Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Society Named Valencia !










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“A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams”… Herb Caen.

Herb Caen was a San Francisco journalist whose daily column of local goings-on and insider gossip, social and political happenings, painful puns and offbeat anecdotes—"a continuous love letter to San Francisco"—appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle for almost sixty years & in the process has become one of the best documents on a city! Well, why I get fascinated by this quote is I do get equally fascinated with the cities & people & their vision (when I am not in forests) & before I start my sharing about one such city I visited in Spain trip, let me ask you something about our Pune city. If I say that imagine if we divert entire Mula-Mutha rivers (well, on record they are still rivers) like a ring road (ring river) from outside of the city & use that gorge (river bed or basin) of the rivers to develop as biodiversity park, jogging tracks, water bodies, public areas as well build Science Park like structures in the space; what will be your reaction? Most people will say I am mad, my NGO friends will say I showed my true colors as a builder as this is some new idea of utilizing the land under the river for buildings, media will hail it as threat to city, die hard Punekar’s will say its deleting the very identity of Pune & the list of accusations will go one but I am hundred percent sure not a single Punekar will back up my thought or will think this is ever possible! And the reason is simple because we don’t believe in dreams as we don’t has vision to see drams & then in past many such dreams (crazy the dreams may be) has been shown to us & what happened to those dreams we all have witnessed. In first place, any such dream is whim of some single person or its keeping in mind some hidden interest, so the failure is written on wall because the very purpose or aim is wrong while dreaming such dreams, may it be BRTS (well though I have shared it thousand times still its Bus Rapid Transport System) or Mono rail or HCMTR, oh yes there has been river transport named dream too; all these never became reality because it’s not just dream but you need vision to make realty  the dream what you have seen & exactly this vision is what we lack! 

Now let me tell you there is a city named Valencia in Spain which I knew nothing about except it is a historic city & a tourist place! And thanks to my forester friends who made me go there & the moment I entered in the service apartment located right in city center I was in love with Valencia! The name sounds familiar, a bit Italic  but its very Spanish & I have visited enough cities in world but after Singapore (and recent Dubai) this is the city which made me feel I should settle here (with due respect to Kanha or Corbet)! I think the best thing a city can make you is fall in love with her (just like a woman) & like in the Movie Hotel Transylvania where the Count Dracula believes in ‘the Zing” i.e. falling in love at first sight; same thing happens with places & people! Well, each of us has his or her own The Zing for places but only the lucky ones meets their Zing & I am lucky on that front with Valencia! Now you must be real curious as there are far better & scenic cities in Europe is what friends has told me but then each of us comes to know what he or she loves only when you come across that love & it has to be felt, not explained of described! One has to just feel when in that city as it’s here life would be what you wanted to be! First thing I did is threw my bags in my room & hit the road to feel the crowd & the city streets! What caught my eyes is Gothic architecture faced buildings, mostly of similar height, some seven or eight storied, lined along the roads. Cool breeze with crisp blue sky above & the cafes as well bars running all along the roads with small narrow lanes connecting main streets, shops with freshest of colored display of goods & people of all ages, gender, walking, sipping wine or coffee, laughing & the whole atmosphere was like a living dream come true! Well, now about diverting the river, in Valencia they have done it; for years the river was flowing right through the city like most cities in Europe. But then Spain is a country with mountains & vast lands with lots of rains & flooding was a big problem so the city council decided to divert the entire stretch of river passing through the city & they did it! And with the huge land available which was earlier river bed, without touching the contours of this land they have converted it in a biodiversity park (read as garden) which actually is forest or say eco system in itself. And along with forest there is a football ground & every possible use as public place. On the top of it there is Science Park & Institute of Oceanography built in it which is marvel of architecture & a center of tourist attraction as well! I walking all along this river park & seen by my own eyes & then believed dreams can be a reality, Valencia has done it! Because of time constraints I couldn’t see the Science Park from inside but even the outside & facades itself are enough to give the idea what lays inside!

