Cities are known to collectively respond to landmarks, something that bears testimony to the fact that inanimate things also trigger emotions when they are an intrinsic part of one’s life. The railway over-bridge is closed from today and the city has just gasped together in disbelief. Not until very long ago, the term bridge meant only this one, although Gandhinagar also had one. Now that there is another, we’re still confused what to call which. There is utter chaos in the city right now and people from the Southern parts panicked to reach out to the business part of the North. The alternatives, viz. the new Kapileshwar bridge, the Fulbag galli railway gate, first and second railway gate are all jammed. I could personally see auto drivers and motorists getting into fisticuffs. Since there is already minimal civic sense, matter have turned worse, especially on the first day.
But then seeing the barricades at Basveshwar Circle, prohibiting vehicles from embarking on the old bridge brought gushes of old memories.
We, the people of Shahapur, always referred to the Business part of the city as Belagavi ( for we were in Shahapur). Any mention of you visiting the other end would invariably be combined with ‘are going from inside or outside’ which meant from the Kapileshwar gate or the bridge. The former was a longer commute but took less effort while the latter meant getting stuck when a train arrived. The bridge was a metaphor for connecting the home and work, which also included schools. At a time when Mangal Metal works was being built and soon after that, when there was no cross road drains built to drain out the storm waters, the monsoons brought heavy torrents of water from one side to the other. We would gauge the intensity of the rains with that.
The only major landmark was the Maruti temple, later joined by the Raghavendra Swami matha, which would also submerge right until a few steps leading to the Vrindavan. The small puddle besides the tracks would swell and look like a lake, replete with waves. As with most British era bridges, this one is also crooked. The elevation from the suburbs towards the city is longer while it is steeper coming from the city towards Goaves. This meant we would huff and puff both ways, pedaling to our schools and back on cycles. But the journey back home meant we could just slide without any effort on the decline. The walls at the middle would see election symbols while the railings have never quite changed in height for years.
The bridge looked different from below, seen only while travelling in trains. It looked another way from the Congress road, lights of vehicles glimmering at night. Inspite of its traffic, this bridge always comes across as melancholy, sporting a forlorn look, quite snobbish (could be a British trait ! ) and generally disconnected while just being there.
It has been many years since the experts have been worrying about its strength. However, one can hardly understand why the hurry to reconstruct when alternatives are not in shape. With the PB Road bridge still not complete and mostly to take a few more months, the three railway gates always crammed to capacity with dozens of trains plying, the Kapileshwar bridge too feeble to handle this mad rush, how will the citizens stay sane? Some things that come to mind after witnessing the pandemonium today, twice- Deputing traffic cops to first ensure no lane crossing. That bad habit is the root cause of all traffic jams and Belagavi people are notorious to encroach on the other side all the time.
If this is a test, to stop it till the P.B. Road bridge is ready. Clear the roads of all encroachments, haphazardly parked vehicles blocking small streets, limiting entry of trucks during busy hours and encouraging people to use vehicles only when necessary could be some minor measures. Can’t imagine what will ensue in the festival season.
The city has grown too big and people are too busy to suffer this for too long.