Cars zoom on North Main Road in Koregaon Park and two-wheelers sway and straighten as they weave their way through. Pedestrians dart across the road negotiating the chaos. Not much seems to have changed in one of the most elite areas of Pune where peace was shattered four years ago. The scars are not evident at Koregaon Park, popular as KP. A closer scrutiny reveals that it’s not exactly business as usual.
In Lane number 1, a few metres from German Bakery is a small stall selling popular Osho chappals. Ravindra Vasant Albela, who has been running the stall for the last 35 years was standing next to the bakery on February 13, 2010 when the bomb went off.
“Within minutes, there was smoke. I could see injured people emerging from the smoke. I helped a few of them to board rickshaws to reach the hospital,” says Albela, and adds that after the blast he was asked to shift his stall to Lane 3 for nine months, where his business dropped drastically. “Even though we shifted the stall back to Lane 1 later, our earnings didn’t improve. It has decreased by half.”
Opposite Albela’s stall Anand Babu Jagariya sells embroidered bags, wall hangings and Osho gowns, which are quite popular with visitors to the Osho Meditation Resort, especially from abroad. “After the blast, the number of foreigners visiting the area dropped and so did our income. There’s almost no sale on weekdays. I don’t think things will improve in the coming few years,” says Jagariya, who has been running the shop for 20 years now.
Ganesh Jamdade who sells handicraft and Arsheed Langoo, who runs Happy Heart that sells Kashmiri shawls, jewellery and handicraft agree that sales have dipped sharply, a sentiment echoed by other shopkeepers.
“In 1990 we shifted our shop from Boat Club Road to KP. Business simply touched the sky due to influx of foreigners and NRIs. But after the blast, it deteriorated. Income has been reduced by around 70 per cent,” says Jamdade.
Business has certainly crashed in KP. In contrast, residents of the area do not feel that there has been any drastic change in their lives. Kamal Dubey has been living in KP since 1987 in a bungalow a kilometre from German Bakery. He says, “One change quite visible is a lot of security officials. Otherwise, not much has changed.”
Shubham Sutar (22), a regular at German Bakery, says the bakery has lost its old-world charm after the blast. The bakery had a simpler look before the blast and he says it was more appealing to him than the renovated version. As far as KP area is concerned, he says, “It has become quite restricted now, there are cops roaming around all the time. During Christmas, we are not allowed to even enter the lane of Osho Meditation Resort. It wasn’t like that before.”
Though most shopkeepers say that there has been a fall in number of foreigners visiting the area, Ma Sadhana, managing team member at Osho Meditation Resort — run by followers of Acharya Rajneesh — disagrees, “Yes there was a drop initially for about a year, but it picked up. Now it’s back to usual. The place has a floating population; people come here for meditation course and leave.”
However, despite the slump in sales people are optimistic. “I am sure things will change for the better soon. Life has changed, not come to a halt,” says Langoo.
And then there are those who learned from the blast. Albela has become more cautious and keeps a close watch on anything suspicious. “If I find any vehicle or goods unattended for unusually long, I immediately inform police,” he says.