|Sohrab Chinoy outside the coffee shop that once used to be Kitkat — a restaurant that served biryani — at A.B.C. Farms
Koregaon Park used to be beautiful. It had many bungalows built in the old British architectural style. As you drove in from the petrol pump, the area was dotted with large bungalows, lush green expanses and beautiful little nooks and corners. There were lots of Parsi owners who had homes here, of course at the time it went up only to the State Bank Of India’s training centre.
The area after that had only fields on which people grew crops such as brinjals, tomatoes, cauliflowers and cabbages. On the right hand side of what we now call North Main Road, you could always see sugarcane plantations.
Now, Vascon is constructing something there. After a while, the vegetable crops began to disappear making way for tents between the crops. Some of these ‘invaders’ got overenthusiastic and made almost-permanent shacks with bamboo framed roofs that were covered with fishing nets and mats for flooring — they were quite beautifully done up.
These westerners were the ones who started to invade Koregaon Park. They were looking at long-staying property at affordable rates and farmers found it paid better to lease a small portions of land to these people instead of growing vegetables. The plantations started to reduce and the makeshift houses increased till Osho Ashram shifted here.
After that, farmers started shifting their focus back to agriculture. I remember South Main Road had this huge bungalow — Maryland. It had stables, but the owner sold the place. Before leaving, he gave me his Jersey bull called Rustom. I remember one of my friends Abbas had a bunga
low here too. In those days, he had cows, Swiss goats, horse carriages and horses in his garden! That was the time when Koregaon Park belonged to the proper asli cream and not the nouveau riche.
I bought this land on July 9, 1981 at which time it resembled a mini jungle, forest or abandoned area, whatever you would like to call it. We did not have a proper roads in the area. There was this arched bridge made out stone that served as a connection for farmers in their bullock carts to go from Koregaon Park to Mundhwa. It was so solid that heavy trucks could pass easily over it.
This was a narrow dirt track with potholes. Fortunately, I didn’t have much of a problem because I always drove a four-wheel drive. To make the roads accessible at least for my staff and customers, I would purchase truckloads of broken brick pieces and lay it on the road. The place where A.B.C.
Farms stands today was a poultry farm with dilapidated structures. The area was filled with wild grass and trees. For two years I had to fight to get the saat baara! When I started operating from this office and factory, getting labour was a major issue.
This area was abandoned and parents were not comfortable letting their daughters work here. They would get worried about them at a decent time like 6 pm. But that is because this place was secluded.
Today, it is buzzing day and night. I remember a time when my watchman was tied to a tree because he stopped some buffaloes from walking over metal roof sheets kept aside to fix the roofs with the next day.
The buffalo owners got wild, broke his cycle and tied him to the tree. In those days, there was no phone system. Poor chap, he walked all the way to Camp to complain to me. Telegrams and telex were considered the quickest means of communication then. During those days, only Rajput dairy existed.
They had buffaloes and a khatiya on which they would laze around. The owner was not threatened by my presence because he knew I only dealt with cows. In fact, till today he buys cow’s milk from me to make sweets. Kitkat was the first restaurant to open here, serving only biryani. Today some coffee joint has taken its place.
A lot of people would tell me, “You are out of your mind to start something so far. Who will come?” But I am happy today. I am not very sure of who came here first or who moved in last.
I believe in having an open space to let my customers enjoy themselves and good quality food. Of course, today’s Pune is not the way it was when I started out, but I guess we are all victims of circumstance. Times change and we have to change with it.
► Parents were not comfortable letting their daughters work here..but today the place is buzzing day and night
• Sohrab Chinoy is the owner of A.B.C. Farms Pvt Ltd, one of the country’s leading cheese producers with over 70 varieties. He talks about how Koregaon Park and it’s arterial hub — the A.B.C. Farms premises has changed over the years