Maharashtra: Flocking for food to Kondhe

From a terror hub to a food hub, Pune’s eastern suburb has undergone a transformation

Maharashtra: Flocking for food to Kondhe

Nadeem Inamdar

Pune’s eastern suburb of Kondhe draws foodies in droves during the month of Ramzan for the same reason people flock to Old Delhi around this time. This is the only time when a variety of gastronomic delights are available from pre-dawn hours till late in the night and there is no way people in Pune would miss out on some of the all-time favourites like Khichda, Kebabs, Mal Pua, Falooda, Samosas, Chicken Tandoori, Biryani, Korma, Kheema, Tunde Kabab, Afghani Paya and Turkish Shawarma.

Catering had suffered during the last two years due to the pandemic and the lockdown. But this year is witnessing unprecedented rush of people, acknowledges Sharif Shaikh, managing director of a catering company in Pune. The eatery run by Sharif caterers is spread over 10,000 square feet area in Kausar Baug and brings families together during this food festival.

“Most of my clientele are non-Muslims who prefer Halal and high quality non vegetarian food and also sweet dishes like bread ka Mitha , Falooda, Kulfi and Malpua. These food items are not available throughout the year and only during Ramadan do the citizens get to enjoy these delicacies,” he explains.

Kothrud resident Madhukar Velankar claimed, “I make it a point to visit Kausar Baug at least for ten days during Ramazan with my family. I prefer Chicken Korma and Dum Biryani while my family members enjoy Russian Kebabs, chicken cutlets and sweetmeats.”

Laxmi Kshirsagar, a resident of Viman Nagar admitted, “Without having Iftar items with my Muslim friends, I feel like my Ramazan isn't complete. Food brings all the communities together and is a fitting response to those who make food an issue for politics,” she added.

The Muslim dominated area of Kondhwa was once derided as a terror hub and as ‘mini Pakistan’. But the large number of non-Muslim families, youngsters, women and children happily sampling food is a pointer to its transformation.

Kondhwa spread over a 32 sq km area hosts a Muslim population of over four lakhs. The area was known for cheap housing projects in the 1990’s. Alarge number of Muslim students from Western Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada regions who came to Pune to study eventually settled in the area adding to its cosmopolitan nature.

“It is one of the most cosmopolitan suburbs of Pune known for rich and varied food which is not found elsewhere in the entire Pune. People here are welcoming and warm,” endorses Velankar, a frequent visitor.

Dr Anwar Shaikh, an educationist,says, “The area has become cosmopolitan over the years and people of all caste, creed and culture prefer to come to Kondhwa to have night food and soak in the Ramazan ambience.” Social worker Salim Mulla concurs. “Better amenities have enhanced the quality of life for the residents. Better schools,sanitation, drinking water and electricity supply demanded by people with higher income have led to improved living conditions.”

Till a decade ago, if anything happened in the city, there would be a call from the DG office inquiring whether Kondhwa was peaceful, recalls a retired police officer. Today, it is one of the most peaceful areas in Pune.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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