Pune is abuzz with a new civic concept called ‘Happy Streets.’ This of course is a figure of speech, a transferred epithet, i.e. the streets are not happy -- you are. One could extend the analogy to say that you, in some way contribute to making the streets ‘happy.’
So like the NoMoZo which was held very successfully years back in Panjim and Vasco, ‘Happy Streets’ cordons off a street every Sunday for fun-filled activities for 3 hours between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. The effort to reclaim the roads – a Times of India initiative -- is laudable except for the sometimes dank weather. In Goa the NoMoZo was from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ‘Sun’day where the sun itself seemed to step out on the streets to play ball!
‘Happy Streets’ has been carefully steered away from Main Street, Pune --where there was a similar move earlier -- following objections from shop owners complaining that it affected business. Tucked away in Kalyani Nagar ‘Happy Streets’ features zumba, yoga and aerobics, rent-free bicycles and a live musical jamming corner. There is even a ‘Bachpan gully’ where one can relive childhood games like hopscotch, marbles or pitthu. What fun it would be to sail those paper boats, those kagaz ki kashti in the puddles by the wayside!* ‘Happy Streets’ is also a drive to clamp down on needless noise pollution created by mindless motorists and ‘to improve the quality of life in the city.’
In Mumbai with the proposed move to annex the verdant Aarey Milk colony green cover for a (hideous) parking shed for metro rail -- which would mean the hacking down of 2298 trees -- they seem to be doing just the opposite. It was here that I romanced Queenie --we even took a brief boat ride in the lake at Chotta Kashmir searching for the words to say. The place made its way into a poem of mine, eulogizing the spirit of Mumbai with its well-designated breathing spaces. Putting streets here would only tilt the balance against us. Let’s preserve the ‘quiet, wet green’ at #SaveAarey the mass tweet campaign.
It was on the streets that 82-year old veteran Pansare was shot down in nearby Kolhapur last month. Dabholkar was shot in the streets of Pune in 2013. The cases have not been solved. Like the overcoat that is stolen from the simple clerk Akaky Akakeivich on his way home in Gogol’s story ‘The Overcoat,’—and who dies later -- death did not spare critic Boris Nemtsov who was gunned down on the street outside the Kremlin around last week.
*Song on childhood sung by ghazal singer Jagjit Singh; pix of 'Dream Streets' by Gandha Key inspired by Jorge Luis Borges' poem 'Daybreak' - courtesy britishphotohistory; published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on 8 March 2015.