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The Urban Column- I

As a heritage conservation architect, the idea of historic areas then and now always fascinates the mind. Comparisons are further made when you travel and start looking at places in your hometown with a different lens. To begin this series, is one of the most sought after place by the youth in the city- Fatehgunj.

Once a lush green settlement with individual bungalows and extended yards, church bells chiming and the neighbor driving off their motorbike into the sunset, the Fatehgunj area of today is but a mere memory of the past. With changing land patrons, the area which once housed Romanesque bungalows of faculties from the Maharaja Sayajirao University and other eminent city individuals, is now mere a complex urban area devoid of a particular identity or is it really?

The half kilometer stretch in conversation here, extends from the Saffron Complex to the Indian Oil Petrol pump under the Bridge and has a bourgeois feel to it with an eclectic yet cosmopolitan mix of food, people and buildings. The prefect ingredients to get you into the holiday spirit and bring you out of your homes on other nights. I’d almost akin it to the Lokhanwala complex of Mumbai (although not that pricey), or the Hazratgunj of Lucknow albeit the regularized facades. Ours I’d dare say is one of a kind.

Being close to the largest park in the city (Kamatibuag) and the University campus and residence, the Fathegunj area today attracts a lot of youth and families, there for a chai cuppa or a piece of cake, a visit to the church or the hidden clinics behind. With offices, printers and stationers as the major crowd pullers during the day, dawn is when the lights come on food to clothes, and an evening service at the Red Church becomes the place to be.

Fatehgunj as an entirety comprises of a part the Vishwamitri River, many religious structures and a majority of it being a military campus. However the urban culture lies in the intangibles of this one stretch, the Abbas Tyabji road and it’s hidden by-lanes. The residential areas juxtaposed in the background are reminiscent of yesteryear building styles and is a harbinger of community togetherness with the festivals it celebrates- be it the Ganpati exodus in September, Christmas in December, or Eid two times of the year. On a subtle footnote, those who travel by in the morning would have noticed a society giving back by feeding the needy, completing a full circle of this secular coherence.

Even though it does not boast of the British Residences or the lush green trees anymore, the urbane by-lanes offer to tingle your sense by inviting you to enjoy the local icons including Gupta’s samosa, rolls at Frig Temp or bread at the 130 year old Menzes Bakery. There are food walks too that happen in the area that cover more of these lost places.

So just when you think you were done, go visit- Fatehgunj has something for everyone!

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