Makeover for Bhendi Bazaar

The Big Picture

At 2 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, the wrecking ball is hard at work on Pakhmodia Street in Bhendi Bazaar. Ten buildings out of a cluster of 13 are being pulled down. Not too far from the demolition site, 37 families are busy packing the last of their belongings. They are readying for the big move—one that will see the 16.5-acre, 200-year-old bazaar metamorphose into an urban sprawl of modern, hi-tech skyscrapers.

Bhendi Bazaar, a neighbourhood of both residential and commercial buildings, sits in the heart of South Mumbai. From antiques at Chor Bazaar to hardware markets on Mutton Street, Bhendi Bazaar has something for everyone.

The Bazaar goes back a long way. In his 1916 book, Bombay Street Names and Place Names, Samuel T Sheppard says Bhendi Bazaar got its name from the vegetable—bhendi or okra—that was grown in the area. After the East India Company developed the port city of Bombay in the 18th century, the Bohras and Memons, traders from western India, began to settle around Mohammed Ali Road to sell their wares. This became Bhendi Bazaar.

It has had its share of infamy too. This is the neighbourhood where Dawood Ibrahim comes from. Dawood, who operated out of Pakhmodia Street in Bhendi Bazaar, is said to own many properties here, seven of which have been confiscated by the government.

The revamp

The ambitious project to redevelop Bhendi Bazaar is expected to change the lives of its 20,000 residents. If things go according to plan, then over the next 10 years, the narrow alleys will give way to 60-foot-wide roads and old creaky four-storeyed buildings will be transformed into sunny skyscrapers. The project is slated to be complete by 2023. Brainchild of the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), the project could well serve as an example of what Mumbai desperately needs—a renewal programme.

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