On 26 January 2017, a Nature Trail was organized for students at Pashan Lake.
Nature Trails are a part of the project for awareness about urban ecosystems and bird education taken up through Garden Dept and Indradhanushya, and being implemented by CEE along with Ecological Society and others.
The trail and onsite activities on 26 January were arranged for 30 students from Tara Mobile Creche. Students have been given a specially designed ‘nature observation notebook’.
The trail and activities were conducted by educators from CEE, Ecological Society as well as the nature educators oriented last month.
Painted by Anusha last week, on a nostalgic warm summer evening with cool jazz and dark chocolate …remembering our life and times at the old house in Aundhgaon … parties at John’s place, the red ants in the compost pots on the terrace, the drumstick tree in the neighbour’s house and the crows that nested there regularly.
The correct place for this painting is the Sparrows story.
Time seems to have stopped here. This patch of green in the heart of the city is contiguous with Bel Bagh, which is like a sacred grove. There were several gardens in the old city … Hirabagh, Vishrambagh, Ramanbagh, Tulshibagh etc., which now have only shops and buildings. The old houses in Jogeshwari Lane are mostly gone, and tall buildings now surround Hematai’s patch of green, where she lives with her brother, Suhasji. She says, “I was born here and have been living in this house since 1940. With these new constructions around, my house is now a fortress!” Dr Hema Sane was the first woman lecturer of Botany in Pune, in 1962. She retired in 2000, as Head of Dept of Botany, Garware College. She is also an M Phil in Indology. She has authored several textbooks, monographs, scripts and popular articles on plants in and around Pune. Talking about the changing biodiversity of Pune, Hematai says, “Dr Vartak would lead nature walks for studying and collecting plant specimens in the Mutha river bed. Even up to the 80s we would find a couple of species of orchids there. They are gone now.” About her own life and her house, she says, “My life is rich not with things, but with my experiences and my friends, these trees, Rangutai the cat, and the birds. Another thing I cannot live without is music which my radio brings me.”
These photographs were taken as part of the ‘Living in a Changing Environment‘ photography workshop conducted in Pune by Prof Stefan Koppelkamm and Mr Peeyush Sekhsaria, and organized by Max Mueller Bhavan, Pune and Maharashtra Cultural Centre.
The exhibition unites twelve personal perspectives of the city of Pune. Some of the photographers take you on a discovery tour to places which contribute to the identity of their city threatened by the dynamics of urban development and neglect. Others take a critical look at the ubiquitous billboards which dominate the appearance of large parts of the city and at the new urban lifestyle symbolized by glass and concrete buildings which are neither adapted to the climate nor to the architectural and cultural context. The photographers hope that this exhibition will make a visual contribution to a discussion about the future of their city – a discussion they feel is necessary and urgent.
The photo-exhibition is the result of a week-long workshop conducted by Stefan Koppelkamm and architect and photographer Peeyush Sekhsaria. Stefan conducted the Places I Like photography workshop in Bangalore in August 2009, and through the facilitation of MMB Pune, we were able to have the workshop in Pune too.
For me, the photo workshop was a way of exploring the old city. We walked about Tulshibagh, Mandai, Kasba, Tambat Ali, Laxmi Road, Narayan Peth looking at paars, changing uses, buildings being pulled down, new buildings replacing old, mandirs subsumed within new buildings, deep stumbhs now standing neglected, little curving lanes, ferns on old crumbling slim red brick walls, shop signs in chalk … We also had thali lunches, nira, kairi panhe, Dharwad pedhe, hot pattice from New Poona Bakery.
Our photos capture some of this flavour and tell stories about Pune.
Pooja’s photos about the brick kilns outside Pune have a story deeper than what is immediately evident. The location of the kiln was probably a farm, now its just a piece of real estate, already sold for construction. The top soil was probably sold separately to another kiln. And so the city and the built environment expands and eats up the surrounding farm land.
Rainer captures the old and the new; physical structures of glass and chrome replace mud and straw huts though remnants of the village are still strewn about. You wonder what became of the people whose village it was. In another photo, the Bombay-Pune road is the setting for the crossing of the Wari that pre-dates the structures in the background – the British water tower and the modern glass-chrome mall. Some collective memories endure and are longer-lived than buildings.
