This story was reported by Ms Laxmi Mohan Kumar for The Logical Indian on 16th November 2022.
Bhendi Bazaar in South Mumbai is known for its vibrant culture with people hustling around in clusters. It’s one of the several iconic places that people picturise when they first hear the word ‘Mumbai’. Giving a facelift to this image of Bhendi Bazaar, the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), a public charitable trust, took up the project to redevelop the area. From the usual congested image of the locality, the SBUT envisioned a space for everyone. Implementing this along with the people who have stayed and set up their businesses at the bazaar for centuries, the SBUT has uplifted the lives of over 90 per of the people in the locality. Tenants became owners, shopkeepers received more carpet area, and the entire bazaar is now standing tall as an urbanised and reimagined version of itself. While the project is praised in the urban development circles, The Logical Indian hears it straight from the shopkeepers who have lived and known the bazaar like the back of their palms. As the transformation unfurled before the eyes, here’s what they had to say about it.
Moving Ahead With Times
Zainul Abedin, who is currently managing the Calcutta Fetawala shop at the Bhendi Bazaar, had much to say about the development that has been making its way to the bazaar. Their fetawala shop was set up in the bazaar in 1938, and they have been growing their business within the area ever since. The urban development project that the SBUT had undertaken was in the works since his father’s time, and Abedin grew up watching these changes take place, gradually and surely.
Talking about the project, he said, “Things are slightly slow here due to the redevelopment, but we have complete faith that business will pick up once we get our shops back in a revamped form.” Through collaborative efforts over the years, many people like Abedin have concreted their trust in SBUT’s vision for the bazaar. Most of them are eagerly looking forward to the completion of the project to move back in, but they also understand that patience is essential for a better and brighter future. Things were unclear at the beginning for many of them, but over time, they grew an understanding of the project, its provisions, the transformations, and the numerous benefits it would bring along. Abedin says, “Earlier, ours was a roadside shop, but now, we’ll be getting a space in high street shopping, and there will be footpaths too for customer’s convenience. The project is going well, and we can experience things to turn out well with a new Bhendi Bazaar area for the benefit of the people.”
Sharing a similar sense of hope and optimism are Shabir Bagasrawala of Jamali grain stores and Amir from Taj Ice Cream. With the decade-old business located at the bazaar, Shabir says they have had fewer customers due to the movement of people out of the area, but this would be resolved soon after the project completes and people are relocated. They all believe that it is quite necessary to move ahead with time when it comes to business. Amir, while talking about the redevelopment, noted that many businesses around the bazaar are built on century-old structures. They often pose dangers due to their dilapidated condition, repeatedly raising concerns of leakage, drainage, and so on. Amir said, “With the redevelopment being done by SBUT, we have been promised a percentage increase in sq. ft. area in the new shops, and they will obviously be in a much better condition.” He added that it is a positive change for the residential tenants as well who would receive a complete change of infrastructure that is safe to live in.
Building Healthier And Happier Neighbourhood
The leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community and the founder of the SBUT, the late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, envisioned one of India’s largest cluster redevelopment projects in the heart of Mumbai city through the new rendition of the Bhendi Bazaar. His sole intention and driving force toward the project was to create a “healthier and happier neighbourhood” that offers the space for people to realise their dreams and work on them. This would be enabled rightly by building on their standards of living and redeveloping the structures that have existed for centuries. The ambitious project looked forward to incorporating a “state-of-the-art sustainable development vision” within the 16.5 acres of land, with over 250 buildings, housing 3200 families and 1,250 shops. Explaining this idea to them, SBUT was able to gain their trust and consent and has, over the years, worked to create new buildings with modern infrastructure, wider roads, open spaces, and highly visible, well-connected commercial areas. All of this was done by retaining their cultural and religious spaces. So a lot of the buildings would be seen aesthetically surrounded by modern and Islamic styles of architecture along with arches and latticework that attach a unique identity to the new Bhendi Bazaar. It further ensures a sustainable way of living through a well-thought-over functional space. Most of the buildings rise in height from south to north to minimise heat openings, while maximising air circulation and natural lighting around the apartments.
What was once a cluttered market where one could drop a needle and lose it forever is gradually changing its look into a high street shopping sector with tall towers of residential apartments. The trust is optimistic that the transformed bazaar, along with creating a modern urban area, would trailblaze many more such urban renewal projects in Mumbai and several others across India.