My earliest recollection of Hiranandani Gardens is from 1996. I only remember Galleria and a south Indian fast food place called Mohini. You could go to the exotic Hakone on top of the Hill for some Go-karting. But the charm and exuberance of a bazaar is revitalising. We had no coffee-shops and none of high end restaurants and pubs.
Galleria Circa 1996 – 2006
Galleria is the finest example from the pre-mall era architecture. Galleria sent my young heart racing with the pretty lassies shopping for clothes. The builders do seem to have a nuanced understanding of designing a shopping place. The open & airy galleria, feels like experiencing a flea market in city settings.
I used to dream of organising free public events at the central dome. I thought I could gather like-minded folks for a music programme or screen a short movie. The dome could well have been our open air amphitheater. After the shops have shut, we could have our niche cultural space.
I have attended a few events there, right from the Anna Hazare movement and music shows.
My dreams of creating small community events in central podium at galleria have long died. But Let us save the public space, cause someone else might dream about the things I dreamt a decade back.
Hiranandani residents will have memories of going there to shop or take a haircut. You could watch young couples with the one child in an arm and another tagging along.
Circa 2010 – 2017 – Rampant Encroachments
The commercial exploitation of the place is sad. Now you see more men in ties and blue collared workers than families. Residents go there to to get something and come out. It is no longer a destination. Even the open parking space was a great place to hangout. Galleria is slipping in to a permanent state of degradation.
One shopkeeper told me that the rent from the area outside the shop earns the the owner more than his own business. This makes renting out the place outside the shop a lucrative proposal. To be honest, I love the outside extensions of these shops; they give a flea market feel to galleria. But what gets my goat is that some of the extensions lack in aesthetics.
The 1st floor of Galleria is quiet except the food courts which I think are pathetic. Why cannot the food court be nice and pleasant and yet cater to the corporate crowd ?
Hiranandani Gardens is commerically exploited so much that the infrastructure is showing cracks. One of the first to go under this undue stress is Galleria. This is the harbinger of loss of aesthetics for Hiranandani. I hope residents here don’t get used to what people in other localities have become immune to.
The citizens of Hiranandani don’t seem to overtly concerned about the hawkers inside the mall. There could be 3 reasons.
- Hiranandani residents patronise the vendors so conveniently overlook. A kind of bias.
- No one fears of being run over by speeding biker inside Galleria, So the encroachements are not a hazard.
- They think it is none of their concern and its the builders job to maintain the place.
Why the Alarm now?
The degradation of Galleria started 5 years back. Until now the property is maintained by the Hiranandani management. But things will change soon.
The shopkeepers are forming their own society and will manage by themselves. A Builder has the resources like gardeners and cleaners which he can spread without incurring exorbitant costs.
It is not clear that whether the the shop owners have negotiated a contract with the Builder. Even if they negotiate a deal with the builder or a outside contractor it will add to the cost. Eventually the price to maintain galleria will go up.
Safety is a major issue. The shop owners will not have the expertise on building safety. There is a fear they may cut corners instead of hiring outside expertise.
What can we do? Isn’t this an internal matter of shop owners and Hiranandani management ?
Take a walk through galleria and walk into other places like Powai Plaza and Heera Panna. You will see that Galleria is a lot better. There is a basic decency. You feel good about walking in galleria.
Walking inside Powai Plaza is traumatic, Heera Panna mall doesn’t get the foot falls as the design is flawed.
A shopkeeper pointed me to the lanterns used in Galleria. ” Look at them, they are so exquisite, check the humungous fans. The builders haven’t pinched a penny when designing galleria”
Another friend who has a place in Galleria said. “Earlier Hiranandani would facilitate interactions with BMC, now I need to run from pillar to post to get permissions.”
Another shopkeeper said, “Many heads have rolled In the Hiranandani office on corruption issues, it is said the bribes goes all the way to the top”.
I love my public space, I want to protect it. Let me know if we could together get involved in maintaining the standards at Galleria. This is our neighbourhood, these are our memories. We need to be proactive towards protecting it.