An article titled “Walking all over locals’ lives” in today’s The Times of India talks about how the construction of (some) skywalks in Mumbai has led to the loss of privacy for residents who live along the skywalks as passers-by on the skywalk can look into the houses level with the skywalk. My recent visit to the Cotton Green Skywalk underscores this observation. Take a look at the picture below.
Now, the Cotton Green Skywalk does not really pass within handshaking distance of the houses like the ones mentioned in the article, but it is still uncomfortably close. Without any effort whatsoever, I was able to hear every cuss word hurled between two neighbours quarreling over something (over and above the traffic din); and saw a man tying his pajamas, and another one reading his morning newspaper. And no, tempting as it was, I didn’t photograph any of these. I felt guilty enough witnessing this!
Last Saturday I went skywalking at Cotton Green. Till very recently what I knew about Cotton Green could actually fall within the 140 characters of a Twitter update—it is an eastern suburb of Mumbai, a station on Central Railway’s suburban Harbour line, and home to the stunning art noveau Cotton Exchange Building, that I would always look out for whenever I crossed the station. That’s it. It was not really interesting enough to get off and go exploring.
This changed when the news of a skywalk being built at Cotton Green trickled in, and combined with my series on the skywalks of Mumbai on this blog, Cotton Green became interesting enough for me to go skywalking there last Saturday.
According to newspaper reports, the 490 m long Cotton Green Skywalk was built at a cost of Rs.37 crores after demands from residents and commuters. It connects the railway foot over bridge to Barrister Nath Pai Road, near HKTC Enterprises. The purpose of this skywalk, like the other skywalks, is to ease pedestrian traffic that clogs the junction for motorists.
But where were the pedestrians? I passed only about 10-15 people during my walk along the entire length of the skywalk.
The Cotton Green Skywalk has an unusual feature—unlike the other skywalks I have seen or walked on (Bandra and Chembur), this skywalk is level with the train platform making access from railway station side almost seamless. However, access from the road continues to be problematic with no support for the disabled or those unable to climb stairs.
The views from the skywalk, apart from the ones looking into various residences, are quite varied.
I was surprised to see the amount of greenery around and at places, one gets the feeling of walking among the trees. I found a nest full of blue and green mottled eggs, carefully built among the branches of a tree—wonder, which bird they belonged to.
During Mumbai’s “glorious” textile days, Cotton Green would have been buzzing with cotton traders, wholesalers and retailers. But today, Mumbai’s textile industry is practically non-existent and the area reflects that. Though the area has some offices, it seems a little run-down and abandoned.
One portion of the skywalk is yet to be completed and the vigilant security guard there did not allow me to photograph that section. The overwhelming feeling of the Cotton Green Skywalk is one of under-use, much like the Chembur Skywalk. I saw quite a few people just sitting on the skywalk or reading a newspaper on the steps or even napping—there was no sense of urgency that one associates with a commercial hub or even a place that justifies the building of a skywalk.
The same Times of India article that I quoted at the beginning of this post, says that many of the skywalks in Mumbai have been constructed without proper planning or gauging the need in that area. It appears that the Cotton Green Skywalk is one of them.
About the Skywalk Series
This series attempts to see Mumbai through a skywalk. To keep some sort of uniformity (and convenience), all skywalks are done on a Saturday and at approximately 9.30 am. The skywalks explored so far are: