Roaming around in Pune!

Pune has already become cosmopolitan, with new International airport and Metro coming up, will same old Pune exist at all?

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It’s good to be moving around your own city but with age and technology, there is a possibility that you may not be required to move out of your home, especially after retirement. You can get your grocery online, you can pay your bills online, for cash you can go to ATM and deal with a machine rather than a human. All these things look sexy initially. But humans are social animals, and they love to meet and talk to friends, relatives, acquaintances, and unknown people. It is a well-proven fact that if humans become isolated then there is a good chance of early death. It’s good to know what new things are happening around you. When you move around, you observe different aspects of life. You know where the world is going.

Kasaba

The other day, we went to a dentist in the old part of Pune. We took an Uber and lo, we reached there in about 25 minutes, which was 15 minutes earlier than expected, and 30 minutes before the appointment. That too during peak hours! As I have always said that I tend towards being an atheist, but once in a while I do visit Mandirs on my own. I suggested to Jaya, that since we were pretty early, we could visit the Kasaba Peth Ganapati Mandir which was bang opposite the clinic. It was surprisingly empty. After going inside, we realized that it was Chaturthi, an auspicious day from the Hindu calendar. I bowed to the God, Jaya did some more prayers and took another five minutes. As is usually done, we sat in the Mandir for five more minutes. When you go to a Mandir, and do not have even five minutes to spare, might as well not go there! This is done  to soak in the atmosphere. The Mandir is a totally different world than that I live in. People were very much engrossed in praying; a priest was giving a sermon and he was talking about day to day issues, how to handle them and how to face the world. I thought it was a very good way of helping people. The priests are revered by the society; his sermon was a good way of guiding people as a tradition. This is one tradition, people should continue to follow, instead of following some irrational things. The young dentist is my daughter’s classmate and I know him well. He jokingly said, “Uncle HE must have been happy that you found time to meet Him!” To me, HE is everywhere, I need not go to a Mandir to meet Him.

Use of Uber brings you in touch with more people, a group of drivers, the way they talk, the way they work, the way they look at the profession. I always make it a point to chat with them. One observation is that 50% of them are from Vidarbha, Marathwada side! In recent four trips, I had varied experiences. One chap was very unfriendly from the beginning, and ended up shouting at me and threatening me with dire consequences! In a huff, luckily, he cancelled the trip on his own. I complained to Uber and they took a lot of feedback from me. Next one was a good person, was shocked how expensive Pune was and did not know much about Pune roads! When will Uber train these drivers about the city where they drive? I explained to this fellow that Pune is expensive because it has money and since it has money, a lot of people use Uber! Next one had his car in horrible condition, dusty and unclean from both inside and outside. I asked him why he had not cleaned the car? He said that he got the trip immediately after login. I asked him why he did not login after the car was cleaned, he had nothing to say. The last one was the best, he knew all the roads, his car looked new. When I asked him if his car was new, he said that it was two-year-old but cleaned it at least four to five times in a day. It showed his passion to do well in his profession! On top of that, he was very polite! I gave him five stars!

GoodLuck

In Pune and Bombay, there is a tradition of Irani restaurants. These are the restaurants run by people who have come to India from Iran and have settled in the last century. These were our favourite joints in our school and college days. They would offer, Bun-Maska (butter), Pastries and Omelet. Chicken and mutton also used to be their speciality if you wanted to take lunch or dinner. I was coming home in the very clean Uber and could look around for a change, as I was not driving. We passed by an Irani restaurant called Regal! I now came to know how the times have changed. They had a display board saying special treat for people who keep fast for 9 days during the Navratri festival that is currently going on! (We always have some festival running or coming or just finished celebrating) Sabudana Wada, Sabudana Khichadi and so on. Typical Maharashtrian dishes. Goodluck is the most famous Irani restaurant in Pune. Looks like to grow their business, they are also offering stuff that people want. So happy to see the flexibility of the management. Another thing that I have seen these days is that these are small restaurants and are at prime locations. With traffic density soaring all the time, their prime locations have become no parking zones. Some of these hotels have bought a couple of shops near the restaurant so that they could provide parking space to at least 20 to 30 bikes, inside those shops!

Another great tradition that is going great guns in Pune, is cultural programs during the Ganapati Festival. Many colonies, apartments, condos have different programs on various days of this festival. In our Condo, there were cookery competitions, painting competitions. Youngest was my grand-daughter Rhea who gave a three-minute solo dance performance. Oldest was a 75 years old lady who took part in story-telling. Jaya and I also had fun. I interviewed her on the subject of modern technologies of IOT, AI, VR and AR. (These buzzwords were explained in the language all will understand) It was done in a chat format and we explained the technical things in such a way that common people could also easily understand the subject. We also kept it interactive and people asked a lot of questions! This is one tradition that should never be allowed to die! This brings people together, the main aim of Lokmanya Tilak who started this festival more than 100 years back. During this festival, people go to each other’s homes, sometimes uninvited, and attend the Ganapati Aarti (Prayers) which are performed in each home!

