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Mumbaiwale: Take the high road

Whether you’re zipping over them or are stuck under them, Mumbai’s flyovers carry weird, varied and wonderful stories.

mumbai Updated: Jun 30, 2018 15:54 IST
Rachel Lopez
Rachel Lopez
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,JJ Flyover,Byculla
This year, a proposal was made to name the Lokhandwala Complex overpass after Sridevi.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

JJ flyover has an official name, and it’s not JJ

It’s popularly called the JJ flyover after the philanthropist and cotton and opium merchant Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, after a whom a hospital and art school (on the north and south end of the flyover) are named. But the 2.4km overpass is officially the Qutb E Konkan Makhdoom Ali Mahimi flyover. It’s named for a 13th century Sufi saint who lived in Mahim and was the India’s first commentator of the Quran. There’s a shrine in his honour in Mahim, where a huge fair is held every December on his death anniversary.

Byculla’s forked bridge has a Telugu connection

The Sayajirao Silam flyover, the two arms of which link east and west Byculla to Nagpada, honours the city’s 300-year-old connection to Telugu speakers. Telugus first settled here in 1695, when Bombay was under Maratha territory. When the British took over, they served in construction jobs, helping build the VT station and Rajabai Tower. By 1960 they agitated alongside Marathi-speakers to set up the state of Maharashtra. Bombay-born Sayaji Laxman Silam edited a journal for Telugu speakers in the city and spent three years in jail during the Non-Cooperation movement. Among his many posts, he was Speaker of Bilingual Bombay State Assembly twice and Speaker at the First Assembly of Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha from 1 May 1960 until 14 March 1962.

The Lalbaug flyover was almost named after a cosmonaut

The old Lalbaug flyover, which operated for 38 years, was named after Sant Dnyaneshwar, a 13th-century saint, poet and philosopher one of the first to write original works in Marathi, the language of the common people. When it was demolished for a bigger longer one in 2011, the Russian consulate asked the state government if it could be named after Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, who visited Bombay in the 1960s. The proposal was rejected. The old name stays.

At Dadar TT, there’s a nod to Bombay’s Chief Architect

The name for the Dadar TT overpass is a mouthful: Honourable Jaggannanth Alias Nana Sunkersett Flyover. It’s fitting when you consider Nana’s contributions to the city. The 19th century spice and carpet merchant helped set up the Indian Railway Association, (part of today’s Central Railway). He reportedly sat with the motorman when the first train left from Bori Bunder (today’s CST) to Thane in 1853. He helped found what eventually became Elphinstone College and the Asiatic Society, and set up the JJ School of Arts and the museum we now call the Bhau Daji Lad. He also contributed land towards a Muslim cemetery near Marine Lines station, and led protests against the British’s decision to close down a Hindu crematorium. Locals called him the “Chief Architect of Mumbai”.

Under Matunga’s flyover is a garden with a Narmada theme

The 600-metre stretch under the flyover that crosses the King’s Circle neighbourhood in Matunga is green, clean and the pride of the area. The Nanalal D Mehta garden, named for the Municipal Councillor and mayor, has a tiled walking path, plant-lined stone tracks, seating areas, lights, and zones that follow landmark regions along the Narmada River. The best part – no hawkers, no encroachments, no foul-smelling corners.

Jogeshwari has the only flyover named after a woman

The Mrinal Gore overpass, connecting Ram Mandir to SV Road in Goregaon, honours the firebrand socialist leader, corporator and MP. Gore’s efforts to connect the drinking water supply to her neighbourhood of Goregaon in the 1950s earned her the nickname Paaniwali Bai. She fired up agitations against price rise and women’s empowerment in the 1960s and ’70s and was part of movements for the statehood of Maharashtra and Goa. In the late 1970s, when Prime Minister Morarji Desai offered her a position in the health ministry, she turned it down, preferring to work among the people.

This year, a proposal was made to name the Lokhandwala Complex overpass after Sridevi. Until that happens, Gore’s our only woman with her own flyover.

The Lower Parel flyover has an ancient name and modern ameneties

The flyover by the Phoenix mall is christened after the same Fergusson who lends his name to the Pune college. Sir James Fergusson served as Governor of Bombay between 1880 and 1885, building the Church of St Mary the Virgin close to Parel station so Anglican railwaymen could worship there. When Worli and Parel were linked by land, the road (housing the BDD chawls from the 1920s) came to be called Fergusson Road, and by extension the flyover too. The road has been rechristened General Bhonsale Road after the freedom fighter, the flyover is still Fergusson’s.

In April, the underpass had a makeover. Dusty crumbling parking lots have made way for plants, pedestrian crossings, benches, public toilets, clear signage, dustbins and taxi bays. The facelift is thanks to the non-profit Mumbai Mile Regeneration Association (MMRA), which worked with the BMC, the police, the traffic police and neighbourhood design firm Studio Pomegranate on a redesign.

First Published: Jun 30, 2018 00:22 IST