Actually this single thing is enough to make Valencia unique on front of Urban Planning & City Development but it’s just one of the many aspects the city offers to its citizens. Valencia has got few of the oldest buildings in Europe which has been not only conserved but has been converted in to museums; one such is ceramic museum in a castle. Valencia has been ruled by many kings & kingdoms, even Arabs ruled it for hundreds of years & one good thing happened is every dynasty has given its culture to the city & today the city stands with blend of heritage & modern architecture! While walking through the by-lanes of the city I was comparing it with our Smart City Pune which has been tied up between a puzzle whether to conserve old charm or go one behind the development under the names of Malls & IT Parks & we have lost both! As in Valencia what I realized is focus is neither the heritage nor the development but its people around which entire planning resolves. What's most significant about Valencia is, the public places they have created everywhere by which people come together & share what they have (good things I meant)! As a society is build not with structures but by the sharing people does among them & for that we need to give them space to come together! In Valencia there is space for art, culture, performance, sports, leisure & through these spaces they have conserved heritage along with development!

Even in the old city center I was moving through lanes barely 20 ft wide & in the cluster of buildings & churches there are chowks (squares) kept open & where people does all sorts of leisure activities like painting, music groups & yes drink wine, which seems to be a national program of entire Spain! The Old Central Market has redone & now is a tourist’s attraction for shopping local goods which mostly are local agro products like jam, syrups, cookies, chocolates, sweets, clothes & souvenirs! Again images of our Phule Mandai flashed in my mind & the state that beautiful heritage building is in! Here one thing I observed about the souvenirs & that is their quality & innovation put in it; unlike just caps, tee shirts & key-chains type item, here at display was everything which you can use as household or fashion & branded with Valencia! Right from wine openers to lighters, they have tried their innovation beyond our imagination while making souvenirs & this is very important aspect for a country which is not wealthy like its neighbors as this helps the residents to make real good money! And while doing this they have taken care that neither the residents nor the tourists has to face traffic hustles. Immaculate, is the word when I saw the traffic management & parking systems here & no traffic police I saw in entire stay, yet people were following every traffic rule. The Central Cathedral (sorry as by me name isn’t much important, its St. something) which is tourists attraction, the entire front plaza now rests on a three storied underground parking with not a single vehicle allowed on surface except the city buses which are moving in out just to pick up or drop the tourists! And all the excavation as well construction has been done right adjoin to the main Cathedral with no fuss over damaging to heritage structure like cry! I remember law suits here for just making under pass or Metro near our so called heritage structures (Agakhan Palace or Pataleshwar temple are recent examples) & the condition these structures are actually in! All other times we neglect our heritage& when something like road or Metro starts around them, which in actual is to facilitate citizen’s life only, then we remember these structures are heritage too & start raising objections! I won’t say don’t take care of our heritage structures, rather I say understand what conservation (read caring) our heritage means in first place & then act! Cities like Valencia have understood what conservation of heritage is & balance it with development. Everywhere information boards are displayed in three languages i.e. Spanish, English & German, about the place, its history & what it was when its build initially, how it got damaged in the mean time & how its restored in today’s form! And then there are banners everywhere appealing to the tourists about uploading the snaps they have taken on FB page of Valencia City Council. And the best snaps will be used on the souvenirs, now tell me what better way there can be to make tourists as part of your promotion of the city!

On last day we took tour of the city via hop in-hop off bus as mostly I wanted to see the new city as well. And here while developing the new city two major aspects has been looked after, one is face of the buildings, they are in tune of Gothic architecture & lots of green spaces along with public areas with fountains! It’s amazing to see what a small fountain can make the difference to the public area; it becomes center of activities as people lazying around the water bodies is a wonderful scene to feel! And special spaces has been created for art in the form of sculptures all around, showing to visitors that the backbone of city is art! There has been a park developed from recycled waste of all sorts & its latest tourist attraction, no wonder!
One more thing, in old city on Sunday morning there is a flea market where anybody can sale anything, right from home made wines to used clothes & on Sunday, till late noon entire old city roads are closed for vehicles so people can enjoy flea market! On last day evening, sitting on a road side café in & sipping coffee in old city of Valencia, I was just observing the people, it was weekend eve & I always used to think about what differentiates a society from just a bunch of people staying together! Well, here in Valencia I got the answer, it’s not just the people but the people with a vision & a will to make that vision a reality, is what differentiates a society from bunch of people staying together! After coming back to our Smart Pune while I was writing down my this sharing I came across two news in news papers, one was about a one & half kilometer length of road has been made as heritage walk with closing down that stretch for vehicles in Amritsar, Punjab & it has become a great success! And second news was about certain road widening in Sadashiv Peth area of Pune , a decision which has been as usual being debated as been implemented for some builders & going to be a threat for many heritage structures, truth only God knows; now is it needed that I comment, why we are the way we are today as a city! 