We keep on making a big noise about traffic chaos in any city. Pune is no exception. But my personal opinion is that Pune’s traffic is still manageable. But the indiscipline is rampant by the two-wheelers, trucks and buses. They break signals, bikes carry 3 or 4 people in place of allowed 2! They break helmet rule with vengeance! In most other cities this rule is followed quite well! They enter wrongly on a one-way street! But real information that you get is from Uber guys, three-wheeler auto chaps break the rules similarly to two-wheeler guys, so I don’t take their feedback seriously. There are surprises. The first thing we assume is that the traffic will be worst in the old part of the city. These are called Peths! The roads are narrow and winding, sometimes. But according to Uber guys, these areas are much better, traffic wise. According to them, the worst is Sinhgad Road and Nagar road. Hinjewadi IT park area is known for these issues simply because of the sheer volume  of vehicles which pour on the road, within a short span of time. Attempts are being made to correct this situation. But mind you, good things always come out in humans, when things go out of control. Nagar road traffic volume has been high and indiscipline has added to it. A group of people in that area created a WhatsApp group. (A creative way of using WA) At a very short notice volunteers from this group jump the fray and help the traffic to smoothen out. What they have done is to include some shopkeepers in that area who can easily see if there is a jam. They give precise location on WA and in a jiffy these guys, wardens working Pro Bono, come out and straighten things out.

Friends, I moved to Pune in 1967 and stayed over. In these 51 years, it has changed a lot but has remained same too! Change is because of technology and migration. Pune has already become cosmopolitan, with new International airport and Metro coming up, will same old  Pune exist at all? Maybe! In some pockets, it will remain the same good old Pune but in other areas, you may feel as if you are in any modern city! Will it be able to keep balance of both? Yes and no! Chitale’s of Pune have finally started advertising and with no breaks between 1 & 4 in the afternoon! Bhelpuri carts, now have to compete with Bhel Puri shops which sell other things like sandwiches and Ragda Pattice too! Puneri Misal is still famous so is sabudana khichadi (now sold even by Irani restaurants!) Only time will tell!

Flora and Humans in Karve Nagar!

Reminiscing old Pune via Karve Nagar!

I used to go for my morning walks at 5.30 am. Now I have kept the timing flexible and go out a little later after 6.45. Why did I change the timings? Cooler weather, though I like it, has been giving me a bit of trouble as I get some issues with my throat. Hence, I thought this could be the better timing. And Lo! I enjoy my walks at these times too! Each slot probably has its own charm and cannot be compared. The almost zero traffic, skies just starting to lose the darkness, has its own beauty. In winter, the chill, and darkness create their own zone. But then beautiful rising Sun with crisp wind also adds to charm.

Another advantage I see is that one can actually see the expressions on the faces of people walking at that time. I don’t smile at everybody on purpose but I am lucky to have a smiling demeanor, maybe! I see all the possible combinations of facial expressions in this world. I really want to catch all these expressions on the camera but it is not a practical thing to do! One couple, maybe in late fifties always has the lady giving a bit of sermon to her husband every day. They should make a pact that the sermons should stop at the gate of their home. Maybe they do not get that freedom at home or maybe fresh air induces more energy in the sermon! I see a very senior citizen with worry lines on forehead. I hope that it is his demeanor and not the real worries! Young folks of course are walking briskly but are in their own world, ear buds and all! Once I spoke to one of them while she was adjusting the ear buds. I jokingly asked her, when there are such lovely sounds of birds chirping, why the earbuds! Her expression either said, look at the stupid guy or what is he talking about!   

Karve Nagar has beautiful flowery trees and shady trees! It is the area where I currently live in Pune.

Certain areas are just amazing with their collection of flora! With current easy availability of cameras in cell phones, I am enjoying taking photos which I am sharing with you. Around 30 years back, this area was comparatively undeveloped. The major bridge in that area, called Rajaram Pul has come into existence in last fifteen years. This bridge has changed the traffic pattern of this area from sleepy area to a bustling area. One thing for sure, during development of this area the fauna in this area was reasonably well retained, however the types have changed. This area had orchards of Guava for miles together and some Mango orchards too. These were private plantations and later on became housing colonies. But while developing the colonies, authorities as well as individuals have tried to keep the area as green as possible, it has also become colourful due to certain trees, especially Bahawas. Somehow, I have not found many of Gulmohars, though they are around. The abundance of trees is easily reflected when we come home in the evening. There is marked difference in temperature, of at least a couple of degrees Centigrade, when we take a turn towards the colonies from the main road.  This is happens as there are natural welcome arches formed on the roads, by the trees!

Coming back to humans, this area is now reminiscent of Sadashiv Peth and Narayan Peth of olden days. I understand that many people in those areas moved to Karve Nagar area when the wadas in the old Peths (Localities) got developed in to new buildings. I can see typical Maharashtrian products available in small joints in this area. For example, Thalipith, Sanja, Shira, Danyache Ladu and so on. In summer we see many vendors selling Mogra flowers and Gajare, a typical Maharashtrian love! Ladies adorn these Gajaras and will share them with other ladies when they visit them!  

