Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Poona Diary

Poona: Rise in high-rises

What do you do when a torrent of thoughts keep pouring in like Poona's intermittent raindrops? You try to store them in transient human memory. But human memory is no safe deposit vault. Reliance on human memory is untenable in today's fast-paced world where history is being digitally recorded. So how does one treat the torrential thoughts? Should the thoughts be allowed to fall like Niagara Falls or should we make those thoughts still like dam water? Words are the only way one can standstill the moments.

As the rain gods emptied their water drums, I was compelled to uncork my bottled thoughts. If rains can wash away the layered dirt, thoughts can cleanse one's conscience. Poona is the city of purity!

Poona, once a grand empire of Maratha emperors, has become an emperor of education. It was Nehru who had crowned Poona as "Oxford of the East." Poona is a towering educational hub for Easterners who look at Oxford with awe and reverence. I was lucky to be part of the great Indian "Oxford" which taught me common sense as well as the fine art of unravelling a communal mind. When Gujarat 2002 genocide took place under the edgy knife of the great Indian butcher, I was in the second year of my graduation. In those days the best way to recognize a communalist was to give him morning newspaper and observe his wrinkles making various angles. Most of the student faces wouldn't frown; they would develop some uneasy lines and the lines suggested a sinister smile. That smile was a defeat of human conscience.

In the last six years Poona has transformed into an adult city. If adolescence creates hormonal imbalances adulthood makes visible signs of its arrival. Poona, no doubt, has become adult, but it suffers from mall mentality; the newest economic disease plaguing India. High-rises do not reflect a city's growth; it mirrors corporate greed. Should we measure a city's growth by abundance of malls and high-rises or by number of beggars on a posh M.G. Road? The answer lies in the economic principle of moderation. In economics, too much of anything is bad.

Poona is Bombay's competing cousin: frequent traffic jams, rising pollution levels, sudden increase in crime and violence. But yet Poona is a far better cousin than Bombay. The difference between Poona and Bombay is that of a noun and an adjective: Poona is fun, Bombay is funny!
Was 'Poona' a spelling mistake? Or a result of colonial hangover?

No. Poona is more civilized than Pune.

Raj Thackeray's threat is visible on nameplates of foreign fast food giants like Pizza Hut and Dominos: they have learned to write their names in Marathi. It is altogether a different matter that Maharashtra assembly has passed a resolution to this effect. I am not against Marathi language; I am against the compulsion. Raj threat can result in electoral loss of the ruling class so there is a race to appease the Marathi Manoos. Not long ago, Uddhav Thackeray and Ramdas Athavale were at loggerheads to appease the Marathi Manoos: Shiv vada pav versus Bheem vada pav! Can vada pav economically uplift a community? My Marathi friends don't think so!

A short visit to Symbiosis, my alma mater, reveals that it has changed completely. Printed forms are history and internet is no longer a mystery! There are no queues. It offers an excellent lesson to Bombay's colleges.

Poona is a city of endless opportunities where opportunity knocks as well as lingers.

Afterthought: Why is Mulayam getting really Mulayam for Sonia Gandhi? Because he is the velvet carpet of UPA chairperson!