From Pensioner’s Paradise to Pseudo Boomtown… Pune’s story of degeneration is being rewritten every year. The city’s infrastructure rocks and reels under the onslaught of reckless urbanization; the town planning authorities dither over where (if at all) to plonk the international airport. Meanwhile, Pune unfolds itself in a sweeping signature of chrome glitz and tinted sheet glass like something out of a bastardized Transformers episode written and directed by Ram Gopal Verma.
Is anyone complaining? Not yet – there’s no time or scope for regret when you’re dancing as fast as you can, after all. However, we do have what the Pentagon would describe as ‘a situation’. We’re talking of major identity theft here. Or should I say identity abandonment?
Pune has sacrificed its human side on the chrome altar of crass commercialization. Traditional youth hangouts like Empress Garden, Sarasbaug and FC Road wear a faded, jaded look as the city’s brand-conscious yuppie crowd heads for the new shopping districts and watering holes to scuttle their call centre and software salaries. Camp’s iconic MG Road barely manages to hold its own.
As the mountains that previously kept Manic Mumbai at bay and Pune’s clement weather in place surrender to the bulldozer of metropolitization, the line that divided Sin City from the Oxford of the East grows hazier. As physical and spiritual distance between the cities reduces, Pune is turning into a cheap Mumbai clone – in appearance, in temperament and in values.
Who cares? I do! Damn it, this city is my foster home, and I love it for a reason!
Sure, I moved to Mumbai to pursue better career options, but with the consolation that nothing and nobody would steal the peth-and-wada culture of Pune from my heart. I would endure the kicked-anthill craziness of Mumbai just as long as I had the option of withdrawing to Pune’s blessed peace, quiet and laid-back laissez faire when I needed to.
My visits to the city are turning into a poor joke – these days, I find myself wondering where Mumbai ends and Pune starts. Kondhwa looks suspiciously like Bandra did a few years ago, before it gave up the human element forever. Kothrud and Karve Nagar bear a doom-laden resemblance to Dadar and Mahim – not the city’s ‘happening’ places, but more of its congested launch points to the glitzier locations. The once proud Puneri is bending over backwards to sound either like a Dharavi tapori or a Nariman Point magnate. I can’t see the ‘misal’ for the McDonald’s anymore!
Hello, Ground Control calling Spaceship Pune – you’re spinning out of control. Return to base before you run out of fuel and crash….