Powai 1

Powai-then and now

They described it at as a leafy and peaceful suburb, far from the madding crowd. It went by the name of Powai, back then, known only for its eponymous lake and as the location of the prestigious IIT Powai. It was the place SOBO schools took their kids for their annual picnic. It was a picturesque suburb dotted with a lake, hills, and forests. That some foresighted builder saw potential for development here and had a vision of carving out a concrete jungle in the midst of the greenery and hills is in itself quite baffling. Then to go and convert this concrete jungle into one of the most sought after exclusive projects in Mumbai city is even more baffling. If Bandra is the queen of the suburbs, then Powai surely must be the crown princess today!

There is a lot of difference between the original inhabitants of Hiranandani Gardens and those that are flocking it today. In the late 80s and early 90s, it was sold as an ideal retreat for the retired city slicker who wished to get away from the pollution, traffic, noise and the chicken-coop sized homes they had been in living in for so long. The Powai homes were large by any standard, not just Mumbai’s, were surrounded by gardens, and had breathtaking views of the lake. It was the ideal place for evening walks and relaxed Sunday mornings at the club.

Hiranandani Gardens

Today there are over 40 buildings and towers within the Hiranandani complex alone, and new ones are getting added as you read this, not to mention all those me-too builders who have jumped onto the Powai bandwagon in the last decade to construct more me-too towers on the lines of Hiranandani. Residences, retail establishments and corporate houses of repute proudly call Powai their home today. Unfortunately many of these stand where hills and trees once stood.

To cater to the growing population of floaters and regulars, Powai today boasts of everything from luxury hospitals to luxury hotels, supermarkets to gourmet stores, fine-dining restaurants to casual eateries, lounge bars to juice bars, go-carting tracks to dashing car tracks. Exclusive gyms, swimming pools, tennis and squash courts and the biggest draw of them all– a top notch ICSE school –  are all available within a two kilometre radius.

Adi Shankaracharya Marg

With development come the pitfalls. The traffic in Powai is among the most dreaded, for residents and visitors alike. The JVLRI (Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road) which is supposed to have eased traffic has brought in more vehicles into Powai. Huge bottlenecks are caused by vehicles trying to use Hiranandani as a by-pass for getting from Andheri/Goregaon and surrounding areas to Ghatkoper and Chembur.

Only the brave hearted Powai resident ventures out in his car between 6 and 7 pm on weekdays. On Saturdays, things just get worse, when the whole world and his neighbour seems to want to get into Powai for attractions like the go-karting track, Hakone gaming area and the supermarkets, Haiko and Dmart. The poor Powai resident on the other hand is dying to get out for the weekend but finds himself stuck at home for fear of being caught in a jam  before he has barely got off his building. Office goers in Powai use the traffic as an excuse to spend longer hours at work, and don’t leave till after 8pm when the coast is marginally clearer.

With so much action shifting away from town (the original Bombay that extended from Cuff Parade to Dadar) towards the suburbs,  one can’t help but wonder  if all those retired people who shifted to Powai for the greenery and fresh air feel cheated today;  maybe a shift back to town  is what the doctor might order for the tired and retired Powaiite a few years down the line.

The above article was written by Kundhavi who blogs at http://jest-kk.blogspot.com/

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