Tag Archives: Tadiwala Road

Results declared

At last the elections are over. In our ward, Shakuntala finished behind the Congress candidate, who was re-elected.

India is proud to be the world’s largest democracy. And these local elections are taken seriously, especially in economically deprived areas like Tadiwala Road. While allegations of malpractice surface from time to time, the elections are generally expected to be ‘free and fair’. And despite dodgy voter inducements such as illegal cash payments, or even bizarre supposedly legal ‘incentive’ schemes, people generally accept the results once they have been announced.

The Congress party workers were certainly celebrating. They set up some huge loudspeakers and partied away with dancing, fireworks, paint-throwing and all that tamasha. I spotted a vehicle pulling up just near to the DGS office. Out jumped a couple of Congress workers, who soon unloaded bottles of Kingfisher Strong beer (‘strong is wrong’ – I know from painful experience) and several pegs of whisky. Time for a party. They must have spent a fair few rupees on hiring those speakers; the monotonous pounding music was driving us nuts. And then suddenly, it stopped.

Peace at last! Excellent.

It turns out that a fight had broken out. A few hooligans were chasing each other up the road wielding big sticks. Hence no more music. Things are back to normal now, and Tadiwala Road has reverted to its regular status of what I’d call ‘chaotic harmony’… There’s rarely a dull moment around here.

Election Time

The civic elections are taking place in Pune right now. It’s a big deal. Political rallies are taking place all over the city and Tadiwala Road is no exception. You can’t go two minutes without seeing (or hearing) an autorickshaw kitted out with loudspeakers, blaring out pre-recorded campaign slogans or giving a mobile platform for one party or other.

Shakuntala – one of the DISHA team – is standing as a candidate. I hope she wins. Her compaign HQ is set up just outside my building. Perhaps if she’s successful we can arrange an Evita-style reception from my balcony…

Many of the rallies pass along the path outside my flat. Of course, as soon as they see Shaku’s HQ they up the volume. This gets a little trying after a while.

All this excitement will continue until 1st February, when the voters go to the polls. Afterwards there’ll be a few celebrations, and then perhaps things will get back to normal. And believe me, ‘normal’ is still pretty interesting around here.

I was in Mumbai over the weekend and they’ve taken the dramatic step of banning liquor sales during the election period to try and cut campaign-related trouble. A newspaper report I read on Saturday quoted an anonymous political leader saying they’d prepared for this by stocking up on booze in advance in order to keep party workers going during the gruelling campaign. I wonder if they’ll win.

World AIDS Day: wear your ribbons

Today – 1 December – is World AIDS Day. Given all the work going on with DISHA and Wake Up Pune, that’s a big deal.

This time last year DISHA organised an event called ‘Celebration of Life’. It was about bringing together the local community to be positive about HIV/AIDS, to remember that HIV is not the end, and that people living with HIV should be treated with dignity and respect rather than stigma and discrimination. In the morning we had a rally around the area, with local schools and community groups joining in. Then in the evening, there was a stage show – with plenty of laser lights and dry ice for added atmosphere – featuring dances, songs, street plays, positive speakers and all that jazz. It was fabulous. More than 3000 members of the Tadiwala Road community attended. Not that they could really stay away, since it was held slap bang in the middle of the slum.

This year – tied in with of Wake Up Pune – we’d lined up Celebration of Life 2006, even bigger and better than last year. Unfortunately, the event has been postponed. The cause: violent unrest in Maharashtra.

A couple of days ago, a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar was vandalised in Kanpur, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Dr Ambedkar was a major figure in the Indian freedom struggle, a brilliant mind (he framed the Indian constitution and served as independent India’s first Law Minister) and a hero to the Dalits – the so-called ‘untouchables’, of whom he was one. Dr Ambedkar was a champion of the oppressed, and in many hutments in Tadiwala Road you’ll see a picture of him on the wall.

As a reaction to the vandalism, there have been violent protests all over Maharashtra. Pune is no exception. “Normal life was thrown out of gear as Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal transport buses went off the roads for a major part of the day. Angry mobs continued to damage buses, cars, other private vehicles and shops.” (Maharashtra Herald, 1 December)

I don’t think Dr Ambedkar believed in this kind of violence. But tensions run high, and at the moment there are a lot of ‘offended sentiments’. I don’t know whether this bloody unrest is solely a reaction to the original vandalism, or is in fact a symptom of the wider issues of marginalisation and alienation in the community. Perhaps people just enjoy a good riot.

Anyway, for the time being, the Celebration of Life is off. It’s important to be sensitive to the local population – as Hans puts it, any kind of ‘celebration’ would be inappropriate at this time. As for the rally, people might get confused what it was about. I saw a rally going round Tadiwala Road yesterday evening and they definitely weren’t celebrating anything.

Things seem better today though: some of the local shops have raised their shutters, and rickshaws are plying the roads again. Usually, these things blow over in a few days.

How blasé we can become.

Folks: please wear your ribbons for World AIDS Day and show your support for the cause.

Tadiwala Road…from the air

Here’s an aerial photograph of the Tadiwala Road area.

The dark blue line runs along the 1km length of Tadiwala Road, right up to the river. You can easly spot the densely-packed slum areas. Approximately 30,000 people live here.

The green dot shows the location of Deep Griha Society’s Family Welfare Centre. The red dot marks the block of flats where I stay, just a minute’s walk away.

At the south end of the picture you can Pune’s finest hotel – Le Meridien – which has just hosted Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for a few weeks whilst they’ve been shooting in the city. The media went crazy.

The light blue line shows Boat Club Road, one of the most exlusive addresses in town. It’s a little leafier around there.

As you can see, the slum-dwellers (average income, Rs1000 per month) live almost side-by-side with people who can afford property at Rs2500 per square foot, or a hotel room at $150 (Rs6800) per night.

Interesting na?