03 April 2008

Going, going …?

They say Pune city has arrived on the global map. Global biggies are here other than the blue-eyed IT boys of course (the colour may have faded some what now- with the green backs failing to deliver!) Walk or drive around and one is faced with a mass of humanity that seems to be hurrying somewhere, no time to look around or even follow traffic rules, throwing personal and others safety to the winds. People have forgotten that a red signal means stop or the significance of the zebra on roads.

Besides the obvious congestion and changing demographics, the general appearance of the town itself has changed. The city has been my refuge through ups and downs in my life hence this agony. Gone are the huge trees that lined so many roads, gone is the peace and quiet. Also affected by the change is the unique atmosphere on streets like MG Road or Laxmi Road and dens like the Lucky café or Café Naaz have gone with the shifting sands. Or is that falling brick and mortar?

Walk down the Prabhat, Bhandarkar bylanes and there seem to be three categories of homes, those already rebuilt or those already under ‘development’ or those about to be handed over. It’s very easy to identify the latter as the grounds and homes often wear a horribly decrepit and unkempt look. While those being ‘developed’ often remain well hidden behind huge aluminium frames as the monster machines go about drilling and boring a new foundation. Trees lovingly nurtured over the years, host to many swings, witness to many a scraped knee, tears and reprimands are ruthlessly razed down.

I recently watched this heart wrenching process as the labourers physically demolished wall after old strong wall with huge hammers. They did not seem to have any protective gear as bricks and iron girders came tumbling around them. Often they would be breaking down the very floor on which they were standing. I hope the owners were not around to watch this destruction of what may have been their dream home. Of course now that children are in US with no hope of returning it seems a waste to hang on to old properties.

Yet delve a little and one finds the city still has sustained some really old ethos. I have noticed an old wada that boasts an iron grill with a Victorian head forged on it. These old homes that dot the heart of the city are probably a nightmare as far as occupant safety is concerned but offer a glimpse into the cultural and social fabric years ago.

Yet another establishment that has stood the test of time is the Santosh Bakery. Many remember the place to be ‘just as it was’ over 25 years ago and the taste of its offerings too. Mornings and evenings the bakery dishes out its legendary patties, which are famous far and near. As the Apte Road itself transforms into a Hotel Street, Santosh offers a soothing link to the past, a pastry paradise and a dietician nightmare! Kayani is yet another place that can instantly transport us back a few years! While Darshan has grown out of its request of not tipping the ‘Bhau’ who so promptly and efficiently serve us, its menu now shows global influences!

Walk around vibrant Aundh or Kalyani Nagar and the city seems to take on a different personality. Glitz, glam, youth, glass, steel and chrome and wide roads strike a blinding difference from the congested city interiors. There are new malls coming up every month and we have a new airport terminal too. The IT SEZ has come a long way from its first phase.

Roads are being given high-tech resurfacing as new bridge projects have been painfully completed around town. Mercs and BMWs drive alongside cranky Padminis and creaky autoricshaws. The buses are more crowded and rashly driven than before and two wheelers zip around like they were dancing with the wind. The city infrastructure seems to be barely able to cater to the burgeoning multitude living in it.

This development seems a win win situation for everybody. Is it? Really? Each thud of the hammer still echoes in my mind, driving a big hole in my memories. Where are we heading? Is it not possible to preserve our legacies along with progress? In our chase for monetary goals let us not be found guilty by the coming generations of not holding on to a piece of history.


Vinod Ekbote said...

Archana, your anguish at the destruction our cities are undergoing is so evident and your well written post made me look around my own city which is also going the same way...and thank yourself Pune roads are given 'hi tech resurfacing'..here in Hyd we have no 'surface' to speak of....good writing, write more.

Archana said...

Thank You Vinod for your comments!
Pune has become a study in contrasts! One segment desperately tries to hold onto the 'old' 'marathi' ways and a majority is moving away.