How This Mumbai Lane Doubles As A Study Space

    • Publish Date: Jan 13 2020 5:13PM
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    • Updated Date: Jan 13 2020 5:13PM
How This Mumbai Lane Doubles As A Study Space

 Tucked away behind Mumbai's chaotic Worli Naka is a small but extraordinary lane. It boasts a fraction of the crossroad’s crowds, even when scores of youngsters begin occupying its aesthetically slatted benches or the floor post-sundown, hunched over some of the thickest textbooks on Earth. The black slate-like sign at the other end of the stretch confirms the location. This is Mumbai’s, Abhyas Galli.

Road to the future
True to its title, Abhyas Galli, which translates in English to ‘study lane’, is where youngsters from surrounding areas burn the midnight oil studying under its streetlights. Earlier a part of Sudam Kalu Ahire Marg, it got its name after a few denizens placed a request with the local corporator. Despite its humble length—one can walk at a normal pace from one end to another within two minutes—the galli is a peculiar case of the great Indian jugaad. Right from about the 1920s or 30s, ever since the Bombay Development Department built chawls for textile-mill workers in the vicinity, students have been descending on its pavement for want of a separate soundproof study zone in their cramped homes or neighbourhoods. Call it providence that the Naka’s infamous noise and traffic doesn’t extend to this stretch.

Anand Sule (name changed upon request), 22, comes every day from the nearby Siddharth Nagar to make the most of the tranquility here for his M.Com studies. Some, like Shrikant Hunginale and his friends, use the spot for a group session, a difficult prospect in a compact home. “We exchange notes and solve problems together. It’s very helpful,” says Hunginale, a civil-engineering graduate who lives at BDD Nagar close by and is preparing for his MPSC and UPSC exams.

Many of Abhyas Galli’s former students are now smart, well-placed professionals. Aashish Tulsaan, who studied here for five years from the time he was 20, is a 38-year-old chartered accountant at a Dubai-based MNC. “Studying in this lane has helped me a lot. I used to live in a small 128sqft room at the Century Mills staff quarters a kilometre away, provided by my father’s employer. There was no space to study CA subjects peacefully. That’s why this place has been a boon for students like me. Most of the students here (during my time) were sincere, so there was zero disturbance or masti,” he says.Ajinkya Gondane, 32, from Jayant Palkar Marg, would hit the lane for 6–7 months as a 28-year-old to prepare for his competitive exams. “Abhyas Galli does have its share in my career achievements. I’ve met some amazing people there and that’s what made me go there every day.” Gondane is currently doing his master’s in development studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Deonar.

Tests and problems

Despite the halogen lights installed by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) and cops patrolling the area until around 10–11 p.m., girl students are missing from the scene. “They sometimes come in the mornings,” says Hunginale. “But yes, you won’t find them much here.”Other nuisances include alcoholics loafing around and passers-by urinating on the lane. “We faced a huge challenge in making them understand,” says renowned city artist and social activist Rouble Nagi, who undertook the painting of Abhyas Galli’s walls under her initiative Misaal Mumbai in May 2018. “Many locals from around the area joined hands with us and we addressed this issue slowly. We are still working there.”

Sule is particularly miffed with the cars zipping by and parked along the street and wants them removed. “They affect one’s concentration,” he says. “Even the motor-training vehicles are a disturbance.”Tulsaan adds that the place should have a drinking-water facility, along with a chai stall or small eatery. “A chaiwala is a must,” he says. “A small library would also be a good idea.” Though Gondane says food joints did exist around the corner during his time there, the best options still lie at Worli Naka. Plus, the place lacks a toilet. And the open-air environment can be a challenge in the monsoon.

Artistic solutions
Indeed, Nagi’s colourful paintwork with motivational messages on the walls helps the lane stand out and become easily recognisable. “Earlier, the walls were black and dirty, and the floor on which the students sat wasn’t very clean either,” she says. Nagi then approached the local municipal office with a proposal to beautify the stretch. “They were more than happy and gave us the required support. The complete project was done under CSR; no government funds were used.” Some of the walls may need a touch-up, but they work—Sule tells me the colours make him feel good.

Nagi suggests the place to get free Wi-Fi merely for student access. But Sule doesn’t consider it a priority. “I just want a quiet space to study,” he concludes.   

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