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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Edition 5: Pune city in 2000s

In came 90s… with a lot of political uncertainty with eras of VP Singh, Devilal and Chandrasekhar. The assassination of Rajiv Gandhi resulted into the congress being headed by the shrewd PV Narasimha Rao. The economy then was in such a state that Manmohan Singh had no alternative but to liberalize. Though Mr PV Narasimha Rao is not given enough credit, most keen observers in politics would agree that this liberalization would not have been possible under anyone else's leadership.
Liberalization came in; in came the MNCs, Brands, Cars, TV Channels. India was now exposed to world. The era of Multiple channels began…..
I remember the craze for Bold & Beautiful, Baywatch etc... Zee T.V and Star exploded on the Indian screen with an array of programs that left the Indian audiences glued to their seats .Bollywood top ten, soap operas, reality shows, cookery shows…to name a few….programs which, till date, we are all addicted to.
In mid 90s to late 90s Pune got a taste of MacDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dominos and many such western brands. Colleges, mainly Engg, medical and MBA, started mushrooming and many outsiders started sending their children to study in Pune. I meanwhile did the reverse migration- going out from Pune for education! I thus lost the everyday experience of Pune in 90s till 01. But I was either a vacationer or weekender throughout this span..so all was not lost ;) ……Thus every vacation visit resulted in finding new changes. MG Road and Deccan was now the hangout for these collegians. Flats in Kothrud, aundh etc were shared by this crowd. These 'hostelites' acted as role model for 'citilities' (COEP term for students having homes in the city and living with their families). Intercollegiate drama fests etc attracted more intensity, sponsorship, participation and interest. Ganesh festival, for which Pune was once renowned for… went from bad to worse with rising noise and pollution levels and unrestricted crowds. This is the time there was all-round development in adjoining areas like Kondhwa, wanowrie, kalyani Nagar, Viman Nagar, Vishrantwadi. These areas had mainly cosmopolitan look and feel.
On the IT front by early 90s a few software companies really got push from Y2k, early to mid 90s were formation years and by mid 90s we had a strong body-shopping model. Everyone had US dreams. Earlier only IIT/COEP crowd used the US dream route through scholarships. But now companies started sending bodies to the US and every second IT home had someone in the US.US grooms were the 'in' thing in the marriage market and in demand!.
Then the Cars started rolling in…. Maruti 800 was height of status till early and mid 90s. In came Santro, Zen, Cielo, Esteem,Lancer. Two wheelers came in with more than 100 cc power. Small scooters with terrorist like clad females riding them were a common sight. Cycles started vanishing. With all the vehicles above the one thing that remained constant were the roads.
Then entered the opium of the masses: Mobile phones. Having a cell phone was height of self importance. Rates were Rs16/ min outgoing and Rs8 incoming (Yes.. Incoming was chargeable!) and cost of handset was 15 to 70 k with those bulky to bulkier models.
Mumbai- Pune AC coaches were introduced by Metrolink. But road travel was still messy. I was stuck many a times for the whole night in such buses. Migration from Peth areas to kothrud was not complete.
Thus in Kothrud and aundh societies were the in things. Big builders got bigger. Many big schemes were planned which materialized by end of 90s like woodlands, Karishma, swapnashilp, girija shankar, parisar.Kothrud was designated the fastest growing suburb in Asia! Hotels started mushrooming on J M road. Dhabas on the outskirts of Pune got popular. Chandani chowk got prominence. Sinhagad got accessible with more vehicles. At the advent of rains people started flocking there. Lonavala, Mahableshwar, Alibaug, Konkan etc. became popular weekend getaways. The first Pub in Pune Ten Downing Street, better known as TDS opened up followed by Scooba Do and Totem Pole. Camp was ultra modern with fancy shops, branded stores. Cinema was still single screen with Rahul, Westend, Alka and Mangala amongst the top. Cinema turned romantic from action in this period. Yashraj scored hot with Darr, DDLJ. Hum Apke Hai Koun was a phenomenon. The Khans-Aamir, Shahrukh and Salman happened to the silver screen. Songs, item numbers and choreo-graphers gained importance. Films were being made with NRI markets in mind.
It is in late 90s that companies started making Big in Pune. Industrial belt of PCMC went through a crisis in mid 90s but recovered thanks to the Indica project which took off in late 90s. Plus companies innovated in energy, biotech etc. In mid 90s lot of core engineers shifted to IT. There was a craze to do SAP. Hinjewadi became operational by late 90s. Expressway was inaugurated in 00 and that marked another phase of Pune of the new millennium.
If 80s were meant to preserve Pune of the old,with a small window of growth in mid 80s, 90s meant change throughout and all around. It was the beginning of the End of the old time charm of Pune and the ringing in of a new Pune…the New Pune which still has mixture of old habits out of nostalgia, new dynamics, resignation to change and insecurity of the future.

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