AT FIVE GARDENS, EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME
WORDS BY BHAVIKA THAKKAR AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY SURUCHI MAIRA
My parents moved to the area locally known as Five Gardens, when I was six months old. Located in Matunga or Dadar Parsi Colony (the lines are blurred), Five Gardens, as the name suggests, is a cluster of five gardens nestled just off the main road that connects CST to King's Circle and goes on to Sion and Chembur.
It’s the kind of place every kid in Mumbai deserves to grow up in, and I was one of those kids until I moved away a year ago. Here everybody knows your name, whose kid you are, where you live. So while you're safely ensconced in this cocoon away from the big bad world, there is one downside – if you do something bad, everyone and their neighbour will know about it in no time. And yet, not one person here will seem to mind that, because Five Gardens gives you more than it takes from you.
During the 30 years I lived there, I have jogged around the gardens’ periphery alongside countless aunties and uncles out on their morning walk. I have ambled along its wide, tree-lined avenues on sultry afternoons and marvelled at the architecture. I have sat on the railings and people-watched for hours and not been bored once. I have come across laughter clubs, dance troupes, union worker meetings, workout groups, lovers who don't give a damn about privacy, all of whom have made Five Gardens their home. I have made countless friends and lost an equal number. I have sat on swings and dreamt of touching the sky, and in my repeated failed attempts have skinned my knees often. I have attended, on certain lucky occasions, parties in the park that last from midnight until dawn, ending in a raucous breakfast at the corner Udipi joint.
And while I do agree that my nostalgia-coloured glasses may make all my memories seem lovelier than reality was, it is true that stepping into Five Gardens is like taking a step back in time. Buildings here aren't skyscrapers but a modest four stories tall and retain some of the heritage architecture that Mumbai is famous for. There is so much greenery packed in such little space it can make your eyes hurt. And you can still hear the cries of balloon-sellers, ice cream vendors and ear piercers calling out to you.
Ad-hoc urbanisation and development may have ruined the rest of Mumbai but it hasn't touched Five Gardens. Not yet, anyway.
Five Gardens, Lady Jehangir Road, Dadar (E), Mumbai 400 019