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Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

Please view my sharing about real estate in Pune at U-Tube link below..



Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !
 (Click the links below)


http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/

Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157627904681345/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

www.punecorporation.org
Take your issues to Hon PM at link below..
Think Green, Think Life

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Understanding Redevelopment!






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“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.” … Paulo Coelho.

The Noble prize winning writer actually needs no special introduction though many a doesn’t like much Paulo & thinks he is over rated writer yet his philosophy towards life can’t be neglected & I am admirer of him for sure! And recently when I have been called to speak at an event regarding redevelopment issues in Pune its Paulo’s above quote & used in my sharing with the audience. Well, first the key question what is redevelopment & what’s so significant about it as on that day nearly some 1500 plus people were present in the auditorium & at one stage people were sitting on stage & this does shows the grave concerns common man has about the topic & as usual "Mai Baap" Govt either can’t see this or prefers to turn a blind eye at it! So, redevelopment is demolishing the existing development (read building/structure) & building a new structure at the same place! Well, pretty simple to read isn’t it but mostly the simplest of the things on face are most complicated actually & when any such things are related to real estate in our beloved city Pune then take it granted & redevelopment too is not exception to this rule!

So, in nutshell redevelopment when used or referred in context of real estate then it’s demolishing the existing building where one or multiple owners are residing & then rebuilding a new building on the very land accommodating existing owners as well the new ones. Now, one will ask why in first place demolish the existing building? Well, there are many reasons for that & it’s the reason for demolishing existing building (read redevelopment) is the key to most of the problems or say issues involved in the process! For that lets see why the seminar has been called regarding redevelopment where people from hundreds of societies were present with equal numbers of questions (read problems). The organizers have sent me in advance few of the key issues raised by would be audience; just to get the seriousness of the subject I am mentioning some of them…

1.    For taking redevelopment of a society ahead how many resident’s permission (willingness) is must?
2.  ULC act has been abolished but still there are hurdles for redevelopment of societies build under ULC act provision, any light on it?
3.  If we enter in agreement of redevelopment with a builder, work started & what he left half way & ran away abandoning the project?
4.  Is it a must to have name of society on property card?
5.  How much more FSI for Metro route affected societies is there, what’s exact scene on that front?
6.  In existing society if balcony or terrace has been enclosed how this space will be considered while redevelopment?
7.  Is there any criterion about how much years’ minimum the society must be, for redevelopment?
8.  Where FSI is not balance, redevelopment is possible?
9.  In how many years the concerned developer must complete the project once redevelopment agreement is entered in?
10. Which documents are required for redevelopment?
    11. If the developer is finalized by the society members for redevelopment but the plans he has made are not accepted by few of the existing members, then what to do?

Well, above is tip of iceberg as there were many more & now you will realize the chaos among the common people (read society members) regarding their redevelopment & trust me, in many cases even the builders as well professionals are also clueless as above are very basic questions; there are more questions like GST on the transaction as well applicability of RERA etc! As I mentioned there were nearly thousand plus people in the hall & there were many developers also as apart from above sample questions even the developers also has questions for the experts! To start with take the most important issue i.e. TOD or Metro FSI (popularly known as 4 FSI); except the various news published in the new papers that too sources unknown, nobody is sure how much this Metro FSI will be given & where, to whom & at what rate. What will be utilization criteria, what charges one has to pay (read developer) to avail this FSI, then what will be parking norms as that’s another key question. And then will the TDR allowed on such plots if the developer has already got TDR or even if TDR is available at cheaper rate then why the society members or the developer has to still go for high rate Metro FSI in such case? See, just one aspect that is Metro FSI & there are hundreds of questions which even the PMC officers are unable to answer except telling “we have sent a proposal to govt (well, in govt too there are many govts’) & awaiting the reply” (read orders) was the answer! Oh yes there is one more confusion & its about giving TDR on 6 m wide road abutting buildings as no one knows what’s policy actually for this! If this is situation with the authorities like PMC who are supposed to have planning control of the city, how one can expect poor society members & poorer developers (poorer on the front of having any say in policy making) can answer any such question. And then there are more complicated issues like societies which has been developed under ULC act (when the act was in effect) but today when ULC act has been abolished yet the permissions are required from ULC (governed by UD as well Revenue dept) for redeveloping such societies & needless to say the game of pointing fingers to each other is on & no policy is clear to give any guide-lines for redevelopment future of such ULC affected societies. Well, a lay man like me will ask when you have build a structure on a plot may it be a surplus land then but today when people are legitimate owners of such homes & the ULC act itself is gone, why you need to treat these buildings separately! Answer is simple, here in this country nothing comes free, indeed there should not be free meals but one can’t expect to show claim on somebody else’s hard earned meal, right? Govt is supposedly coming up to allow ULC affected societies’ redevelopment by paying some 5% premium in tune with ready reckoner charges is the news but then here distance (read time) between a news & reality can be infinite, so till then all I can answer is wait!

