After spending my whole life in Pune, I moved to Anuppur last year. It is one of the easternmost districts of Madhya Pradesh bordering Chhattisgarh with a population of 7.5 lakhs as per the 2011 census. This district was formed in 2003, and is mainly a hilly region that mostly consists of tribal population. This is what Wikipedia tells you, now let me describe Anuppur as I have seen and experienced it.
When I initially came here, I was amazed by the good quality of roads to navigate through the small and big lanes. I was naive enough to think that small towns would have rocks instead of roads. However, they are well-maintained and even have proper sidewalks in some places. A few corners of the town became more noticeable in the quiet and serene moments, specially at night. While growing up and living in Pune, a bigger and busier city, I felt that these things went unobserved.
The Pune I know
In the recent years, Pune has started to resemble the neighbouring big brother city of Mumbai. Every hour of the day looks busy in certain pockets. I relish on the 4 AM poha and chai stalls at several crossroads in the city. I also enjoy the all night food trucks selling Maggi, hot beverages, pav dishes such as Vada Pav, Misal Pav, and Bhajiya Pav. It is calming to witness people’s devotion to visit Dagdusheth temple from far and wide, in the wee hours of early morning, to attend the first aarti of the day.
People, especially the locals, follow certain traditions and usually have a fixed schedule. In some of the older parts of the city, the residents including shopkeepers shut down everything in the afternoons from 1 PM to 4 PM, for the ultimate purpose of rest. Visitors are often surprised and irritated as to how a city like this can stop in the middle of the day just to take a break. But I think it comes from a place of respect for themselves and for their work.
The Anuppur I know
Here, the garbage trucks that roam around the streets, are a highlight for me. They serve an excellent purpose of collecting and segregating waste. On top of that, they play a couple of songs to send a message for people to come out of their houses with their garbage bags. It also helps serve the purpose of spreading awareness about cleanliness. One of these songs goes like this:
“कागज़ के टुकड़े में ये अपने दुखड़े
प्लास्टिक बेकार पड़ी यूँ न पोलिथिन रखो
घर मे डस्टबिन रखो, एक दो तीन रखो
कुछ सूखे कुछ गीले अलग अलग कचरे रखो
टूटे काँच कील अपने घर ना खतरे रखो
देख देख देख कचरा यूँ न कहीं फेंक
देख खुद के तन की करना है खुद को देख-भाल
तो का करे भैया?
गाड़ी वाला आया घर से कचरा निकाल…
गाडी वाला आया घर से कचड़ा निकाल…”
Every morning when I hear this song from a distance, I immediately pick up my dustbin and wait near my gate so that I don’t miss the Gaadi wala. Here are a couple of more things I see everyday…
While living in Pune, my garbage used to be collected right from my doorstep. This is irrespective of you living on the first floor or the 20th floor of a building. One just has to place the dustbin outside one’s apartment and the cleaning person will come to collect it for everyone. For a long time, I hadn’t even seen the face of this person or knew their name. After collecting the garbage, they put it in a truck that comes around noon time in my locality. This is one major difference I saw between Pune and Anuppur.
Differences Observed Between Pune And Anuppur
In Anuppur, I felt that a lot of chores and errands are to be done by ourselves. For example, filling tank water, waiting for the garbage truck, buying milk, veggies and other daily items since there are no Swiggy, Zomato, Blinkit or other such delivery services. People also walk till the nearest transport hub unless they have their private vehicles. In Pune, everything is just a click away and will arrive in a few minutes. Be it a colouring book, screwdrivers, Avocados, socks or an empty spray bottle. In essence, there is no waiting time or tolerance for slow pace. “The faster I get my stuff, the more work I am able to finish in a day” is the mantra people follow.
I was enjoying the faster pace of life in Pune, and when I came to Anuppur, I had already anticipated things to become laid back. Now, after about eight months, I have started appreciating regular walks to the nearest market, a kilometre away. There I was yesterday, waiting for fresh milk to come from the ‘tabela’ (dairy farm) than buying the milk which arrived at the shop a few hours ago or even the previous day. I now cross railway tracks twice every week, as a part of my commute to buy fresh Jasmine flowers that refresh my home in Anuppur. All this waiting and walking doesn’t feel as inconvenient as it used to be in Pune, when my veggies didn’t arrive home in 15 minutes as promised by the new-age app.
Outside most homes here, you will see a ‘Kitchen Baadi’. People often grow vegetables in their backyard garden or in the area in front of their house. I have seen them grow potatoes, green chilli, tomatoes, curry leaves, coriander leaves, spinach, lauki (bottle gourd) and green peas. It’s a common practice.
Thoughts And Realizations
It has been refreshing to live in a smaller city where I hardly hear someone saying “I’m busy”. Not that they are free all the time but they know better to prioritise. However, Pune is different, and it would be ideal if I am regularly able to oscillate between the two. I am grateful that at least, it seems like a possible outcome and not a distant reality.
I’ve learnt that living in different kind of places with varied demographics among different people makes you understand yourself better. If I hadn’t moved to Anuppur, I would’ve never known that sometimes, I love and need the quiet life too. At the same time, I’m also aware that I will be a city girl always and would occasionally, like to move in different kinds of spaces.
Initially, there was a reluctance to change but making small twists have helped me grow so much that now, I can’t stop recommending my friends in Pune (and other big cities) to move to a smaller, quieter town even if for a short time. It might change your perspective on life. Eventually, it might give you a chance to pause, reflect and play again.