Starting this week, Pune’s Celebrated Journalist and RTI Activist,
Vinita Deshmukh will write an exclusive weekly column on the city of Pune
as she sees it. Nostalgia, candour and more every Wednesday only on Pune365!
Pune, once a city of bicycles and crisp air has turned into a city of automobiles and polluted air. Amidst this din and pollution comes the Pune Cycle Plan, to revive its pristine glory.
Slim Chance Eh?
Those were the college days my dear friend, back in the 70s, when we merrily cycled the streets of Pune. The Fergusson College parking area was dotted with bicycles. Most of us came cycling, or by the PMT bus.
Hardly anyone came to college in a car, save a privileged few who were dropped by their chauffeurs. Today, the same parking area is packed with only two-wheelers . Several cars too, making it look even worse!
I learnt to ride a bicycle thanks to a friend. There were many hilarious incidents too – me banging into a man who was in a bent down in position to check his car’s rear wheel! I wanted to avoid him, but in my nervousness hit him. Thank God, there was no road rage then. He too was amused and my friend and I went a bit ahead and laughed our gut off! Coming to think of it, it was his fault. Standing there in the middle of the road, doing what he was doing!
Come the first monsoon shower and it wasn’t the dancing in the rain that caught our fancy, since for us fun meant, cycling without raincoats, getting drenched and enjoying the smell of the earth.
We would end up devouring hot bhajjias and tea from the roadside vendor, to warm up after all the rain we took. We weren’t worried about our hair or how straight it remained after getting soaking wet. No expensive beauty treatment unlike today…
We just enjoyed our thick curly hair get naturally flattened with the rain…
And then one day, a friend of our close knit friend group, bought a Luna! Oh my God, we screamed – what’s with you? We had seen a couple of them on the roads earlier and would address the riders as Luna-tics! And now we had one in our midst and teased her about it.
She was hardly amused – she seriously said, as if to admonish us – you know I come cycling all the way from Khadki and my parents worry. So here it is – I can quickly commute. Slowly, we got quite envious of her. One day, she called us for lunch. I said, you ride my cycle, I shall ride your Luna. She agreed. I loved that easy ride – no pain, so much gain in time and efforts.
At that time, we thought that is `progress.’ I rung up my dad, who was stationed in Odisha, to tell him of my adventure and the desire to have one – nonsense he said, I have risked enough, buying you a bicycle. Period.
Steadily but surely, the Luna moped followed by other brands began dominating the city roads. The PMT buses began looking as if they were neglected and frowning. As years passed by there was gossip that they were deliberately being given step motherly treatment, so that the mechanized two wheelers look more dependable – just perch your `bottom’ on it at your doorstep and lo and behold, you are at your destination, in quick time, wherever you go. Then came in the four—wheeler era, after the four-wheeler revolution with Maruti.
And four decades down the line, we have something like 33 lakh odd vehicles (over 70% two-wheelers) for a human population of 38 lakh odd. Indeed a man-made disaster and myopic vision of the powers-that-be.
Amidst this chaos, comes the Pune Cycle Plan implemented by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). Since the last couple of months, I see these lovely green coloured bicycles parked in a group, on the pavements/roadsides, urging people to use them.
Akin to the model in London that I saw a few years back. I see young children and youngsters making use of them in the chaos of our roads that have posed a threat to cyclists.
While the middle aged and the senior citizens might eye this venture by PMC with cynicism, my 10 year old grandson, sees it in the right perspective. So, delighted was he to see these bicycles that he actually requested a passerby if he has a Paytm facility on his mobile to pay Rs.2.
Amused at his audacity, he did have and affectionately paid for it. He then asked his grandfather to pay him back in cash.
My grandson merrily cycled, not so much on the road, but round and round his lane. This suggests that PMC must seriously implement cycle tracks to encourage our citizens to use bicycles and save our city from pollution, while improving on their own fitness levels.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,