The silent conversations through WhatsApp messages have linked friends and families together in cyberspace, but those real life discussions on street platforms called kattas which was the USP of Pune’s social and intellectual culture, seem to have been marginalised.
Pune, the city of intellectualism, activism and social reformism was known for its `katta culture.’
These were informal public platforms that could be a café, a street side bench (which are almost done away with these days), a public garden or a tekdi.
Here, fiery discussions/debates and even gossiping, energised the always-curious and always-eloquent Puneite to have his or her say, over trending politics or social happenings. And it was age no bar, as the young, the middle-aged and the elderly thrived on these social interactions.
Every evening when I pass through Bhandakar Road, post 8 pm, I find a bunch of sprightly youngsters, occupying the steps of the HDFC Bank office. However, more than talking to each other, each one is busy with their respective mobile phones, with headphones, firmly in their ears.
This, I thought is a manifestation of how social media has re-designated the spirit of katta culture. You are very much present in reality with a group of your peers/friends, but each in his own universe.
A few years back, it was indeed an anti-climax to the katta culture, when the Pune Police actually banned katta groups in public places, as they were too noisy and disrupted the peace of the neighbourhood. The police had to take this step as a sequel to several complaints from citizens. They scream, shout, fight and even sometimes consume alcohol, according to the police.
Now, if alcohol replaces the piping hot `chai’ that inspired conversations and disturbs people around, you cannot blame the law enforcing authority to take action.
If you google, you can find the katta culture being discussed in cyberspace.
In one of the local websites, there were a series of things that Puneites, who are now staying abroad, wrote about what they miss about Pune.
Interestingly, the Pune Municipal Corporation’s website, www.pmc.gov.in, mentions that, the “Pune Municipal Corporation started Sahitya Katta in more than six gardens of PMC. Through this platform poets and writers come forward and converse with the citizens regarding poets, dramas, literature, etc.’’ Interesting!
The Google also throws up a series of `kattas’ but these are mostly small cafes and restaurants, indicating the popularity and the fact that Pune’s social silhouette is so fondly related to the katta culture.
The most effective and innovative form of katta culture is the `RTI katta’ which is held every Sunday morning at the Chittaranjan Vatika public garden in Model Colony. Formed by leading RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar, it is popular with those who would like to find solutions to their individual issues through the use of RTI.
It’s been over 300 weeks and this forum is running strong. In fact, the DSK fraud, which has affected thousands of investors who put in their money in the builder’s flats and fixed deposits, is being fought from this RTI katta.
The objective of the `RTI Katta’ is not to preach about the RTI Act, says Kumbhar, “but to empower oneself through discussions amongst each other. It is an umbrella where the attendees get an insight into various issues that crop during the informal chat. A person’s query or problem is answered by several people which results in a healthy and relevant solution than one RTI expert providing the answer. Moreover, it strengthens the belief in RTI movement which is time and again scuttled by the government through various circulars and amendments.”
Today, the kattas perhaps continue in the benches of several public gardens where senior citizens meet; in trendy cafes started by young entrepreneurs; in the umpteen tea cafes that have suddenly boomed; in the established as well as the new Iranian cafes but the flavour of discussions have changed.
This is thanks to the WhatsApp culture; the intolerance to converse sanely on topics that could have different views and; the assault of noise pollution due to traffic and loud talk in cafes and restaurants.
The other day, some of us women journalists met at an Iranian Café but the noise decibels were so high, that it was impossible to discuss, with peace of mind.
No wonder then, that, the WhatsApp space is where peace rests and to give a piece of your mind to someone, you have no option but cyber-fight. Unfortunate.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals quoted 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,
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