Please bear with me. This map is important for this post.
I recently had an occasion to hire an autorickshaw from Swargate, Pune’s Interstate and Intrastate bus terminus. When I announced my destination, Kalyani Nagar, the driver hesitated and said that he was not familiar with that locality and whether I would be able to guide him. I assured him that I could and off we set to Kalyani Nagar with me as the navigator.
I could not resist the temptation to find out more about the young lad, and asked him where he was from. This is something that I normally do with Hindi speaking folks in Pune to keep tabs on the immigration of non Maharashtrians into Pune. When he answered that he was from Hadapsar, I was taken aback and switched to Marathi, the local language much to his delight. I asked him why he was unfamiliar with Kalyani Nagar, if he was from Hadapsar, as the latter is another suburb of Pune just like the former is. His answer and my subsequent chat with him made me rediscover some parts of our enigmatic country.
Before I take you on that fascinating story, let me acquaint you with Pune. That is the purpose of the map on top.
The old Pune which we call the city, consists of the area smack dab in the middle of the map. Kalyani Nagar is to the North East and Hadapsar is to the South East and they are separated from each other by the Mula Mutha river. As the crow flies, the siatance is unlikely to be more than six kilometers. By road, using any of the many bridges that span the river, it could go up to twelve kilometers. Hadapar abuts the Pune Sholapur National Highway and Kalyani Nagar, the Pune Ahmednagar Highway. When I first moved to Pune, I worked at Hadapsar and am quite familiar with that suburb. It was and continues to be a nodal point for surrounding farm areas and acts as a whole sale vegetable and grain market.
Like all cities in India, Pune has grown suddenly into a sprawling metropolis. Many outlying villages have been merged into the Pune municipal corporation and many more are on line to become so. What this has done to agricultural land is to push up prices and many farmers have simply sold their land and moved to the city to live off the proceeds or take up some less taxing occupation.
My young friend is from a hamlet about six kilometers off Hadapsar and comes from such a farmer’s family. His younger brother is still farming a bit but his parents and he have moved to the city and he has got himself an autorickshaw to make a living, His adventures with acquiring the permit for the rickshaw and the driving license will take all of another long post. He did not acquier his high school diploma as he was simply not good at studies. He did go to a school at Hadapsar however.
Most significant observation that he made about his ignorance of Pune’s topography was that in all his 25 years, he had gone beyond Hadapsar only on a very few occasions, once to the temple town of Alandi ten kilometers North of Kalyani Nagar and once to Padharpur, about a 150 Kms South East of Hadapsar on pilgrimage. He had visited only one land mark in Pune before he acquired the rickshaw and he was only familiar with that area between Hadapsar and Swargate.
When probed further, he further stated that there were many others in his hamlet and other hamlets near by who have not gone beyond Hadapsar. Ever!
And that is the paradox. Just under ten kilometers from all that a city can offer and most villagers have not experienced even some of the attractions! What a disconnect! Not one from the villager’s point of view but the city dweller’s ideas about such people. The city dwellers are perhaps not even aware that this can happen.