Snehal’s photos of Taljai celebrate the green patches left in our city, though the skyline of the city just beyond tells you just how vulnerable these patches are. Sujit’s photos of shops and vendors in the old core city speak about a type of economy very much alive, vibrant and colourful – but does the key-maker or the Amrutulya know that Pune’s City Development Plan also speaks about a vibrant economy, but that it might mean a very different economy and a very different perception of ‘vibrant’. These little, ‘low-value’ economic activities have no place in the modern city which measures its success by the foot falls in the malls. Vikrant comments on the larger-than-life bill boards and their empty promises.
Arul and I have more personal yet generic stories to tell – of particular people, and the changes in the city seen through their lives. Prasad captures the dull red gleam of the Tambats’ lives. The Mandai that, with its dark, musty and mysterious light, could be a child’s ‘I Spy’ delight – Bhagyashree yearns to see it full of people and life again.
Other photos also show dilapidated structures, beautiful no doubt, but maybe unsafe? A change in land-use, and an increase in the FSI limit will decongest the old core, but de-congest it of what and for what? To replace it with more glass and chrome? Perhaps the photos can be the reason or the excuse or the backdrop for a wider dialogue on what is our city about, whose lives are at stake, and whose vision is shaping the structure of the city and the destiny of its people.
Till I was about 10 years old, I used to live in Aundhgaon, quite close to the Mula river. I used to watch the birds all the time. How birds, especially sparrows go about their business is so interesting.
One day I had this bright idea of putting a bird feeder
in the balcony with some bajra and water. For the first few days no birds came visiting. But just as I decided that I would take the feeder off, one sparrow came to the feeder and started pecking away at the bajra seeds. Then another one came…and another, and another, and another. I was so happy. Now I had to change the water and refill the bajra bowl everyday, sometimes twice a day. It was like running a restaurant!
Other birds came too, not just sparrows. Mynas, blue rock pigeons and sunbirds. The sunbirds used to come have a drink of water, and maybe a sip or two from the flowers Amma had planted in the balcony.
Watching the birds was also a great source of entertainment. They did loads of silly things. There was a small pipe jutting out of the wall of the neighboring house. One day I saw a sparrow hovering around it, probably looking for a place to build a nest. And then, the sparrow’s head got stuck in the pipe! It must’ve gotten completely gassed out by the smell in the pipe. Another sparrow was fluttering around nearby and it saw the other sparrow stuck in pipe. It started jumping on the pipe trying to get the other sparrow un-stuck. After a few minutes of jumping and pulling, the stuck-up sparrow was free.
One day my parents told me that we were shifting to a new house also in Aundh, but further from the Mula. It also meant that I had to leave my birdy-friends! I didn’t want to, but I had to. It must have been really hard for the birds to come to the bird feeder and then find no bajra and no water. I was feeling really sad and guilty for that. One of the first things I did in the new house was to look for the birds there. There weren’t many sparrows, but there were many sunbirds, ashy wren warblers, grey hornbills, fantailed flycatchers, magpie robins, red vented bulbuls and grey tits.
The birds in the new house are those found in gardens. There were more sparrows in the old house probably because there was a provision store nearby which had huge sacks of grain. Grain was usually scattered all over the place near the store, so obviously there were many sparrows hanging around. Here in the new house there are many more green trees and bushes so there are these garden-type birds. A nice and interesting contrast of birds.
Unfortunately there isn’t much place for a bird feeder, though I can still observe them. Often bulbuls nest on top of a tube light in the parking lot. I wonder how they go to sleep with the tube light on shining brightly…but they usually still manage to raise a brood properly.
The birds here are different and interesting, but I still miss the sparrows of the old house.
The reasons why we live in a particular city or a particular area in a city, or why we frequent certain places are not necessarily the same as those used by a city to attract tourists or enhance its image. Every city has places which are of no great interest to tourists, buildings that are not memorials, residential areas that are not very prestigious, but where people feel at home notwithstanding. Places that play a role in collective memory, or places linked to individual lives, places with special spatial or social qualities.
Would be lovely to have this exhibit travel to Pune.
Sujit feels it could be a powerful way to talk about ‘the city as something that people create’. A workhop (such as the one briefly described at the Goethe Institut, Bangalore site) could provide the forum to discuss how aspects such as heritage and sense of place figure in the currently ongoing process of the Development Plan of Pune — which places do we hold dear, especially in the old city, which must find pride of place in the DP, instead of being destroyed in the quest for densification/ amalgamation/ modernization.
Which are some of my favourite places?
A tap at a farm between Pashan and Baner beside the Ram Nadi. The banyan trees along the road next to Police Ground. The banyan tree on the Sus Road side of Pashan Lake. Patio at Aundh. And many more.