was known as machlimaar.
“Now it has its own identity as one of the richest localities in the city.”
Kulkarni is one of the 2,48,148 voters of the newly formed Versova constituency, earlier a part of Amboli constituency.
It includes Seven Bungalows, Yaari road, SVP Nagar, parts of Veera Desai road, Lokhandwala, Aaram Nagar, Versova Village and stretches till Versova beach. The posh lanes of Versova are home to a number of Bollywood celebrities, nightclubs and restaurants.
But Kulkarni quickly adds that there is another side to Versova’s growth.
“With the influx of well-heeled people into our area, the standard of living has risen and original inhabitants like us have to struggle hard,” said Kulkarni.
His wife, Swati, adds, “If one kg of potatoes costs Rs 18 to Rs 20 near Andheri station, it costs Rs 24-25 in Versova,” the 48-year-old homemaker said. “There are people here who will pay that much so vendors inflate prices arbitrarily.”
Fifty-eight-year-old Paragini Vasani offered a first hand comparison. “I have another house at Borivli and I feel the price hike here is higher than it is anywhere else,” said Vasani.
“There, I can get custard apples for Rs 80 a kg. Here, I have to pay Rs 100.” Unprecedented redevelopment and the coming in of new money is the cause for this, according to Vasani.
Rising prices were an issue even in the Lok Sabha elections and this time both, the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance and the ruling combine have included price stabilisation in their manifestos.
Crowding and traffic congestion due to large scale redevelopment are other issues in Versova. Vasani’s 26-year-old son, Pratik, prefers walking it up from Andheri station to his house in Seven Bungalows instead of paying Rs 50 and getting stranded for an hour an auto rickshaw. He remembers his college days when the same journey would take him merely 10-15 minutes and cost him a reasonable Rs 15.
He hopes the metro rail will change things for the better. “The metro is going to facilitate better east and west connectivity,” said Pratik.
But amidst all this development, residents are gasping for some open space. The Versova beach needs to be beautified and public parks are few.