Along with me there were numbers of experts, senior personalities from the field on dais, especially legal as well co-operative society’s apex body members & architects along with PMC officials! One major question which haunts most of the redevelopment pursuing societies is, how many members permission is essential for redevelopment? As per the law even 51% members permission is fine (read essential or legal) but then does this country goes by sheer law & in time, is the question I asked? Not just as a builder but even as a common man how you are going to vacate even if a single flat holder refuse to join redevelopment? Do mind we are in a country where we can’t vacate an illegal buildings residents & the legal battle goes on for years & here we are talking of vacating a legal resident by pulling him out of his legal home via legal battle; all the best, I can say! My answer was legally it may be 51% but ideally unless 100% members agrees to redevelopment it’s not wise to go for it & at least as a builder I won’t touch such proposal is a fact! Same is with the issue of some members not agreeing for the plans as unless all the members agrees on some plan, it’s not a bungalow we are speaking about where everyone can have his ideal plan, somewhere we all need to come on one common platform as then only redevelopment is possible! Then comes the question of members with areas (read spaces in possession) like enclosed balcony or top terrace or ground  level gardens (which are actually side or rear margins), & how they can be compensated for such areas in redevelopment? Again this is something a builder has no answer actually because if you are possessing illegal goods (in plain words “chori ka maal”) then just because you possess them doesn’t makes it legal & you are not going to get benefitted for it, is moral answer. But again this country doesn’t run anymore on morals & values, is a fact! So it’s up to the developer & other members of the society, how much they can shell from their share for such spaces as do mind no developer will be insane enough (well, actually there are many) who will be giving even one rupee from his pocket as for the developer it’s a combine deal after all. So whatever he will be offering to such members will eventually be reduced from the areas of all the other flat holders is a fact & nothing wrong in it, after all its for greater good or such members with illegal possession of terraces or garden won’t join redevelopment is a fact!

Then comes the million dollar question, what if the developers runs away half way, what status of the members (existing) in such case & what’s fate of such redevelopment project? Interesting, as there are many such projects around & answer can vary case by case as every failure has its own story. Though one common cause behind it is greed; it’s by both ends developers & even by the society members too! As do mind redevelopment is possible only in the areas where rates are decent (read nearly above Rs 10,000 & above per sft). Obviously the flats here are in demand & if the offer has been properly worked out & the money collected from the new flat bookings has been used only for the said project then no such project can ever goes in loss! And here is where greed factor comes in as I have specifically mentioned two things, one is has the offer been properly worked out, means the society members must not be too greedy to get the additional area such that whatever has been left for the developer should be enough for him to make some money by selling it & build the project. If it’s not so then no wonder he will ran out of money & the project will be abandoned. And another one is greed of the developer that he should not take out money & use it for some other purpose than to build the said project! So two things one must take in account make a viability report from some professional agency & demand the additional area fairly & second is join hands with a non greedy builder with a track record! Speak with his completed buildings project’s residents as well study keenly his balance sheet! Also ask for bank guaranty of 50% of construction cost or take collateral security of his that much amount in the form of clear title another property, preferably flats or shops! And yes “DO NOT SHIFT FROM YOUR HOUSE UNLESS YOU HAVE A COMPLETE FULL SANCTION PLAN IN HAND INCLUDING LOADING OF TDR/PAID FSI ETC”, is the single advise I shared with the audience. As maximum problems arises in the stalled projects because the members shifted from their homes without confirming that the entire plan has been sanctioned & then because change in rulers, policies regarding TDR loading to stop works because of any sudden change in DC rules (no construction near nallahs or near hill tops types) things happens here. As well alignments of adjoining roads gets changed overnight & this all may affect the further sanctions of the project so it’s best to get all the plans sanctioned & then only shift from the existing building & allow the developer to demolish the same!  And best way is make the builder part of your society team, as any redevelopment is not just society member’s or the builder’s type thing, it’s a joint venture actually & it will be successful only if both parties work as one team, trusting each other in true sense!

