The Meetup Junctionhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/the-meetup-junction/

The Meetup Junction

The city is opening up to the idea of community spaces where they can gather to share ideas,experiences and more.

A group of people – strangers — sit talking at the backyard of architect Girish Doshi’s house opposite Fergusson College. They are not exchanging pleasantries but discussing experiences,past relationships,opinions and ideas. When one feels hungry,he just walks over to a dining table and picks from a fruit laid out there while the conversations continue uninterrupted. At Road,Room Open to Art and Design,the scene is not unfamiliar.

In fact,though the settings might be different – a living room,the loft at a century-old house,a café,a centre – the city is seeing many such scenes where people from various walks of life come together to share and enjoy community.

“The experience at such a space where people can interact freely and without fear is unlike any other activity that one engages in for unwinding. This is unlike going to a multiplex and watching a film,where there is no interaction. It’s a place where one is able to vent feelings,talk about common interests,view and appreciate art along with others,” says Doshi,who started Road about a decade ago and has seen the need for it grow more intense over the years.

The Loft in Camp has individuals and groups who are doing outstanding work in their fields by giving them an opportunity to share their journeys and work. The hope is that through such sharing mutual learning and dialogue can take place.

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Neha Mathrani,in-charge of Open Space — which was among the pioneers of a community space for movie screenings,discussions,book readings and workshops – agrees that it is essential for the city to have places where two-way interactions are possible. “Much before I started working with Open Space,I used to hang around in their property while I was still in college. It was important for me to be in a place where I could plug in even if it meant just picking up a book available there and reading,” says Mathrani.

While the first three have been around for several years,there are new places that have come up recently and are built on the same ideas. Opened in May this year,The Cultural Centre (TCC) in Mundhwa also holds workshops and movie screenings that are open for all. The principle is again the same: bring people together in shared activities. “On Saturday,we had a multi-cultural pot luck and there inevitably was a discussion about cultures. On other occasions we have had political discussions and so on. And we are working towards making our space a place where people can just come and be,” says Milan Pal,managing director of Percolate,which has initiated TCC.

Vishal and Sneha Pipraiya’s two-month-old venture – Pagdandi – is pitched as a library,café and social space. “Before Sneha and I decided to settle in Pune,we travelled extensively across the country. And we came across a lot of places,where travellers would come together,share stories,share things,help each other. Here,though,we missed that,” says Vishal,adding that they have workshops,book readings and other such events.

Vishal feels that the relevance of such spaces in the city has grown exponentially because of the influx of people from other states and countries. “When people are away from home,they feel the need to connect with others and so they seek out places such as ours where there can be more than just entertainment or food,” he says.

Mathrani,on the other hand,feels that such spaces are essential for fearless expression.