Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The City with One Flyover

A small town in Bihar was transformed into capital of a new state overnight. It was a struggle for almost a decade before separation, which finally came, but people could hardly make sense out of it. As always, change is criticized, so was the new found land. People were very skeptical about the future and governance, but after a decade when I look back, I feel proud and thank the people who took the ownership without rights, roles, responsibility, motive or profits. Its been a decade and the growth doesn't seem to stop. A lot of this change is attributed to the youth of the city who were once like the frog in a well.
I am referring to a small town on a plateau which was once the Summer Capital of the region and was renowned for its wonderful climate. A town which was a popular tourist destination for the travelers and people who were keen to go on holidays with family. There was one street in the town that was the centre of attraction for the whole of population. Very rightly it was called ' Main Road". It was an address that reflected the wealth and pomp residing in the city. There were only shops and shops on both the sides of the road. If it was a bridge it would have collapsed under the pressure of the number of people who visited the place every day. Still there was room for everyone and stands long and wide. Even today the most convenient mode of transportation in the city is the paddle rickshaw which is not obliged by any RTO and can carry as many passengers as can be dragged along. People were highly creative in those days as they managed to fit almost everyone on the 3X3 rickshaw. I am sure the small car brands could find a deep insight from them. Time was ample and it didn't matter how much time it would take from point A to point B. The point was to reach in one piece and with all in the family. In fact the male members would often get down and push the vehicle from behind on slopes or pull back when going down. It often resulted in re-arranging the seating position. The extra weights would really feel pity rather than embarrassed. They would cover up by giving another 50paise for the muscle that got pulled or could have and get going. Children would get squeezed in between or get perched on someones lap but never given proper seat. Often hanging from one side fiddling with the bangles or watch, held only by the arm and being dragged upwards once in a while when the ass was repositioned.   
This was a city with one flyover that was the bridge between the rich and service class people. A bridge that connected the commercial capital to residential haven. It was the bridge that was a deciding factor, at what age children can go beyond or remain within the boundaries. For the teenagers/young boys and girls, crossing the bridge without adults was perceived as rebellious. People (mothers/fathers) would often talk about seeing someone across and question the presence. Neighbours would often judge others children on the basis of the latitude and longitude of the notice point. And back home one had to think of a really good excuse or answer to justify the existence on the other side. One often wondered who was this person who was so interested to see who crossed over the bridge and who was doing what on the other side. I doubt if they were descendants of border security guards or paid spies.
The bridge had two different lives on either side. One side for purpose of simplicity was referred as "Colony". This side was full of peace, greenery, traffic signals, zebra crossing garages and cooperatives. The 'Colony' was inhabited by the more conventional intelligent lot working for PSU's, banks, hospitals, schools & tutors. Parents were more controlling, disciplinary, career oriented. Vehicles were more of the fiats and ambassadors. The first Maruti 800 was brought and driven on the Colonial side.
The other side was referred to as Main road and was full of jams, shops, motor transport, cattle without any fields but concrete roads, loud chanting of shlokas from gita, quran and granth sahib. People would park at their convenience and stop wherever they wanted to get down. The sides would be lined up with stores of all sizes. Those days there were no supermarkets, malls or departmental stores. And of course the dimly lit bars and restaurants. Eating and drinking in the not so well illuminated spots gave a sense of luxury and upmarket. There used to be one prime restaurant that would never stop serving. If the seats inside were full, orders would be served in the car by the road side. One sweet shop that was considered respectful and valued more than the wealth one had. If one would not carry sweets from this shop when making a social visit, it was considered disrespectful and cheap. One mega shop where being seen was attestation  of being modern and well off.
In all this, life was difficult for the growing up population as well. No girl would dare to walk the main road all by herself. And if noticed, there was something fishy about it already. And believe me, parents would have to go through hell explaining. Any girl with a boy was a disaster, even if the brother was mistaken for a stranger.
Today the city has changed completely. While the chaos still remains but the colonial and main road divide has fallen apart. Unlike the Berlin wall, the bridge was not broken down but has more brothers and sisters. The access to either sides have become easier from different points of the city. Flyovers have taken over but the charm is lost. No more are boundaries so relevant for social conclusions and freedom. 
They city has been set free.
Thanks to the same generation which used to suspend from one arm on the rickshaws. They have brought back a new lease of life for the city from wherever they have come back from. We can see Barista, Levis, Mcdonalds, Inox, Audi, Citibank, Delhi Public School, Wills Lifestyle and many more such miracles. All these brands have acknowledged the needs of the generation that saw the big divide ruling their lives and will continue to charm the no more suspended babies but the peeping out of the car window generation, while the streets still continue to clutter with more labour intensive transport.
There can never be any other Ranchi, even in my dreams. I miss even though we have changed.   


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