And then about the title of the society; do mind, even redevelopment it may be yet the society needs to be legal owner of the property & it’s not just because you are living there but the documents like property card, index-2 as well conveyance deed etc must say that you are owner or else no sane developer will touch the proposal. And it’s always wisdom to appoint professional person to verify all such details. But then most society people are always short sighted (short pocketed too) when it comes to spending on ground work things & leaves that to the developer who obviously will do it on his benefit only! 

Looking at all these questions & confusion, I feel it’s high time the local civic body must start a cell to guide people seeking redevelopment. As well even associations like CREDAI along with Media can take on this initiative!  Frankly every redevelopment is unique in its place & no thumb rule can be applied to it. Most important thing which nobody asked is what about the entire plan as well building’s maintenance type things, post possession. Because the more additional space the developer will be offering means he will bring in more numbers of flats as then only he can offer more space but your land is same, mind it! Today most of the redevelopment societies members are typical middle class elderly person & per month maintenance of such buildings is very less i.e. Rs 500 to Rs 1000 per month per unit maximum! But with all new construction, right from property tax to annual maintenance for things like lifts & generator & mechanized parking, the monthly maintenance can go to Rs 5000 & above. The new entrant can easily afford it as he is coming by paying crores of rupees but what about existing people? Has anybody ever thought about it? Same is about the open space & greenery around the buildings as you are redeveloping the building but land is not increasing in size. In many cases I have seen beautiful big grown trees were present in existing societies which were cut under the name of redevelopment but no provision is there for new trees & how much time it will take to make them grow again even if we plant the trees today! I just want to ask one question to every society member seeking redevelopment, why do you want redevelopment, just because you are getting few sq ft extra at free of cost or you want a better life than what you have right now! And then you all will be getting a new home along with new luxuries of the life with redevelopment of your home but who will be doing redevelopment of that big neem or jamun tree which has been growing along with you in that old society of yours & what about that tree’s resident like sparrows & parrots & squirrels, which doesn’t have a property card on their name, ask this to yourself & then only go ahead as that will be true redevelopment of the society & not just of the concrete structure, you call your home!


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Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

Please view my sharing about real estate in Pune at U-Tube link below..



Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !
 (Click the links below)


http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/

Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157627904681345/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

www.punecorporation.org
Take your issues to Hon PM at link below..
Think Green, Think Life

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Spanish Souvenirs!











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“Who’s to say what a ‘literary life’ is? As long as you are writing often, and writing well, you don’t need to be hanging-out in libraries all the time. Nightclubs are great literary research centers. So is Ibiza!” …Roman Payne.

“Cities, too, are embracing digitization. Barcelona has installed in-ground parking sensors and launched connected public transportation as part of its Smart City strategy”... John T. Chambers.

Well, I think above two quotes defines characteristics (read attitude) of the two cities of Spain, both famous for their own specialties! Yes I am writing about cities (big exception “Apale Pune”) after a long time (may be a decade) but then I haven’t visited any in the long time & happy the fast broke with these two names (three actually but third one is separate subject) as year after years visiting forests & natural reserves yet there is a small wish list for me to visit few places & if Ibiza was surely not in it Barcelona was long pending! Right from the days when I first came across terminologies like Urban Planning, Public Transport, Civic Infra the name Barcelona was included in the To Visit List & finally it took my forester friends group only to make my wish list become a reality. So in a way its forest only which made me travel to the place named Spain & made me realize there is so much to learn & adopt & so little I have done! Well, Spain is one of the largest & most historic countries in Europe though not as advanced or rich destinations like Germany, England or France, neither it carries glamorous heritages the places like Budapest, Rome or Prague has & certainly it’s not as scenic as Austria or Salzburg or Swiss Alps but then I will say is it has dash of every above thing making it wonderful destination to visit! We the Indians are funny lot, we often visit places going by what people speaks about them or what’s been shown in our Bollywood movies & after the popular movie Jindgi Na Mile Dobara, in which three bachelors travels across the Spain countryside for celebrating pre marriage freedom of one of friend, a journey which starts as fun, ends up with soul searching for each of them; suddenly Indians came to know there is  place named Spain which they should visit as it has much more to explore than Bull Fights & yes there is a festival also where people throws Tomatoes on each other!

