Three little girls stand on the pavement, looking longingly across the street at the ‘Old Woman’s Shoe’ beyond the fence, in Kamla Nehru Park. Perched atop Malabar Hill, the park has been locked by the BMC since March for renovations, and is supposed to remain so, until further notice. Some local children, however, climb the low fences to play around the iconic Old Woman’s Shoe in the park. The shoe is set to be renovated too, but remains untouched, as of now.
“We adults aren’t too disappointed, we are visiting the Hanging Gardens instead. But the kids are feeling quite let down; they wanted to play in the shoe. We have come all the way from Bandra. We did not know the park would be closed,” said Alimunnisa Khan, the girls’ mother.
Families visiting from Lucknow, Chennai and other parts of Mumbai have the same complain: they did not know the park would be closed, and had to turn to Pherozeshah Mehta Garden instead. “We have come all the way from Slovakia, and were definitely hoping to see the shoe this time. We probably won’t come back to Mumbai,” said Camilla Kovloa, as she walked by the sealed gates of the garden with a friend.
Kamla Nehru Park is set for a major facelift. The project appears to be progressing in full swing, with bags of cement and pipes laid all over the park, and construction underway near the entrance. “We plan to beautify the park, by adding a fish pond and viewing galleries. The walkways will have new tiles. The Old Woman’s Shoe too, will be painted,” said a senior BMC official.
The project will be completed in three phases, the first of which has been going on since March. The renovation for the first phase is scheduled to be completed by January 2018, said Site Supervisor Wasim Akram. The usually crowded spot finds its visitors dwindling, even at peak hours. “A majority of the usual crowd has reduced, obviously, and many return disappointed everyday,” said a police officer on patrol duty here.
The park was constructed to cover a large water reservoir, as was the practice during the British era, said historian Deepak Rao.
The Old Woman’s shoe, or “Boot House,” as it is commonly known, is made completely out of stone. Inspired by the nursery rhyme, “There was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe,” the iconic structure has captured the fancy of the old and the young alike, making it the primary attraction in the park.
“Between 1886 and 1887, this reservoir garden was laid over the storage reservoir at Malabar Hill. It was common to cover a reservoir with a garden during the British era,” added Rao.
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