In the past few days, Pune has been in news for the riots in Koregaon–Bhima, in which one person was killed. The clashes broke out on the 200th anniversary of the Koregaon-Bhima battle. The impact of the clashes was seen on a large scale on the next day, as the violence reached Mumbai and other parts of the country, as a bandh was declared the next day in Maharashtra.
On the day of the bandh, shops were closed or rather forced to shut down, schools and colleges were shut down, Mumbai-Pune Expressway was blocked by protesters, local train services were hit in Mumbai, other transport modes like buses were not running on the roads, as many buses were damaged by the protesters, and the day-to-day activities of people went for a toss.
Somehow, I don’t like my city to be like that, I like the bustling and bubbling city where people are busy with their day-to-day activities and the roads are busy, where people reach from one destination to another. But at the time of the bandh, sometimes, you don’t have a choice but are forced to be a part of it.
I had to reach the office that day, so I left the house an hour earlier than usual, as I knew commuting on days like these is a bit complex. When my attempts to book a cab failed many times, I came to the main road to figure out how I can commute to Shivajinagar from Nagar Road. While I waited for 15 to 20 minutes at the bus stop, looking at the deserted roads which otherwise are loaded with traffic, I tried my best to book a cab again, but in vain.
I walked for a few minutes to reach the main road in search of an auto, but even that attempt was futile. I started cursing myself for not learning to ride or drive and being dependent on others for commuting. But I had to reach office by hook or by crook. When I reached the main road, I saw a few people waiting at the bus stop. A few autos were running on the road, but they were either unwilling to drop or were charging an exorbitant amount. On days like these, everyone tries to take advantage of the situation.
When I called my boss to inform him that I most probably won’t be able to make it to the office, a young lad with his auto stood right in front of me and agreed to drop me. I was waiting for him to tell me next that he would charge me more, but he didn’t say anything. We picked up two other women who were waiting for a bus.
While we started our journey, the driver and the women started complaining about how such bandhs cannot help anyone and just create problems for the common man, who has to commute daily and who’s daily budget goes for a toss if he/she has to take
a day off from work.
The women got down on the way after 10-15 minutes. Just as the auto moved, two young boys, maybe in their early 20s, came on a bike near the rickshaw. I could see them closely, they had come to stop or threaten us maybe, I could tell from their body language and their eyes. But they travelled beside the auto for some time and then raced ahead and stopped at a small shop, where an old man was selling tea and forced him to shut the shop. I was hoping that I reach office on time without any untoward incident.
To break the silence, the driver said, “Look at these young boys, at this age they should be studying or at home, but they are busy working on someone else’s propaganda.” He went ahead on how he is against all such bandhs which are politically motivated. He told me how his day started early in the morning that day, because he knew many autos won’t we running and would cause inconvenience to people. He told me how he had dropped many people to different destinations since morning that day and how he is
happy doing so.
Today, when I look back at the day, the boys who were on the bike and the guy who was driving the auto were almost of a similar age and they made their own choices. This is not the first time I have met people like the auto driver, there were many incidents when I can recall people have helped each other in times like these. This reminds me a quote from ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank, where she says, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good
Incidents like these riots or any others cannot break the spirit of the city because there are many people out there who are just ‘good at heart’ and don’t let you lose hope in bad times.