Malabar Hill, known world over for its astronomical property rates and plush homes alongside the stunning view of the ‘Queen’s Necklace’, also has several landmark tourist attractions. Hanging Gardens, Kamala Nehru Park, Tower of Silence and the Malabar Hill Club are all located on a single stretch known as the BG Kher Road.
Formerly called the Ridge Road, this is a long stretch running parallel to Walkeshwar Road. Named after former premier of the erstwhile State of Bombay, Bal Gangadhar Kher, the road is sometimes still referred to by its old moniker. “The road links the hill to a crucial junction, where Hughes Road, Napean Sea Road and Pedder Road connect. In a sense, it covered the ‘gap’ between the hill and the rest of Mumbai, and hence was called Ridge Road,” said Rajan Jayakar, a solicitor and advocate who is also an expert on Mumbai’s urban heritage.
Balasaheb Gangadhar Kher was appointed as the first chief minister (a position then called prime minister) of the Bombay Presidency, which included parts of Gujarat and Karnataka as well, from 1937 to 1939, and then again from 1946 to 1951. “When the British government announced that Indian troops were to fight in the World War, he resigned from his post. He was even arrested in 1940 for his protests and participation in the Quit India movement,” said Arvind Ganacharia, a retired professor and former head of the history department of Mumbai University.
Unknown to many, the Kherwadi area of Bandra East was also named after him. “In 1928, Kher visited a settlement of leather tanners in Bandra east. Their plight and deprived status in society left him deeply unsettled, so he founded the Kherwadi Social Welfare Association to help develop infrastructure and amenities for the people. The area is now officially known as ‘Kherwadi’ in his honour,” said Ganacharia.
Residents of Malabar Hill have always remembered this stretch as a clean and quiet street, considered a VIP road and most often kept free of potholes, with lush green trees on either side. Suresh Patel, who has lived near Hanging Gardens for the last 60 years, says, “The only thing that has changed is the replacement of traditional row houses by tall residential buildings. But this has always been a royal street, first with mansions and now with posh housing towers. The name of the street is also fitting, as it is an arterial road that connects the Raj Bhavan, the residence of the governor, with Varsha, the official residence of the chief minister of Maharashtra.”
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