Well, Spain is lot more than that actually & as the first quote by Pyene, who wrote one of the best books on travels i.e. “Cities & Countries”, let’s talk about Ibiza! When our forester groups decided about visiting Spain & three destinations, Ibiza, Barcelona & Valencia, I knew very little about Ibiza, just that it’s an island & famous for beaches! Well, when I told my sons that I am going to Spain & Ibiza, their faces turned purple! As then I came to know Ibiza if world’s Goa actually so you can imagine my sons’ excitement about their forest loving father visiting Ibiza! As I said Ibiza is an island with green hills covered in rolling mists & clouds & beaches covering most of the periphery! While starting for Spain we have been told that this will be good season & lots of sun & warmth but as the flight approached Ibiza, it was all cloudy & raining heavily & I thought gone is our sight-seeing with such weather to welcome but then that’s what I knew little about Spain & her weather mood changes! The airport of Ibiza was in a way show case of what it hold behind i.e. everything in bright colors & lots of bikini wear shops along with cocktail serving joints right outside the gate of flight! More to my astonishments most of the cabbies were women & do mind language is a big problem in Spain. Yet when asked about clouds & rains our driver smilingly said tomorrow it will be sunny & clear sky! I looked outside of window & dark clouds & wished I could have such trust in our weather forecast (well it’s much better now sure). The cab pulled along our hotels porch & we were welcomed by opening of chilled champagne bottle by the lobby manager, well this is what Ibiza is, I said to myself!

And next day morning when I woke up for walk (that’s best thing you can do at any new place, a long walk) it indeed was sunny & clear blue sky outside & I realized this is western culture, they do what they say & or they flatly refuse! And then next three days exploring Ibiza by every possible mean on feet, local bus & taxi sometimes; we were located near to old city which is spread around an old castle or church. I am deliberately not putting names to the churches or streets or castles as one sitting in your home or office it hardly makes any difference & second & really don’t remember as all are Casa D Something or Saint D Something type names which sounds all same for me! Ibiza being an island has many water boats for transportation as water ways are major part of the same. We took a ferry to old town from a jetty right in back yard of our hotel & trust me every my planning book funda I saw melting down in very first sight of Ibiza. As right along the shore there are lots of buildings even new also. And then the old city which is a huge conglomerate of shops, cafes, bars, & residences around the castle cum church! I have been told Europe is costly affair for shopping but frankly that’s relative term & I personally found Spain much at par to our country as the country is not in much good shape on financial front & if the tourists don’t spend on shopping pr eating, how you are going to make revenue & if you want tourists to shop you need to keep food & goods in their budget is simple funda which they are wise enough to understand & adopt! And Ibiza has full of all such shopping places right from hand made goods to souvenirs to branded items to lure tourists & when tourists are done with shopping well, there are beaches, sand, cocktails & paella i.e. Spanish cuisine made of rice with vegetables or meat or fish, to make them relax! The best part of Ibiza apart from beaches, yachts & shopping is the old town around the central castle/church; walking through those narrow cobble stone paved lanes I was living like some English novel chapter as people sitting on chairs on pavements, people walking on streets, people shopping, people drinking wine, people clicking selfies, people with their pet dogs & bright sun with blue sky, I realized this is Europe! Even the sea side promenades is worth studying, in-front of my eyes images of sea side walk near Hotel Taj in Mumbai came & I was thinking how great that site can be made if worked on these lines, alas only if had it been Ibiza!

Well, what we earn from places like Ibiza as have we not our very own Goa to match its vibrancy, is what many will ask! Let me tell you, it’s the difference of scale & variety of presenting everything is what we should learn. Though the season at Ibiza was yet to start so we couldn’t actually experience night life or the party type mahaaol yet even what was on show, was enough to give the idea of what Ibiza offers to its patrons! Apart from party night & shopping, Ibiza is center for art & culture for Spain with hundreds of studios, art galleries & art schools giving opportunity to thousands of youngsters to take route of art, which is dearly missing from our once art rich country!  I took back colors from Ibiza & lots of them as well the way you use these colors in everything you create!

