Nagar Rode!

Last night, a friend invited me out to dinner. He and I go back a long way, to school, when we were close friends and fellow conspirators. Now he is older, sober, sedate, corporate head honcho-by-day, devoted dad by night…

I have changed too, radically, from the smug, sanctimonious officious little prick I was to a more cynical and introspective man.

At least, I like to think so.

So here I was, waiting for his phone call, from whichever part of the city he would be in after his work was done, ready to drive there and pick him up and go on for dinner. There was a great steak house nearby that part of town: succulent meat and tender sirloin- just the place for a great evening, if one were to overlook the slightly vinegary wine that was marked “100 rupees” and clinked on the table in front.

His call came, a little after eight-thirty. He was in Viman Nagar, waiting after finishing off some work that he had to get done. I was to pick him up from there, and go back to Koregaon Park, where the steak house was.

This is Pune, 2007. The road leading to Kalyani Nagar from Ghorpadi winds and twists- a hellish quarter-kilometre of asphalt strips separated by loose gravel and stones. Then you cross the river, and the roads are good once more. Beautiful people walk by in their swank cars, dressed smartly, with the neon lights of consumer India winking at you, the river a pathetic trickle of black smelly water somewhere in the background.

The road goes n straight, and leads on to Nagar road.

This is Pune, 2007. Speaking impartially, Nagar road has to be among the worst roads in the city. Of course, a lot of other roads vie for the uncomfortable epithet, but for sheer ball-crunching devastation, there are few roads that can match it in scale and scope.

The eponymous Nagar road leads from Pune to Ahmadnagar, snaking out at acute angles to the city towards the northeast, making its way through Yerwada, Ramwadi, Chandan nagar, shirur, to leave the district through Shikrapur towards Ahmadnagar, and thence on to Aurangabad. The road is busy and purposeful, a constant stream of traffic flowing along its dusty bed ensures no let up in action, a large concrete plateau rising in its centre, neatly (and in some parts, inequitably) bisecting the road into two flanks. The construction on either side of the road – swank new office buildings and apartment complexes reaching up to touch the sky – ensure that the road is never free from the presence of humongous land movers and bulldozers. Big is most certainly beautiful on Nagar road.

To either side of the concrete embankment stretches the rift valley of Nagar road, treacherous dust bowls of land with loose cobbles, itinerant pebbles, and gravel that rises to meet your eyes.

As I coughed and spluttered my way through the road, my nostrils inhaling a foul mixture of gases that was part carbon monoxide, part silica fumes, part soot and wholly noxious, I looked to my side to see that all the men around me had aged visibly in the traffic. Entering the road as black-haired young men with flashing dark eyes, they had now been reduced to gray or white haired wrecks, with the occasional wracking cough and the permanently rheumy eyes. Their faces were drawn and haggard, their jaws set, their postures tense, their demeanour snappy yet desperate.

Looking ahead, I saw a messiah emerge from the cloud in front of me: craggy face, long flowing hair and 200cc bike.

The effect was promptly broken as jesus opened his mouth and broke into a loud hacking cough. Red eyes streaming, he was suddenly just another accelerator-happy boy with a pulsar in between his legs. The dust cloud that had just spit him out was releasing a bevy of women, identically swathed in unflattering white (read dirty grey) coats with tacky pink daisies on them, their identities masked by dark brown face scarves.

My hands were tense, my oropharynx repulsed, my superciliary muscles were flexed in a violent reaction to the foreign bodies being thrown at them, narrowing my palpebral fissure into horizontal slits: the world suddenly thrown into a tapered screen, random dots floating about in the confusion between the meteor dust.

Up ahead, a bulldozer had stalled, and random men in their magnificent riding machines, were standing around it and shaking their fists at each other.

Of course, I inched forward, eased my shoulders, then twisted my body, and baby-like slipped out of the panting mother’s womb, into the cold and harsh world outside.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: : 291 Vaswani Nagar, North Main Road, Koregaon Park, Pune : « my voice echoes across the empty canyon :

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