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Fifty-one years ago, Sonal Mamoowala was born in the Ajinkya nursing home on Khar’s 11th Road. Today, the interior designer stays in a plush seven-storeyed building where the nursing home once stood, writes Tasneem Nashrulla.

india Updated: Nov 08, 2009 01:22 IST
Tasneem Nashrulla

Fifty-one years ago, Sonal Mamoowala was born in the Ajinkya nursing home on Khar’s 11th Road. Today, the interior designer stays in a plush seven-storeyed building where the nursing home once stood.

That transition perhaps best illustrates the transformation of Khar, from a homely neighborhood of bungalows to a property goldmine housing some of the swankiest buildings in the western suburbs.

As you turn into 16th Road, Khar, two majestic buildings gleam in the sunrays snaking through a verdant canopy of trees. To the right is Ekta Empress, one of the many ‘Ekta’ buildings that dominate Khar’s skyline.

The elegant white 12-storeyed building’s automatic sliding doors welcome you into a marble-floored lobby with a reception desk and a sheet of water cascading down glass. A spiral staircase leads to the first floor-glass-walled gymnasium with plush padded flooring and a plasma television.

The same level offers the luxury of a pool and podium parking. At night, the building’s façade lights up, emitting the glow of affluence that resides within.

Before you can say ‘dream home’, a glance across the road at the 12-storeyed Satguru Kalyan building will take your breath away. The towering ochre-white edifice is dappled with lush plants sprouting from sprawling glass balconies.

Above the sixth floor, three luxurious double-floored penthouses are ensconced in luminous glass and greenery.

Both these buildings are symbolic of present-day Khar, a breeding ground for the biggest builders and their castles in the air – Ekta Group, Satgurus, DB group, Lalani builders, Orbit and Redstone.

But longtime residents speak of a different Khar. Having lived here for close to 40 years, Mamoowala recalls the neighbourhood as a close-knit one of cozy bungalows where everyone knew each other. “We even had a ladies badminton club in my garden,” she smiles.

This was way back in the 1950s. Mamoowala identifies three turning points in Khar’s history – the construction boom in the seventies when bungalows made way for four-storeyed buildings, the late eighties when these were replaced by seven storeys, and the last decade which has seen the mushrooming of multi-storeyed buildings.

Along with the extensive construction of upscale properties, the demographics of the area have also transformed. Traditionally a Maharashtrian and Gujarati stronghold, Khar now has a significant Sindhi population. While the middle-class still thrives here, the newly-affluent business class is burgeoning as well. Thanks to Khar’s excellent connectivity with the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), many high-flying financial corporates have made this their home.

An increasing number of expatriates also occupy the swish apartments in many of the newer buildings. Says Khar-based broker Rajeev Batra of Big Deal Estates, “Expats prefer buildings that are equipped with a pool, gym, terrace garden and other state-of-the-art amenities. These are now standard facilities that most new buildings here offer. Many also have multi-level parking, yoga rooms, tennis and squash courts and remote-operated light fittings.”

Then there are buildings like Gym View on 14th Road, which have personal pools on some floors. The DB Group’s under-construction property next door is even said to have a pool on every floor.

With such prime residences in Khar, the area is almost as much in demand as its posh cousin, Bandra. Says Batra, “My clients now ask to see buildings in Bandra-Khar-Santacruz as a whole. They no longer restrict themselves to Bandra.”

He estimates that property rates in Bandra are only 10 per cent higher than Khar’s, which can go up to Rs 35,000 per sq ft.

Batra reasons, “Builders have run out of space in Bandra. Khar has much more potential to be developed.” Another reason is that unlike Bandra, Khar hasn’t seen much of commercial development. It has no multiplexes or malls, fewer shops and even fewer restaurants. Which is fortunate believes Mamoowala, who says, “The area is much quieter than Bandra. It has still managed to retain some of its quaint charm with the old Khar market, station and educational institutions.”

At the same time she admits that the consequences of rapid development have been “disastrous.” She grumbles, “It has become noisier, there are very few open spaces left and the state of the roads is abysmal.”

But then, swanky as Khar it is, it is also epitomises the oxymoron that Mumbai is. Alongside the swish, glass-fronted buildings that dot its landscape, cows still roam its streets.