Just across the Mula river from Pune’s Koregaon Park is a large gym on the first floor of a modern building. Lining the floor-to-ceiling windows is the familiar sight of sweating bodies – with obligatory towel around neck – doing battle with treadmills, cross-trainers, stationary bikes and rowing machines. As they sip energy drinks from their plastic Nike bottles, they look out at the city below and see a small slum: a few tin and corrugated iron dwellings held together by some force that appears to defy the laws of physics. Outside one of the hovels, a small boy squats and defecates. A wet, brown rat sits perched on top of a heap of rubbish, its tail coiled around a bottle of Coke. And on the other bank is a massive Westin hotel, its black glass exterior giving it the appearance of a gigantic coffin. On the mezzanine level, people are chatting and drinking wine from crystal glasses.
A short distance away, diners are sitting in the garden of an Italian restaurant, gazing up at the giant eucalyptus and bamboo trees around them. A peacock appears from nowhere, showing off the almost unnaturally vivid blue of its tail. It jumps onto a low branch and proceeds to hop higher and higher, letting out its distinctive squawk every so often. A waiter appears to light coils of incense, releasing a spicy sweetness into the air. And as the sun sets, graceful shapes fill the sky: the unmistakable pointed wings of bats.
Meanwhile, the Mula flows through the city, bashing its forceful waters against razor sharp rocks.