Saturday, March 13, 2010

KP, Two Weeks After Feb 13

At Koregaon Park, some things are lost forever
Dibyajyoti Sarma & Mayuri Panchbhai

"Life goes on," says a resident of Koregaon Park, who refused to give his name. "But, the life as we knew it is lost forever. The idea of a bomb blast is no longer a news. It’s a reality for Pune as well."As the city, especially the North Main road in Koregaon Park, slowly comes to terms with the reality a week after a bomb ripped apart the landmark German Bakery, killing 15 people so far, and begins to pick up the pieces, some pieces are lost forever.

"We left Kashmir for Pune because it was safe. But after what happened, where do you go?" says Arshid, sitting alone in his plush shop of gemstones and trinkets. He opened the shop, located a few furlong away from the blast site, two days later; but he has no buyers. "Earlier, we used to earn at least Rs 3,000 a day. Now, we are not doing even 10% of the business. We do not even have window-shopping visitors."This is reality today at Koregaon Park. Most shops are open, but all are eerily empty. "Look at the road. Does it look like regular Koregaon Park traffic?" Says a rickshaw driver. "These days, I barely earn Rs 100. No customer.

"The traffic is noticeably less, reiterates Sanjay Jaunjal, a garment shop owner. His shop too is empty. He says he had not done any business in the last few days. "The place has become a silent zone," he says. "People are visiting the place strictly on business, not to hangout."That’s a fact. You see just a few sanyasins in their maroon cloaks wondering about, and you see a number of cops posted, especially surrounding the blast site."Look around," says Arshid, "And everything has changed. There used to be chaiwalla just across the road. He disappeared after all roadside shops were asked to close down. The stall was his only source of income." You look around. Once the road was dotted with street vendors, selling fancy garments to the famous Osho chappals. Now, there s just one such shop, and no visitors.
Arshid continues: "Then the corporation sent notices to several shops for ‘encroachment,’ and the shop owners do not know what to do. They have been doing business here for ages and nobody questioned their location so far.
"The liquor shop next to the erstwhile German Bakery was finally open. "We are trying to start over," says the person attending the counter, arranging the bottles, some of them were broken. The glass panel on the counter showcase was shattered after the blast, and it’s yet to be repaired. The coffee shop next to it is still closed. There are, however, customers at the other coffee shop located down the road. "People need to eat," reasons Rajaram, the boy attending the counter. "Those people who used to visit German Bakery now comes here." Therefore, there has been no loss in business.
"But this is a second rate option to German Bakery," says Peter, while paying the bill. A Londoner, he was in Goa while the blast took place. This, however, could not deter him to change his travel plans. "As a Londoner, I have seen bomb blasts, first the IRAs, then the Islamists. It does not scare me," he says.
"More than the foreigners, it’s the local people who are really shaken by the blast," says Jaunjal. For the residents here, it was an unimaginable event, and the presence of the police are the constant reminder of what had happened.
"There was security arrangements for a month or so after the news report about David Headley’s visit," says Mayur, manager of a hotel near the Osho Centre. "But nobody took the news very seriously." Now, everybody is aware. Now, people do not mind being frisked or asked to show their bags. At another coffee shop, they have introduced a logbook where you will have to enter your name and phone number before visiting the shop.The impact of the tragedy is still palpable; the wounds are still fresh. But, what the future looks like?
For Arshid, it’s going to remain bad. "Most foreigners are gone. No new visitors are coming. Anyway the season ends by the end of March or the beginning of April." After that, there will be a lull in Koregaon Park. "The peak season for people visiting the Osho Centre is from December to March," says Maa Sadhana of the centre. So the inflow of visitor is less. This is not necessarily an impact of the blast. Death cannot scare those who follow the path of meditation, she says.

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