Andheri wasn't this way earlier, people who've lived here for more than a decade are likely to say. Some are rueful, though most welcome the changes that the DN Nagar-Lokhandwala-Amboli area has seen.
With pubs, coffee shops and fancy restaurants every few metres, this part of Andheri can rival Bandra and south Mumbai when it comes to luxury and entertainment. People who have lived in the area though, are struggling to keep pace with, and in some cases make sense of, the changes in lifestyle.
Some from the older lot are finding it tough to relate to the area where they have spent most of their lives. Some are midly shocked to see boys and girls spending the evenings chatting away at coffee shops and all-day pubs. For the younger generation, though, adapting seems to be the only way to cope with the changes. And this can often be stressful.
Anil Acharya, 20, was born and has been brought up in Andheri. “When I was in school, Andheri was an entirely different place from what it is today. I am in college now, and people around me are spending hundreds of rupees on styling hair, buying clothes etc. I have no option but to do what everyone else is doing to fit in with the crowd,” Acharya said.
Shailesh Patel, also a 20-year-old student, stays in a chawl opposite the DN Nagar police station. “I grew up in Andheri and have seen it change slowly with each passing year. Now, the place - and its culture - has changed so much, that it has left south Mumbai behind in some aspects. I still can't get myself to ask a girl out for a movie or go with her to a coffee shop,” he said. “This isn't because I am conservative; it is because I have been brought up in a different environment. I have female friends and they come over often, but that's where it ends,” he said.
Though Shailesh and others like him may not display their affection in public, they will not do a double take if they see others do the same. Even though they may not change their own behaviour, the area's residents are certainly making peace with the changes their neighbourhood is undergoing.
“The Andheri I grew up in was open, spacious, less crowded and clean. We often played on the streets as there weren't many vehicles. But today, it is so crowded that sometimes we even find it difficult to walk,” said Santosh Desai, another youngster who grew up in the area. “We have to change according to the people around us; that is what most youngsters, including me, are doing. I wonder what will happen a decade later.”