by Sameera Rao.

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I have lived in Navi Mumbai since the late 80’s and have used public transport to travel in and out of the city. Our node has a bus depot, a railway station and several auto stands. But I have to mention, the bus depot is definitely the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about planning my travel to school, college or just any other place within Navi Mumbai or Mumbai.  Probably because it is closest to my house!

I was away from Navi Mumbai for almost a decade as I went to study architecture to different places in and outside India. Last year, I spent the whole of summer in Navi Mumbai. I stayed home and traveled every single day to the informal settlements in Mumbai for an internship. It took approximately an hour and half to get to the destination.  But what made it very fascinating is the air conditioned buses that the transportation department of Mumbai had introduced. With real hot and humid summers in Mumbai, the air conditioned buses are the most comfortable addition to the life of several people who travel from Navi Mumbai to Mumbai on a regular basis or even occasionally for pleasure. And as I got into random conversations with people about this brilliant intervention, people told me that this is an effort by the Navi Mumbai and Mumbai Municipality to promote the use of public transport instead of personalized automobiles.  To me, this is a great effort and two fold; one is definitely by saving the fuel and the other by recreating and enhancing the mobile public space.  But at the same time who knows if the message has really be conveyed to the people, because the number of people who own cars has only increased in the last one year.

I live in a neighborhood of four apartment buildings with a central courtyard like environment which was once a garden for toddlers and a badminton court for the young adults. Today the size of this courtyard is shrinking as the number of car owners on a rise and the demand for parking lots is taking over this special park area. ?  The market areas are flooded with parked cars. My mom was mentioning to me the other day “It’s really hard to walk these days! May be I am just getting old and I can’t cross this busy roads anymore!” But for all I know, it’s not her age but the vehicles that have increased immensely in the last few years. Having a car, in India is considered a privilege. A commodity that demonstrates financial growth! But really in a city like Navi Mumbai with ample local trains, buses, autos and taxis how important is it to own a car? Does anyone really ask; “Do I really need a car?” before making this big move. No clue I have!