And then if Ibiza is happening, vibrant typical tourist heaven then Barcelona is all time awake, buzzing, celebrating life yet very businesslike city where old meets new with grace! And when the name Barcelona pops up then first thing comes to mind of most (well football lovers I meant) is FC Barca i.e. the world’s one of the most decorated football club’s home town! One can’t say he or she visited Barcelona if the trip doesn’t includes the tour of the FC Barca stadium again not just a sports ground but an engineering marvel in itself!  I am not great follower of football but I like any game especially ground game & no two minds this game has great energy in it! And with names like Messy, Suarez, Nyemar & Innista playing here no wonder from all over the world tourists come to visit FC Barca which is smart enough to en-cash this fan following. The audio visual tour of the club ends in a three storied shopping store which sells everything from tee-shirts to key-chains with FC Barca on it! We the Indian’s love cricket shade more than the Europeans loves football & why cant in place like Mumbai we make something like this at Wankhde Stadium or at Eden Gardens in Kolkata where histories have been wrote & legends like Gawaskar, Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Dhoni or Kohali has mesmerized one twenty crore Indians with their game for years after years! It’s not commercialization of the game which many can say but its conserving heritage of the sport which has kept this country united is a fact! FC Barca is a tribute to every sport & sportsman who has given something to the game is what they say!

And apart from FC Barca the city is one of the best planned smart city with wonderful public transport system where eight lines of Metro serves you twenty four hours in tune with bus system. Do mind, Spaniards doesn’t like English much yet even once in four days we needed to use taxi for our commuting such is the system of public transport. Once you buy a 48 hour ticket then you can hop in or hop off on any public transport line of the city any numbers of time with an app in you cell phone which guides you towards nearest bus stop or Metro station to your destination from your location & timings of the bus or train too! Well, that’s why even the millionaires of the city you can see riding Metro or Bus here as its time saving & comfortable! And unlike London or Moscow, the Metro here is fairly young i.e. recently developed leaving us no space to face-off saying “oh these cities has it since long back that’s why it’s possible or easy for them”!

Just like FC Barca one more name rules the city & that is legendary architect Antonio Gaudi, whose forms & structures gave new dimension to the construction industry! His buildings are now in a way monument & his residence has been developed in one of the best conserved structure. No wonder even his incomplete building i.e. Sagrada Familia Cathedral also has become most visited place of the city for the tourists. Now, this I say is being great where the jobs you left incomplete also becomes memorial! On this background I remembered images (read condition) of so many so called heritage structures in our Smart City Pune; do I need to mention names! It’s the people (citizens) in the city which makes the city, indeed really true & if they have Gaudi then more applauds for the citizens of Barcelona that they acknowledged his greatness & conserved that & marketing it perfectly, who has stopped us doing that here in Pune? One more thing you notice in Barcelona & that is public places & lots of them where plantation has been done to conserve biodiversity & yes in Pune we have many but these gardens are actually forests in Barcelona with grass, shrubs, mid level trees & big tress all growing together in harmony making it a complete life cycle! And yes do visit Rambla Street, one of the world’s most loved shopping market where you will be zapped by the sheer verity of eating stuff which is displayed in such a way that you must be Saint if you comes back without buying anything & needless to say with millions of people visiting every day no shouts, no garbage or no horns of vehicles!

What I found most interesting about Barcelona is the way it lives life even being a business center i.e. on Sunday evening in a full summer tourist season every brand’s fancy shop on Passeig de Gracia i.e. main shopping road of the city, was closed as Spanish people loves their holiday & probably life is something more than making money for them! Call it arrogance or foolishness but by me they have understood the purpose of living & that’s why I saw a café or bar in every block of buildings & every such bar was in operating means the owners must be making some money sure! I think when we visit places like Spain, agreed the Euro vs. Rupee scale refrains us from shopping much ( for most visitors) but as usual we took back some magnets or key-chains & yes selifies as our souvenirs but real souvenirs is the learning which we must take back about understanding the way we should live as a society as well as an individual, which we conveniently leave behind like excess baggage & start behaving as a perfect Punekar the moment we hit the roads by spitting on road or jumping red signal or refusing to wear helmet & we feel we are a Smart City!

To conclude, there is a poster hanging at the end of the tour of FC Barca Club, it says “If you can’t support us when we lose then don’t cheer for us when we win”! That’s the attitude mate… mind it!


Explore some more moments at link along...

-- 
Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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