• Mumbai’s suburbs have transformed

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    What is it like to live in those parts of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) where the building boom has been concentrated, where low-rise has turned vertical, drawing shops, malls and wide new roads? The pros are undeniable, but not all the change has been as warmly welcomed.

    So families from Kharghar, Chembur, Vasai, Kalyan and Karjat were interviewed.

    Vasai was a sleepy town years back, said Chinmay Gavankar, 36, a software engineer. His family has lived in this distant western suburb for four generations.

    As the Thane Rural suburb has grown into its own corporation, the biggest change has been the civic infrastructure — water, power, roads.

    Gavankar remembers the broadest road in Vasai being 20 feet wide until 15 years ago. “After the establishment of the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation in 2009, roads got importance and funding,” he said. “Growth in infrastructure has been immense and mostly vertical. Where houses used to have backyards, they no longer do.”

    His 200-year-old family home was torn down last year. He now lives in a flat. This change to vertical has altered the social fabric, he said.

    “When I used to take the local train to college, I knew all the people who got on at Vasai. The population was so small,” he said.

    Karjat and Kalyan

    Karjat used to be a weekend destination and is now one of the fastest-growing regions in MMR. It still gets holidayers, but to a lesser degree, said Omkar Kulkarni, 36, manager at the MahaGanga resort.

    “We have decent civic amenities and many new educational institutions,” Kulkarni added. “But farm houses are becoming hotspots of development.”

    Kalyan was just a 2-kilometer strip on either side of the railway station, added Shefali Suchak, 48, a homemaker who moved here after marriage 24 years ago. “The now-plush Khadakpada and Godrej Hills were paddy fields and a remote hill no one wanted to go to.”

    Suchak lived in a row house that is now a building. “This area of Ram Baug had houses like you see in villages, with sloping roofs. The roads were quiet and narrow,” Suchak said.

    Now there are luxury cars on the roads, more people and more bustle, added Suchak.

    Kharghar

    “I couldn’t live in Mumbai,” said Rishabh Bhasin, 25, a brand designer living in Kharghar. “The efforts of CIDCO [the City and Industrial Development Corporation, which runs Navi Mumbai]to develop the locality over the past few decades have been so successful that its property values have skyrocketed,” he said. “And yet, the area has a lot of greenery, wide roads and good social culture including restaurants, cafés and adventure spaces.”

    Best of all, it’s just a few kilometers from the proposed new international airport.

    “And with all the companies opening up offices here, you don’t need to commute to Mumbai for work, and if you want to, you can get to that city in an hour,” he said.

    Chembur

    Chembur still has parts of its old identity — low-rise housing, bungalows, chawls and industrial units. “The bungalows are disappearing fast, flyovers are proposed. There’s a lot of change afoot and prices are soaring accordingly,” said Veena Mahajan, 30, a banker who has lived here for two generations. “Chembur has grown into a reputed property market. Social infrastructure has developed fast in the last decade. There are now prime malls, golf clubs and restaurants; kids too do not need to commute a lot to go to schools and colleges.” TNS

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