Thursday, August 19, 2010

Crossing Bridges

Stand on the Balgandharva Bridge and on both sides you'll see a couple more bridges.

Early in the morning face east on the Balgandharva bridge and you will see two bridges, one below the other. On a cloudy day, from the Balgandharva Bridge, it's pretty picturesque to see those two bridges over the river. Their reflection in the (dirty) water below, sparse vehicles running on the bridges, a few people too all looks nice. Stay there on the bridge a few minutes and just soak into the morning atmosphere. If you are lucky, you'll be able to see two vehicles on the two bridges one below the other at the same speed running simultaneously in the same direction. It's fun to see those two vehicles running one below the other as if competing with each other.

But if you face the west on a morning from the Balgandharva bridge, you'll see a different scene. You'll see three bridges, Bhide Pul, Z Bridge, and Lakdi Pul. Each has a different story to tell. Bhide Pul, closest to the water dips down from the main road to cross the river. This is the bridge that has to be emersed in water at least once every rainy season. It's a pretty good shortcut to reach the Deccan Bus Stop. Early in the morning, you'll see a few commuters, and if you are lucky, even a doodhwala on bike. The Z Bridge is peculiar with its winding structure. This bridge is meant only for two-wheelers. Early morning, you'll see only few bikers and cyclists. Lakdi Pul even that early is thriving with buses, rickshaws, early morning car commuters. It's one of those bridges that is never empty.

Mhatre Pul is another such one that's always crowded. Believe me, there can be a major traffic jam on Mhatre Pul even at eight in the morning. It's one of the connecting lines to Kothrud, Karve Road, Karve Nagar, and that side of the town. Traffic signals at both ends of Mhatre Pul add to the traffic jam and you'll hardly ever find it deserted.
One such bridge that I remember used to be pretty deserted and lonely, but now has gained prominence is the Koregaon Park bridge that joins the North Main Road to Kalyani Nagar. Some 7-8 years back, it really was not much known. But as the IT industry developed in Kalyani Nagar, this bridge gained importance as a route to avoid the Nagar Road traffic, in turn making it one of the busiest routes. But if you take into consideration the bridges in the eastern side of the city, all of them are crucial and as much crowded, be it the Bund Garden bridge, the St. Mira's College Bridge, or even the Sangam bridge.

Each bridge has its own personality, and its own kind of commuters. Some will have heavy traffic, while others will mostly be used by pedestrians. Some have a kind of leisure around them, like the Z Bridge. Perhaps it's the structure of the bridge that goes winding from one end to the other. But if you walk on the Z Bridge, you almost always believe that you have come for a leisurely walk round the city and are in danger of forgetting the work at hand. In the evening especially, you'll see couples sitting at every nook and corner, college groups having fun, elderly folks enjoying their evening walk. Even dogs on this bridge will have the time of their life and you'll find them either sleeping or loitering around doing nothing of importance, just nosing around pretending to be busy.

But Mhatre Pul or Koregaon Park bridge are quite the opposite. Both are overflowing with office-going folks. Koregaon Park bridge will carry mostly upper, affluent class commuters, mostly working in IT companies, seemingly always busy to get to work (never in time to go back home), not bothering to even glance around and see the water flowing under the bridge, or the dhobis at work at the dhobi ghaat. But Mhatre Pul connects mostly middle class office-goers, a lot of them also workers in small companies, making ends meet. They too might not have the time to look at the bridge at work or the water below the bridge. But their minds are perhaps full of day-to-day problems of buying new dresses for their daughters or getting new toys for their sons.

Balgandharva Bridge has its own story to tell. Early mornings it will usually see the morning "walkers" eager to stay fit. Around ten in the morning, you'll see rickshaws carrying school kids. While some kids go by rickshaw, some others prefer their cyles, while some others are dropped by their parents. As the day progresses, it might have got a deserted look, had it not connected the peth and old city area to the new JM Road, Shivaji Nagar area. Evenings you will find a lot of people sitting on the pavement blocks, enjoying the sunset and the calm and cool breeze. I have always noticed that the west side of the bridge is always more crowded in the evening than the east side. And I really haven't understood why.
These bridges make a great skyline for Pune. Apart from connecting the different parts of the cities, they are an integral part of our day-to-day lives. It's on these bridges that you'll find bhel and ice cream stalls, chane-dane gadis, bhutta-walas, kulfi-walas, even fishmongers. It's on these different bridges we might have loitered around in the evenings with our college groups. It's from these bridges that we see the swelling waters of Mula-Mutha in rains and curse the dirty waters the rest of the year. It's from these bridges that we witness the yearly Ganpati emersion procession. It's from these bridges that we enjoy the Diwali fireworks. It's from these bridges that we have connected to the world.

The next time you cross them, don't forget to stop for a moment, and look down to see how much water has passed under the bridges.


  1. There are so many Puls in Pune no? Nice write up. Next time I will try spending some time on Bal Gandharva bridge.
    And yeah, Pune has many gates too. Another post on that?

  2. "Evenings you will find a lot of people sitting on the pavement blocks, *enjoying the sunset* and the calm and cool breeze. I have always noticed that the west side of the bridge is always more crowded in the evening than the east side. And I really haven't understood why."
    You have the answer in your own previous statement, Peeves, you dummy!

  3. Thanks, ~G. Aaah! Gates...hmmm, interesting. I'll have to first personally visit them all. Only then will I be able to write about them. Surely will try. :) Thanks again, for the idea. :)

    simplypallu, I should have been clearer when I mentioned that. :D I should have said that even after the sunset the western side is more crowded than the eastern. But thanks for catching that. :P

  4. I didn't mean to 'catch' that! Just thought you were missing your own point like I do sometimes :P
    So, could it be because they can see stuff / other people from the western side of the bridge below? Isn't it where the chowpatti-type setting has come up in the past few years? Or am I completely out-of-touch and should visit that part of town to remember?

  5. Yeah, that is true, simplypallu. It's from the western side that you can view the chowpatti-type setting, all lights in the distance. Naah, you remember it right. That's where it's come up now. I guess the western side is more happening. ;)