Or Abhimanashree, whichever version you prefer.
But however you choose to spell it, join me, won’t you, as I saunter down this leafy little lane on a wintry Sunday morning?
Abhimanashri Lane is today a bit of a misnomer. But as a true-blue Puneri, I remember a time when it really and truly was a lane, and a very quiet one. Today, it forms the base of a very useful triangle, connecting Baner Road and Pashan Road, with the apex of the triangle being Pune University signal. Why this is a very useful triangle is a long story that will bring much angst to every Punekar reading this, so we will move on for the moment.
Accompanying us on this jaunt is my nine-year old daughter, whose ability to ask endless questions is matched only by her ability to ask questions about what we’re going to eat next. As a gourmand who pretends to teach economics for a living, I thoroughly approve of both of these qualities.
And so down Abhimanashri Lane we go, appreciating the quietness of the Sunday morning, pausing every now and then to meet a new canine friend, and breathing in the soft yet crisp wintry air that Pune still affords us in the absence of traffic.
Until we reach a nice little bakery on the left hand side, with a cute sitting-out area, and what looks from without to be a promising array of baked treats lying in wait inside. The daughter deploys the most beseeching look she can muster, but she needn’t have. I am chomping at the bit myself, so in we go to take a look. There’s croissants, there’s breads, there’s pastries and there’s coffee. Heaven, to be precise. Having suitably nourished ourselves, we resume our walk.
But then the economist in me starts to wonder.
We had gone there at around nine in the morning, and we were the only cutomers in the cafe. There was one delivery order that was picked up, but that apart, there was no one else who walked in. The food was very good without being truly outstanding, but that is not (at all) a knock against the place. In fact, if anything, I would have expected more customers.
So why, the economist in me wondered, was it empty?
- Abhimanashri is a truly lovely place to walk around in, but it is a low density neighborhood. Most people might wonder if I could have phrased that sentence better – wouldn’t it be the case that it is a lovely place to walk around in precisely because it is a low density neighborhood? Well, yes, but also no. Read on.
- It is not just a low density neighborhood, but it is also almost entirely residential. There’s a misal join towards the end of the lane, and a couple of shops and offices, and one upmarket salon. But it is safe to say that it is overwhemingly residential in terms of character.
- It is also a no-parking zone, for reasons that we refused to go into earlier, but now we must. Read this article to get a sense of why it is a no parking zone.
- So, low density neighborhood, not enough offices, plus a no parking zone along its entire length. Not enough folks in the vicinity, whether residents or otherwise, and the inability to park along its entire length. Nor, if memory serves me right, is there a bus-stop along the entire length of the lane.
- So walk-in customers are unlikely. Plus, the inconvenience of having to park a ways away and then walking down might disincentivize other customers.
- I’d much rather sit at home and order from there using Zomato or Swiggy or some such, rather than actually try and reach the place.
- And so while I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there and wouldn’t mind going there again, the inconvenience of it all makes it rather unlikely that I will.
- Which is why you should read up about mixed-use neighborhoods, and urban planning more generally. I have a couple of videos on the subject, or you might want to read more about it by searching on Google, or you might want to read this lovely thread on Twitter.
- But the next time you take a walk down one of your favorites streets in your favorite city, you might want to ask what makes that street your favorite, and what were the opportunity costs of that street being the way it is. Ask yourself in what ways that street could become better, and how your city might go about planning for it to be so. Get into the habit of doing this all the time, because why wouldn’t you want to think about how your city could be better.
- And then, suitably incentivized, learn more about urban planning, because it is a fascinating subject that every budding economist should know more about.
- Past EFE posts on urbanization, if you’re interested, are here.