Photographer: Rana Chakraborty
The most vital requirement for a garage is space!” exclaims Ramesh Kumar, owner of RK Garage. Once upon a time, in a suburb of Bombay called Juhu, there was a creek. There were also poor car mechanics operating from the pavement. They were unwilling to leave the booming area, yet unable to service a car beyond small repairs. A Eureka moment happened. The creek was filled up, and a few garages established… with more to follow.
Now, drive in today off Juhu Tara Road and you will run into Mumbai’s Sakharam Bua Patil Marg redubbed ‘garage street’ because of the more than 20 garages and auto parts shops nestled here. The garages are proof of Kumar’s ranting on the importance of space, as thriving businesses extending their services to the common man’s Maruti 800 as well as Hrithik Roshan’s Jaguar.
The street boasts every kind of auto accessory and service. “We specialise in electrical systems – from the bonnet insides to the music decks,” declares Kumar who started here in 1983, to acquire his “garage space bit by bit”. Raymond D’ Souza, who boasts of his ability to provide “A to Z service” has gone for another investment – machinery. “Scanners, pipe bending machines for exhaust pipes, mechanical tire changers, compressors, gas welders… you have to be up-to-date in today’s world,” says D’ Souza who has among his regulars Sushmita Sen’s Lexus, Lancer and Mazda. D’ Souza, whose Frank Auto Works played a significant part of the car re-modelling fad, remembers three of his favourite projects: “We’d turned a fibre glass Dolphin into a convertible, and also done great work with a Bentley and a Chevrolet.” On the other end, Anil Pardesi, manager at R B ‘Gyaraj’ (that’s how ‘garage’ stands spelt in Hindi) cites his most interesting refashioning as the “creation of a bar counter inside a Swift!”
Every world has a maverick. Shyamlal Bhalla (of Team Motors), at 65, is Garage Street’s only Ustaad. Declaredly the first one to have helped fill the creek with land and having built a garage to shift his pavement service to, Bhalla knows the tricks of the trade but knows its dangers too. “Ninety percent of them are be-imaan! They dream of becoming crorepatis time se pehle!” exhorts the stalwart bilingually. He specialises in accident jobs: “If you try to gain 20 by 10 feet of space, provide every service, you end up dobi ka kutta, neither of home, nor ghaat!” Workers who flock to his garage swear by the fact that those who trained under him are today working “everywhere from Dubai to Malaysia”. Such diverse nationality is reflected in his garage. Behind a vintage Jaguar stands lined a Maurice and a Mini Cooper, even as a 1932 Chevrolet exits the enclosure. His list of loyals includes names like Hrithik Roshan and Jackie Shroff. “Oh! Hrithik to mera beta hai,” he dismisses. “As for the rest of tinseltown, they’ve been very good to me, but I don’t cater much to them now.” Why? “Aaj kal kisi cheez ka kadar nahin hai! Earlier owners used to care for cars themselves. Today, the drivers try to make a commission on the side.” Today, however the land issue that these mechanics confronted in the first place comes full circle. The BMC has decided to widen the road, thus forcing a relocation of these businesses on “collector’s land” elsewhere. “But will the other location be as central?” wonders Pratap Punjabi, who runs his tyre and battery service on the same lane. Bhalla, characteristically, comes full throttle: “Even if they broaden the road to 80 feet, we can keep our garages. Why do they need a 120 feet wide road? They can’t be planning a highway!” True, Mr Bhalla, par aaj kal kisi cheez ka kadar nahin hai…
This article originally appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/smni