Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Then and Now.

Vignettes from old Pune. Of the sixties.

Everyone cycled to college.  Between 9:45 am and 10:15 am , rush hour was all about thousands of students cycling to college. Colleges had compulsory PT or Physical Training , for all students, which happened at 5:30 am.  Attendance was checked, and those bunking were denied permission to give the academic final exams.

Jackets and windbreakers were only seen in foreign movies, and early mornings in December would see us wrapped in home knitted sweaters, mufflers, monkey caps and shoes, pedalling away at 5 am, clutching ice cold cycle handles. The darkness did not worry us.  You saw similar folks somewhere along your ride, and you got approving looks from those doing their early morning trips to the Parvati Hill Temple, muttering all kinds of stotras.

Then there was the annual collegiate sports. One had the opportunity to play badminton for the college team, and these tournaments always happened in the evenings. You waited your turn to play and then to cheer your team, and it was often 11 pm when things got over. Forget mobile phones, not everyone had a landline, there were no PCO's and you didnt make or receive phone calls every few hours from home, or in turn call them.

 I remember cycling back , accompanied by some folks who had to go my way anyway. At a particular corner, I took a turn, and cycled  home, alone , without fear. My parents knew some of my teammates would be partially accompanying me, sports was considered important, and they exhibited no anxiety as they opened the door to me.

Fifty years down the line,  the daughter does the yearly 10 km Powai run, in this part of Mumbai. She tried it for fun last year, surprisingly completed in good time, and was practising this year. The route was specified by the organizers, and it involved going around the periphery of the lake , in the vicinity of which I live. She started practicing along that route to get a feel of the ups and downs.

An alternate work assignment at 6 am , meant she ran before that.  She wanted to practice and time herself on the actual route, and so she would be out by 5 am, in her tracks and tee, in considerable darkness, broken everytime a speeding truck, or car whizzed by with full lights. And sometimes, possibly a cruising slow vehicle too.   She carried her cell phone in a special contraption that attached to her arm, and some application displayed her speed, distance, time et al when she returned home.  Regardless of the fancy phone application, to me, it was a relief that she carried a phone.

It is a sign of our times, that we are clobbered with news 24 x 7 , and the final practice days  coincided with the Nirbhaya days in Delhi. And so one would be anxiously awake, trying to occupy oneself otherwise, with morning things, hoping she was not the only one running along the road. That there was a promenade around the lake that came later, was a different sort of anxiety. It was not the traffic, but possibly a population that slept there at night, who would  observe  her. You werent sure if cops were around, and you were not sure it would help.  You just hoped there were other people running too.   It did not bother her and she ran, anyway.

One would wait for a mild glimmer of light at 6 am, when she would have to reach her morning assignment. Normally she cycled there. Now she ran all the way . For practice. An occasional phone then to ascertain that she reached, would set our minds at rest.

Occasionally the phone would ring and ring. One would take a deep breath and try again. And again.  Till she answered. She would return running,  post 7:30 am, when things were different.

She had been banged into,  in her non-running, but cycling-to-work days, at 6 am, by one of those call-centre transport vans , that took an unannounced sharp turn across her, making her fall. No one stopped. But some were amused. And even then,  there were hardly any bystanders to demonstrate the Bystander effect. Or otherwise.

And  so I wonder, what kind of life we have today, in Mumbai.

Where might is right.

You sit with bated breath, as folks hang onto steps of buses, and get crushed in train compartments , en route to work. You could be driving your own vehicle and still be unsafe. Underage spoilt kids raging around in cars, and cleaners of trucks practicing their driving wildly on roads;  a so called star drives wildly killing folks on a footpath, and the judge "grants him the permission" to stay away from a court hearing, based on some facetious reason, which has to do with films, that exhibit outrageous visuals. The same star does a song and a dance at the police gymkhana annual program, in front of folks who, under normal circumstances, would travel with him to court in police vans, shackled to him. 

Anyone can say anything to anybody, throw acid, attack, and maim, if they dont like it.  Action by authorities depends on who is in power, when the elections will be, and who has connections to whom.

Instant 24 x 7 phone connectivity,  in-your-face-over-the-top indiscriminate security as a status thing for selected types, and I still dont have a sense of family security, that my parents had 50 years ago, when we kids went out. 

Sometimes I wonder.

About which direction we are heading in. And whether there exists a return path at all......  



  1. "and I still dont have a sense of family security, that my parents had 50 years ago, when we kids went out. "

    So right, sometime sI wonder if brining a child into this world is the right thought..with so muh bad things happening...i mean i fear for their life, whether they will be sodomized/sexually assaulted as kids, kidnapped by classmates during the teens or something equally bad as adults....its a scary line of thought but with so much happening....i cant help it!!!

  2. oh yes I remember those winters , mum use to knit such lovely sweaters and different colors , i had so many of them ..

    in our village we did not have a TV just an old radio which granddad used, and no one was allowed till he was at home .. so little things yet we had such a gala time ...

    dont know about today I think we have ourself made our lives very very complicated ...


  3. Nothing is like it was years ago.
    I stay concerned about my children and
    grandchildren daily. They are in cities not near me and some far over the ocean.
    I send out safe thoughts for them daily...

  4. We not only had security but also a sense of well being despite having to do without so many things we take for granted today. We were happy and content with what we had, never hankered after things. And we are walking in a one-way street, and so we know which way are headed. Not a nice thought at all!

  5. I don't know how many here on your list are the ones who have actually experienced what you have expressed.
    If they haven't,they have missed the real pleasures of life.
    I have experienced and can appreciate how you feel.

  6. Life was simpler and we also didn't have so much information to be afraid.