- Feb 18, 2010
blog by john b /itimes/ all credits to him only
I landed in Pune in the summer of ‘96. Pune, because for most NRI families, it’s almost like the favourite option for their kids to do their further studies. With the AFMC & a dozen other reputed Medical colleges, and some 150 Engineering colleges (no kidding), not to forget Symbiosis for the MBA aspirants, IFTI for the drama queens and kings, and enough law schools to produce over thousands of highly paid liars every year, this was the place to buy books. And get your degree, of course.
I spent a whole 6 years in the city – finishing my graduation before heading to Bombay in 2002 in my ‘search for freedom’ (I just wanted to get out of the family scenario). Even then, it was Pune that I came back to, every weekend, every vacation, every long drive. It was the most peaceful city I had ever seen. Pune was home. Still is, actually! The weather - beautiful between November and March. The monsoons in Pune - breathtaking. The greens, the roads, the lovely Irani breakfast joints that open at 5 am, the drives to Lonavla-Khandala had become habits by the time I turned adult. Among all this, was my favourite breakfast joint – the German Bakery. Though we called it a breakfast joint, the time to walk in could be anything between 11am and 7pm, depending on when we woke up, and what we wanted to eat. If you asked me, I’d swear by their cheese-mushroom omelettes, their fresh juices, their blueberry cheesecake, and of course, the coffee.
Though we jokingly called everybody Bahadur there, Gokul was our favourite. If he saw us, he’d make sure he’d wait our table. It was no fancy joint. You had to go in and place your orders at the counter, and someone would then find you around the place to serve you. Whether you came in a merc, or on a scooter, you had no VIP sections here. There were uneven wooden benches that would help you find space for half your backside, and tables with just about enough space to help you keep your breakfast for 5 without anything falling off.
Rustic, authentic and a very real down to earth experience for probably the healthiest food you’d ever eat.
You’d find some noisy college kids, some IT guys working close by, some entrepreneurs who have their studios/shops in Koregaon Park & more than half the patrons would be maroon-clad foreigners from the nearby Osho Ashram who’d come over to read a few books while sipping on their coffee. Everybody minding their own business, everybody in their own ‘space’, one way or another. This was one place known for the tranquility and peace you found while grabbing that all important calorific meal.
So when I got word last weekend, that there was an explosion at German Bakery (all my frnds had taken for granted I’d hv been there if I was in Pune, but I was in Delhi) I almost took it as a certainty that it was an LPG blast or something. I was wrong.
“The material used for the explosive was a combination of RDX, Ammonium Nitrate and Petroleum hydrocarbon oil”, said the Pune Police Commissioner. People were having chai, cigarettes & burgers when a combination of RDX, Ammonium Nitrate and petroleum hydrocarbon oil exploded, leaving blood, flesh and bones in a place nobody thought would ever be a bomb target.
I think in today’s world, we are beyond the ‘WHY’s of such an incident. Some things just have no reason anymore. Some people actually thought it was the right thing to do.
Today my brother tells me Gokul also died. He served food to people for over 10 years at GB, the place he lived for, turned out being his tomb too. As dark and depressing as it may sound, I’ll never see him serving coffee again. And he did not deserve it. But who do we reason that with? The Indian Mujahideen? Has anybody tried talking to them? The Al Qaeda? Anybody tried them? The intelligence and security forces of the country? Anybody wanna ask how useless they are? The Shiv Sena? Im sure the Thakerays have a grand story for this too which will end in “hence SRK shud be sent to Pakistan!!!”… but let me not digress.
My home has had its peace destroyed. My friends have died. My people are terrified, and I still have no answers. No ‘reason’ or justification to tell me WHY Gokul had to die with 9 others. I know just this, that I shall go back to the German Bakery real soon, and say a prayer for all those affected, and of course, pray for justice. Just like when Bombay was shaken. But not the kind of justice that keeps Kasab alive more than a year after he killed a few hundred people in Bombay and shattered thousands of lives…But a new justice system – an eye for an eye – cos now I don’t care if we all go blind.