Thursday 19 October 2017 News Updated at 07:10 AM IST
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Changing pavement landscape - Deccan Herald
Changing pavement landscape
By N N Sachitanand,
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Who says we Indians are not innovative? Just look at how we have transformed the humble footpath from its traditional purpose of transiting pedestrians.

I first encountered this creative drive back in the sixties in Bombay. While returning home after a late night movie show, I chanced to step onto the pavement to avoid an oncoming vehicle. I could feel something soft under me. Immediately, a howl of outrage emanated from near my feet and, to my dismay, a shrouded human form sat up and let loose a string of invectives at me, the gist of which was: "Can't a man be allowed to sleep at home without being disturbed by all manner of ruffians?"

I realised later that I had come across one of the earliest conversions of the footpath - a home away from home for the fresh indigent immigrants to the big metropolis from the jobless countryside.

My next encounter with the metamorphosis of the sidewalk was in the seventies on Bombay's Colaba Causeway. Intrepid youngsters from God's Own Country had converted the pavement into India's first duty-free shopping area.

In fact, the pavement market has now become a hallmark of Indian cities. The epitome of this was Rashbehari Avenue of Calcutta in the eighties, whose broad pavement resembled a fairground. There may come a time when an enterprising entrepreneur, with sufficient political clout, will come up with the pavement supermarket.

The rapid growth of the automobile and real estate sectors post 1991 brought in a number of new applications for the footpath such as construction debris storage space, a testing area for roadside repair garages and, of course, parking space for vehicles. Two-wheeler riders in Bengaluru have come up with an even more ingenious application. During peak hours, they convert them pavements into another traffic lane.

An out-of-the-box use for pavements was devised by sagacious homeowners in the nation's capital. To gain space within their plots and capitalise on the skyrocketing price of urban real estate, they merely shifted their gardens to the adjoining sidewalk. This did force pedestrians to make a detour onto the road, but at least they had a pleasant view of greenery while being mowed down by the motorist in a hurry.

The pavement's use as a temporary parking for the wandering savoury seller is an old Indian tradition. Now, this application is being expanded to include food courts.

There are many other exotic applications being considered. For example, the other day I noticed some trekkers and steeplechase athletes practising on the sidewalks of Malleswaram in Bengaluru. With all this change, what has happened to pedestrians? Well, you can find them increasingly crowding the hospitals.