Nagpur: Let me confess one thought right here – we all in Nagpur hate change! We are in love with our own image of the place: laid back, luxuriant, tree lined broad roads and avenues, slow moving cycle rikshas and groups of friends that will gather up every day at haunts like India Coffee House, Sadar or the Laxmi Bhavan patch of West High court road or early mornings at Maharaj Bag and late evenings at VIP road in front of C.M.’s official residence. Lots of pani poori stalls everywhere to quench both our thirst and our hunger, samosa shops for those more seriously hungry… tikka smeared ‘Annas’ selling us hot idlis from their gleaming stainless steel vessels atop their hooting cycles for breakfast and fast mushrooming momos joints in the evening…
We hate change but adapt to it beautifully when it is sprung on us. Symbols and structures of change that should have us seeing red become our beloved new -things- to- talk- about.
Like the Nagpur Metro. Almost 40% work already accomplished but we keep debating the non-sequitur ” does Nagpur really need a metro?” That reminds me of the Chatrapati flyover that the Metro fellows demolished so quickly and efficiently – in the 20 odd years of its existence, we had not been able to decide whether it was justified or not!
The cementing of our roads – where your old galli/ main road/avenue will suddenly give way to an under-construction cement road, no one can say. The logic of where the cementing begins and where it ends, is hard to analyze, so we just accept and wait for it to be done and ready.
While we are still haggling over cycle and auto riksha rates, silently and unobtrusively Ola and Uber cabs have made their presence felt. You still find it unimaginable that an Ola will take you from the Railway station to far away Bajaj Nagar for just a Rs. 100/- (And this is when the auto riksha union will not allow these cabs into the station and one has to walk till Kingsway to board it or get off at the old Nagpur side of the station.)
While all our parks and gardens like Ambazari and Botanical gardens are lost to behind-the-bush love couples, private organizations are sponsoring jogging and walking tracks in almost all localities. The parks at Abhyankar Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and Ramdaspeth see some serious Yoga and walkathons and there is a unique Nana nani park in Bajaj Nagar.
Speaking of exercise how can we not mention the serious cycling mania the city has been afflicted with suddenly? When two years ago the 100 Kms Brevet was being held in the city for the first time, critics scoffed – where will they find the cyclists in Nagpur? Now we have regular 200 and more Brevets held regularly and Nagpur teams that have conquered the difficult Deccan cliff hanger rally that goes from Pune till Goa. We have a Nagpurian Dr. Amit Marathe preparing to take part in the really difficult Race across America soon!
Unnoticed by many a Night safari has been started in the environs of what used to be Gorewada garden and a controvertial bio diversity park is coming up behind Ambazari lake which has many of Nagpur’s bird watchers up in arms over the mindless destruction of bird habitats that were frequented by only camera yielding enthusiastic bird watchers – often on cycles – in the early morning hours.
I really wonder why our dear Nagpurian, our own C.M. does not see the dilapidated state the once-magnificent Maharaj Bag that was part of the huge agricultural college campus built by the British and restore it instead of planning these far-off grand parks?
The Futala lake front that we were so fond and proud of ( we took our NRI kids there when they visited annually in December with their ‘foreign digital cams’ ) is almost destroyed and deserted due to some legal war between NMC, NIT and restaurant owners. Sorry, forgot NIT does not exist any more – so what will happen to the already complicated Futala lake front situation?
We are one unique metro that has not really taken to shopping in malls and still love to frequent Sitabaldi, Dharampeth and Sadar for our shopping. Not to forget the buzzing Itwari where one can buy everything under the sun! We wonder how many Nagpurians have really taken to online shopping though Amazon has us in their crosshairs. Big Basket has already made a foray into Nagpur competing with our own A.K. Fresh and Freshmandi.
But what is heartening is the number of city people who have embraced the concept of urban farming. We have greens and tomatoes and ladies finger growing on small plots/ terraces and even balconies in pots. There are some green houses to be found on the tiniest roof tops too.
Talking of vegetables, how can food be far behind? We in Nagpur are passionately united by our love of food – we are all die hard Foodies. And at last, in non-veg fare we have begun looking beyond our popular Saojis and Punjabi dhabas and are welcoming restaurants serving continental, Chinese, sea food and Mexican. For fifty odd decades we had only that one Nankings for Chinese fare – now we have not just Nihao at Raddisons but also a Mainland China. Even a Barbecue Nation exists in Nagpur now and doing quite well, thank you!
So we have our new means of transportation, new roads, new ways of doing shopping and new ways of growing and eating food.
What we are still waiting for is a bigger and privatized international Airport that has been promised to us since 3 years and some serious ‘business districts’ where our youngsters can find work. After all, where do we take the metro to???
—Sunita Mudaliar (Associate Editor)