A few days ago, pedestrian extension on the south side of a railway over bridge, known as G.K.Gokhale Bridge, collapsed due to incessant rains at Andheri, one of the busy suburbs of Mumbai. When I heard the news, my first reaction was to think that the fallen bridge probably was the pedestrian railway crossing bridge built by railways at Andheri station, which would allow passengers to move to their desired railway platform from either side of the railway tracks. A bridge I was so familiar with, as I had used it thousands of times half a century ago.
I used to stay at Andheri then. It was divided, like most of the western Mumbai suburbs, in two halves, Andheri West and Andheri East, separated by Western Railway rail lines that ran in the middle. Western part of Andheri was more uptown or elite than eastern part with better shops, housing, and roads. The two halves were isolated from each other, as there was no road over bridges across the rail tracks that would connect them. Only bridge that connected these two halves was the pedestrian railway crossing bridge built by railways, mentioned above. This meant that only bona fide passengers of Western Railway could use this bridge and general public was not allowed on it. For everyone else, going from one half to other half was a nightmarish experience as only way was through crowded railway level crossings some distance away to north and south of Andheri station.
I did not find this obstacle much bothersome as I used to have a Railway season ticket or pass and could use the bridge, whenever I desired, which in reality meant at least twice every day, as I stayed in western half, but by workplace was in the eastern half. However, whenever I was accompanied by my wife, we could not use this bridge unless we bought a platform ticket for her.
This situation changed to some extent when two road- over bridges were built across rail tracks around 1980. The bridge on the south of the station was named as G.K.Gokhale Bridge, which connected CD Burfiwala Road with Prof. NS Phadke Marg. This bridge is around half a Kilometer to south of Andheri station and is not of much use to commuters, because it is about half kilometer away to south of Andheri station and people even today do not find it convenient to walk all the way to GK Gokhale bridge, just to cross rail lines.
A Bridge Too Far is a 1977 epic war film based on the 1974 book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan. The film tells the story of a failed operation of World War II, intended to allow the Allies to break through German lines and seize several bridges in the occupied Netherlands, including one at Arnhem. Two divisions of US paratroopers, the 82nd and 101st Airborne, are responsible for securing the road and bridges. A British division, flying in gliders, is expected to land near Arnhem and hold both sides of the bridge there backed by a brigade of Polish paratroopers. The airborne troops catch the Germans by surprise and there is little resistance. Germans however, destroy the Son Bridge just before the 101st Airborne secures it. Later in a dangerous daylight river crossing in flimsy canvas-and-wood assault boats, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division capture the Nijmegen Bridge. However, no reinforcement or support could reach the isolated British paratroops as the Germans close in on the occupying part of Arnhem at the bridge. After days of house-to-house fighting, the outgunned British troops are captured or forced to withdraw. The film ends with a British General saying, “Well, as you know, I've always thought that we tried to go a bridge too far."
When I saw this movie, I was somehow reminded of Andheri Bridge, which I crossed in the past at least twice every working day. There was really no connection between them, but somehow the association got fixed in my find and I always called the Andheri railway station bridge as the ‘Bridge too far’.
After yesterday’s mishap, I first thought that my ‘Bridge too far’ had collapsed. However after finding out that it is not this bridge but GK Gokhale bridge, I felt relieved in a small way as I knew that since pedestrian extension of GK Gokhale bridge has collapsed, there cannot be much loss of life as this bridge was sparingly used by pedestrians. I am glad that my feelings have come true.
5 July 2018
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