WITH the Mumbai Monorail’s tracks running overhead along a major section, the R C Marg at Chembur that connects Mahul village in Trombay to Ghatkopar is one of those Mumbai roads that have ended up known only by an abbreviation. From local residents to shopkeepers along the road, only a few know that the road is a tribute to the freedom fighter and Mumbai corporator Ramkrishna Chemburkar.
Known for being a social and cultural representative, Chemburkar was elected as the corporator for Chembur in 1952. Originally called the Ghatkopar-Mahul road as it connects the two suburbs, it was officially named R C Marg after Chemburkar passed away in 1966. His grandson, Vikas Chemburkar, told The Indian Express, “He was jailed several times during the freedom struggle and was a part of the freedom fighters protesting the Simon Commission (an all British commission to study constitutional reform in India) too. He had always been a social worker. After he became corporator in 1952, he helped set up several social institutions such as the Chembur High School and the Lokmanya Tilak Library.”
Vikas added that Chemburkar was also recognised for his efforts in relocating refugees from Pakistan in the aftermath of the Partition. “The Sindhis who migrated from Pakistan and came to India were settled in Chembur Camp, which became the current Sindhi society nearby,” Vikas said. Ashok Ovalekar, a 12th generation resident of the Charai village on R C Marg (where the Chemburkar family still resides) recalls meeting the former corporator. “I remember seeing him when I was seven or eight years old. He used to wear a white dhoti, a white khadi kurta and a jacket on top with a white Gandhi cap. I remember hearing that all the property around Chembur belonged to him. He owned a lot of farming land too and his family had many landlords. He was a part of the Congress Party,” said Ovalekar.
Describing the history of settlers on R C Marg, Ovalekar said: “The Chemburkars — natives of Chembur — were farmers and engaged in animal husbandry and agriculture. Mahul, on the other hand, had Kolis — the fishermen community. Back then, the land wasn’t demarcated distinctly between the two. Their main motive was freedom of the country, so everyone was united. Later, property were sold to builders. Earlier, there were no factories or shops here, it was all barren land.”
Still intact within the by-lanes of R C Marg are the remnants of Charai village. “Now, only 10 per cent of our village is left after all the attempts at modernisation,” said Ovalekar.
Mumbai-based conservation architect, Rahul Chemburkar, who has intricately studied the Chembur locality, spoke of the urbanisation of R C Marg over the years. He explained: “This road has gone through a lot of transition — the major and most recent transition being the widening of the road because of the construction of the Monorail stations in 2014. The properties along the road went into road widening, especially near Charai village. Initially, the whole road used to be very narrow. But now, it has been increased to more than twice its width and has changed into a major arterial road — it is a 10-15-kilometre stretch and runs from Amar Mahal up till Mahul. It connects the whole of Chembur centrally.”
Flanked by mechanics, carpenters, jewellers and cloth merchants with a constant influx of customers, V B Tupe, a security guard at the MTNL office for the past 15 years, said: “There are major traffic snarls on this road. The number of shops has also increased dramatically. There was a chawl instead of the Monorail station. It was demolished to construct the station. The government had to relocate them. Slums turned into towers and new cement roads were made. Traffic has gone up by at least 80 per cent.”
Vijay Singh Chauhan, the manager of Sagar Saree Stores in the locality for the past 30 years, said: “It is also a very poorly maintained road. After 5pm, once you come in, you can’t leave because of the traffic.” Among the notable institutions on the R C Marg is the Fine Arts Society at Chembur that promotes cultural activities, including music, dance and drama amongst other activities.