Pune, long ago, used to be a paradise for pedestrians

Shared from the 2018-02-08 The Times Of India – Pune eEdition

All great thoughts,” said 19th Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “are conceived while walking.” Indeed, for ordinary people and walkers like us in these trying times, all thoughts and ideas are furiously churned in the mind while walking.

It has always been an enjoyable exercise for me and even in trying circumstances — covering a war or a riot as a journalist, exploring a new land in a different continent, or emerging from an unpleasant experience — walking has been the most satisfying way to unwind at the end of the day, or night.

During my days in Dubai, walks were dictated by the season — from early morning or late-night walks during the scorching summer months or striding in quiet and empty parks as the dusk set in before chilly nights.

Of course, travels to fascinating places, including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, Cape Town, Dhaka, Colombo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Auckland or Queenstown inevitably featured long walks, partly to save on expensive cabs and also to enjoy the cities and towns.

In India, walking along the erstwhile Connaught Place in New Delhi was a wonderful experience. All major Indian cities — from Kolkata and Guwahati in the east to Chennai and Bengaluru in the south, or Ahmedabad and Jaipur further north — have excellent places for pedestrians to go on long strolls, without being bothered by nightmarish traffic conditions.

Even in Mumbai, walking or jogging in the erstwhile Indian Airlines Corporation grounds, next to the Kalina military camp and the old airport, was a fascinating experience that avoided the cluttered streets in the busy suburb of Santacruz. Going for a jog in the open ground was a pleasure that one can never forget. Pune, meanwhile, has Heritage walks in the old parts of the city in the early hours of the day would see you cover nearly 3km at a relaxing pace, witnessing historical monuments such as Shaniwarwada, Dagdusheth Ganpati and many of the vibrant bazaars.

For those who have the energy for steeper climbs, there was nothing better than trekking more than 100 steps to the Parvati hills. Of course, today, there are several organised treks outside the city limits — for instance Sinhagad fort.

Even for those living away from old Pune, there are several places that are equally fascinating.

I remember going to the race course for long walks or jogs over the weekend, or even trekking on the quiet paths of Camp, especially near Wanowrie, where you hardly came across motorists or motorcyclists.

Today, I find it an awful experience to travel 8-10km from my home in Hadapsar to the race course for that joyous Fortunately, I live in a housing colony. Walking inside the complex is a hugely pleasurable experience. Outside — along the main Pune-Solapur road — it’s chaos thanks to trucks and buses fighting for space alongside motorists and bikers who honk their way into the tiny spaces available between the big vehicles. But walk into our housing society and it’s only birds that can be heard.

The evening walks are troublesome too because of the high vehicular population and noise from horns. I have neighbours stepping out as late as 11pm, but high-beam headlamps and loud silencers have destroyed that experience too. One has to today request motorists to lower the intensity of their headlamps. This is despite having streetlamps on the routes.

Besides space for walking, I fear the hours available for a peaceful walk are shrinking too.

The writer is a former journalist

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