Traffic congestion remains a severe problem here. It is every residents bugbear. And it is increasing every day. I believe each new dawn brings 300 new vehicles onto the roads of Pune.Driving here is a form of madness. There are no rules.Vehicles overtake on the left, two wheelers slide by missing your bumpers by a hairsbreadth, cyclists dash across roads through the red light , rickshaw drivers without lights stick out a hand before cutting right across the road in the dark, directly in front of oncoming and passing traffic.
In the face of all this my language is becoming increasingly graphic . Sometimes I stop the car in the middle of the road and rest my head in my hands to recover from a near miss. Nobody notices.Everyone just goes right on.
Shocked laughter is the only response possible. To lose ones temper would be silly. As they say here " Kai ko tension leta hai".( why are you taking tension?)
There are several reasons for this state of affairs.One NGO says it is because parking spaces have not been constructed within the compounds of buildings and that cars which would normally be parked there find their way onto the road. Old buildings flout the parking rules and use built parking space for commercial purposes. Hotels basements, read parking lots , are turned into banquet halls as soon as OK certificates are released. Another is certain the roads are not wide enough. A third says we need more public transport and to reduce permits for private vehicles.
Whatever the cause is, the roads turn into pavements for pedestrians to walk or be knocked down. The pavements are used for parking or a space for living or making a livelihood by migrants.
My neighbour is convinced her rights as a tax paying citizen are compromised by migrant labour who settle illegally in the city and build illegal structures and are a burden on the system with their demands for electricity and water and space.Her answer is " Send them back to where they belong" i.e. back to villages, where they have no land, or have drought or unemployment...In any case to a place they would surely starve to death.
Migration to the cities carries on in India, putting a heavy burden on infrastructure. Yet government does not acknowledge,in their planning , that nobody would want to leave their homes or familiar lands and cast themselves into unknown territory unless it was utterly impossible to survive. Some NGO's working in cities have decided to work with reality, which is that migrants are here to stay and they have a role to play.
I think , like several others, that migrants add another dimension to a city. They bring their cultural ways with them, their songs, stories, clothes,and food.They often face inequity with courage and initiative. Pune would not have carpenters or masons if they had did not come from Rajasthan. They add their skills to the work force. Some people,with great good luck get to have their own pushcarts from where they start a small food business either a chai shop, or a vada pau stall. a bhel puri stand or better.
The roadside food stall /hawker has become an essential part of the landscape and of every resident's life. They provide cheap and often excellent snacks or fast food.
My own favourite is Mohammed Akhtar's stall for kheema samosas. When I first saw the crowd around his small cart I thought something had happened. Accident,fight, heated argument...or man with monkey / snakes, man selling Rolex watches for Rs 50, that sort of thing . So that's the way to find him.
You look out for a clamouring crowd at around 7 p.m. in the region of East Street. He sells close to a thousand samosas a day, and every batch comes steaming hot off the pan, cooked by his wife and sister down the lane in their home . The samosas disappear in seconds. In the time it took me to focus my camera the lot had vanished. Mohammed speaks excellent English and is very polite. "Hygiene and freshness are most important", he tells me in between serving hungry customers.
The samosas are like nothing I have ever eaten. Exquisitely crisp and light , with a filling to write home about. Any other kheema samosa I have ever eaten sinks in its own oiliness by comparison.
They cost an incredible Rs 4 each . He also makes vegetable samosas but I've never tasted them.
Here is a recipe for Kheema samosa from Ummal Bandookwalla which is pretty good, but I cannot guarantee they will turn out as good as Mohammed's.
But , if you can't eat 'em, cook 'em.
175 gms mutton, minced
2 small onions, chopped
2 green chillies, chop fine.
125 gms green peas, boiled
1/2 tsp haldi turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
Salt to taste
4 tbsps coriander leaves, chopped fine
Place mince, with onions, chillies, peas, ghee, haldi and chilli powder in a pan and cook on a slow fire till mince is tender and dry.Do not add water.Add the coriander leaves and salt and mix well.
250 gms wheat flour
1/2 tbsp oil
1 tsp Salt
Add water to the flour bit by bit t while mixing till it forms a ball of dough.Add oil and salt.Knead the flour for 5 minutes and divide into 16 equal portions.Roll 2 portions seperately into wafer thin strips 2" wide and 8" long. Sprinkle flour over one strip and rub it in with the palm of one hand.Place the second strip over it and roll out. Bake on a hot griddle till both sides are done. Take off the fire and separate the two strips. Prepare the other strips similiarly.
Fold the samosa covering strip into a cone and fill wilth a little mince mixture. Fold over the flap and close. Make a paste of flour and water and use to seal the ends.When all samosas are formed heat enough oil to 2 " depth in a kadhai. When the oil is hot deep fry the samosas in batches till the pastry is golden brown in colour.
Makes about 16 samosas.