Here are some of the wonderful ways in which the absence of zoning and other city development laws (there well may be some, but in our India, laws and ground reality remain happily divorced) have turned Pune into the not-so-merry mess that we live in. These are just random examples, and not a comprehensive list.
|The Sancheti Hospital is located at one of the busiest junctions in the city
For sure, each reader could generate his and her very own list. On top of my list is how new hospitals come up right in the middle of extremely busy areas, or old hospitals are swamped and surrounded by growth in such a way that getting inside and outside one of them is a health hazard in its own way.
Four of our most famous hospitals have their entrances opening bang on to tricky traffic junctions. They weren’t born that way, but no one thought to plan it differently. Besides making it extremely difficult to get in and out of these places, the 24-hour noise and pollution come free for all patients and hospital staff.
Access to the small bridge across the river that runs behind Deccan bus stop is another brilliant example of moronic and callous planning. All traffic has to roar past the mouth of the busy bus depot, so that buses exiting the place have to wade across a sea of scooters and rickshaws, honking desperately.
This makes it almost as excitingly dangerous for all, on a daily basis, as the incident of one bus driver going nuts and turning his vehicle into a mean killing machine. Try being a pedestrian on this spot, by the way.
If the buses trying to leave the depot don’t get you, the traffic that goes right across, behind, and under the buses will. RIP, pedestrian. When you buy a home, there is absolutely no guarantee that the area remains residential.
Look at Bhandarkar Road, or some of the roads in Aundh (the examples are endless), and you will find hapless residents suddenly faced with an office building that is pretending to be in Silicon Valley, including the flashy mirrored exteriors.
One resident living across the road to one such place says that this kind of façade so magnifies the sunlight and concentrates it on his home, that he feels like one of those ants that children routinely roast by using a magnifying glass and the sun’s rays.
On top of it, a million eateries sprout around the offices, so that to even walk or drive into your own building gate, you must beg or kick lunchtime and tea-time snackers and their vehicles out of the way.
As for the garbage that they produce — come on, it’s one of our religions. Take a pretty, peaceful and well-maintained spot like Kamala Nehru Park. That’s all on the inside.
Outside the air is rife with the stink of onion and oil, and the pavement and road on this stretch is squelchy all year round with the rinsing of plates and the general gluck that street food vendors tend to generate around them. Hoardings — ah, those quintessentially unaesthetic structures of our city.
All of these oversize abominations advertise homes, offices, jewellery, and lifestyles. They promise you the sun and the moon and the sky and the heavens, all that’s bright and beautiful, while obliterating your view of real hills, trees, or the real sun, sky, moon or stars!
A cement-block maker plants himself, his staff, and his extremely noisy machinery right in the armpit of a defence-sensitive facility like HEMRL, a green zone, a residential area, and bang on the banks of the Ramnadi.
He escapes notice, or ‘manages’ any queries well. He unleashes his noise and pollution from 4 in the morning. People who have complained have been shunted around to all the so-called authorities till they give up.
If they persist, he sends around people to ask for who this ‘trouble-maker’ is. He says he has ‘the required licence’.
That’s right, there seems to be an actual licence that allows people to blast sleeping people with noise and bypass security and green zone issues! My other brand new discovery is the way the various ‘protest brigades’ of Pune now choose to register their displeasure about something.
Hundreds of two-wheelers with some flag or the other fluttering roar in and out of our streets, burning fuel and honking all at one time. The first time that I encountered this, I thought at first that it was locusts.
But when they came into full sight, it was clear that it was another kind of swarm of pests: the paid-protester-parade. As they whirled past us, unmindful of who they were annoying by this uniquely disgusting form of protest, my heart sank.
I looked heaven-wards in Hindi-film of yesteryear style, and said to any god-type who was listening, “Ab utha lo bhagwan’. People routinely stay on in rotten marriages because of a few saving graces.
For me, I stay on in ugly new Pune only for its often beautiful weather, and the presence of so many musicians and music enthusiasts. People also do stay on in rotting relationships or disagreeable cities for a third reason: because they don’t have much of a choice!