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19 th May 2005


Today, after nearly a fortnight, I went to Marine Drive . For some days, I had been feeling too overwhelmed visiting the place everyday and recording observations. Visiting the place after a gap made me feel much better.


Perception of Crowds: On landing at the promenade, the first feeling, tactile and sensory, I had was that of crowdedness. Since sometime now, I have been feeling that Marine Drive is becoming quite crowded. In the past, there had hardly been experiences of shifting to make place for families to sit. Since last few visits, I find that I have to shift in order making seating space for groups and families to sit. It is a discomforting feeling personally. I always there was enough space for everyone.

After a while, the crowds had reduced. And I felt the reduction in crowds. Again, there was a ‘feeling’ of reduction of crowds and not an actual head count. I am beginning to question whether the very perception of crowdedness is a tactile and sensory one. Hmmm …


The Police: Interestingly, throughout the time I was on the promenade, I noticed cops at various distances. It was not a comfortable feeling. Again, I almost felt like rebuking the cops and asking them to get up from the ledge and patrol. It almost felt like I was a citizen, with greater entitlements and here was a cop, a public servant, with fewer entitlements and more duties to discharge.


Bahurupis : The hawkers were at the promenade as usual. I was sitting opposite Pizzeria. A hawker selling peanuts started walking by. The family sitting next to me asked the hawker to pack peanuts for them. Suddenly, the hawker took off his basket of peanuts from his neck, placed it on the sea wall carefully and sat with the basket behind himself. In that instant of an action, he had turned into yet another person who was here to enjoy the sea and the breeze. What a transformation, I said to myself. A little while later, I noticed to municipality trucks pass by and move towards Churchgate. The hawker mentioned how he was trying to protect his goods from being confiscated by this act. I think about precarity and how certain spaces have become precarious for some kinds of publics.


Visitors: Sitting next to me today was a family consisting of two men, one woman and two children. Holiday time means visiting the sea, visiting Marine Drive with the family. One of the men made the woman, the children and the other man sit on the wall. They spoke about Marine Drive as a space. “See these tetrapods,” the man started to say, “They are new. They have been put here because all this is reclaimed land and is therefore weak. Moreover, if a tsunami was to happen in Bombay , the buildings in this area can get wiped out. The tetrapods will have a preventive effect – they will prevent the wall from being destroyed in the eye of the storm.” Discussions on the tetrapods are rampant everytime I have been to the promenade. The man continued telling his family members, “Morning is the best time to be here. You can walk and jog. Smooth …”

Listening to the man, the question which arose in my mind is whether public space is at all dependent on locality? In the case of Marine Drive , can I clearly construct who is an outsider and who is an insider? Are there spaces in cities across the world like Marine Drive which blur the distinctions of insider-outsider? Do public spaces deepen notions of citizenship? Is citizenship the same as a sense of belonging to a space? Who has a greater say in a public space like Marine Drive – a resident of the area, or the people of the city, all of who have a stake in the space?


Modernity and Aspiring People: I met Santosh Yadav today. He inquired about my absence. “I thought you must be gone,” he said to me. I explained my illness and therefore my inability to be on the promenade to him. I was watching him conduct business today. Dressed in a yuppie t-shirt and three-quarter loose jeans, Santosh Yadav was a surreal sight. I have been wondering about what hawkers think of their professional identity. And I have been wondering about clothes, urbanity, aspirations to be ‘urban’ and ‘city-dwellers’. I wonder whether Santosh Yadav harbours aspirations of being ‘urban’. How different would his aspirations be from those of other aspirants who come to the city?

I met Mr. Thakkar briefly today. He was jogging and deeply engaged in conversation with another jogger. I handed over a CD of his audio interview to him. He was thrilled – “Really! Is this for me?” he asked, beaming with excitement. Watching his emotions, I remembered how many times he has alluded to the fact that he is illiterate. Yet, he has a fascination for modern gadgets and equipments. I thought the CD that I handed over to him today was an object of modernity for him. There was something magical about the CD for him. Does he think he is urban enough? What does urbanity mean to him?


Place-making and Community: This evening, at Marine Drive , I began to reflect on my own self and my relationship with the promenade. The space is part of my everyday life too – as a researcher. There are people I know here, people I meet every time I am here. People see me here. I am recognized and visible. I am seen and noticed. And maybe I am marked too … Is marking then a practice of spaces in cities?


  1. May 20th, 2005 at 04:43 | #1

    Even I felt uncomfy being at Mrine Drive with Whiney – cops have lost their credibility!