This area has developed well, over a period of time but is not modern in the sense of many skyscrapers, malls. A major lane here and there bustles with Pizza Huts, Star Bucks and Pumas of this world. But preferred joints will still be Wada Pav and Pohe, Cutting chai and Bata! Preferred Ice cream will still be Local Ice cream to Baskin Robbins and the local parlors selling fresh juice. This area also has a nice set of bungalows but is has more of apartment complexes built in 80’s and 90’s. Though we see a few Mercedes’s and BMW’s, there more Nanos, Alto’s and two Wheelers which are called in local lingo, Gadi! A motorcycle or a scooter or a moped is always referred to as Gadi.

Karve Nagar area reminds me of the Old Pune of 60’s and 70’s with a slightly modern touch; so naturally it takes me back to days of my youth! Let us see if there is any other “Old Pune” coming up “New Pune”! Or maybe that phase, old Pune, may have become History and we will see only NEW, “New Pune” in future!

 

 

COEP! Incredible Days!

Those Incredible days!

A couple of days back, during a discussion on 1971 COEP batch WA group, a friend Sailesh reminded others how he was taken by me to my brother in law, Dr. Biniwale, for some treatment during college days. I used to stay in hostels in Pune, in those days. My mind veered to those times in late sixties! Were they different? Of course, I am old enough to say, “In our times”! Let me assure you, the world was different then. India is now rich poor country but, in those days, it was poor, poor country! There were shortages galore, food rationing, poor quality wheat under PL 480 and so on. But youth is such a stage in life that nothing ever matters! Youth always has fun, limitations don’t bother them. They live life without any botheration! We did the same. 

At the end of my tenure, it was a surprise for me to find out that I had learned some engineering too! The personal transportation in those was a bicycle or walk; some came by bus and in the college, there were about 15 to 20 students who came on two wheelers too! This is about 1 % of all students. Out of those five were girls! ( and there were not more than 30 girls in the college!) Since that time, we knew the meaning better half or was it better off! In those times friends were called by surname or short name, like Panvalkar was Panya and Dilip was Dilpya! There was an interesting issue, my cousin Abhay Panvalkar was two years junior to me. When he joined COEP, we used to have food in the same mess. Friends resolved the problem of the same name conflict by calling him Semi-Panya! Relations with ladies were very formal in those days and that too only for some specific work/study related things.  

The groups got established; I was in many groups like sports, dramatics (Jaya and I had a very cozy relation since our initial meetings) and main activity was TP (time pass) where of course I used to lead! This group had one major activity that was to see movies. We sometimes used to attend two movie shows one after another in a day, in nearby theaters. Another important activity would be to go to a restaurant late at night for some special egg dishes! A restaurant called Olympia was a favourite joint of students who wanted to snack after midnight! Staying awake past midnight was quite routine under the garb of studies! Another important activity was to go to see different sports events to support the college team. We used to easily go 10 to 12 kms, one way, for such events on bicycle.  

There used to be some real funny incidents! One of our friends used to be very friendly with girls, outside COEP. He would share a few anecdotes with us. Over a period, we realized that when he got friendlier with them, the girl would get engaged to be married to someone other than our friend! He was then named “Khadawa”! Khadawa are wooden slippers worn by Ramdas Swami, a Hindu saint who ran away from the marriage pandal just as he was about to be married! But one thing for sure was that our friend was very consistent, in ensuring marriage of the girls he was friendly with!  

Another funny incident I remember was when two of our friends planned to go for a movie for evening 6 pm show. By 7 pm both of them were back in hostels! Then we saw a bit of skirmish between them. Both had reached the correct movie show but the only problem was that they were at different theaters about 5 kms away! Then there was another film buff. He liked the then superhit movie “Aradhana” so much that he saw three shows 3/6/9 pm in a day for three consecutive days! He entertained us for next two weeks by play acting both hero and heroine’s roles!  

In those days there was a concept of parasites! Some students who were not authorized to live in the hostel, stayed there for all of fours years. In a room where three students were authorized, fourth would also live there. Main reason for this was the financial difficulties. These were unofficially resolved by such help.  

Having food in the hostel mess was great fun. Food style was based on the type of food that was prepared Maharashtrian, Gujarati, then Kolhapuri. There were two messes which were cosmopolitan which cooked food to suit non-Maharashtrian types. But our gang used to have great fun. We were friends with ALL the cooks and they would allow us to eat interesting stuff from different messes, irrespective of the fact that we were members of the Maharashtrian mess.  

Post exam, there would be “celebration” which meant drinking alcohol. My friend Raju and I, were non-drinkers. Post drinking there used to be a charade of going for food outside the hostel. In those days there never was any restrictions like curfew! 8 or ten of us would go out. One of us used to be at the front and the other at back ensure that the gang did not stray! We used to have a similar binge at a friend’s place as his parents lived far away from Pune. But mind you, some of them drink heavily even today! God bless them!  

Top of the chart fun was going in Ashok’s car for a spin at night. He was a Puneite and they had a bungalow off Prabhat Road. We would go to his home late at night when his parents were traveling, push the car out so that his siblings and neighbours won’t know about this. Then we would pile in the car and drive at night and across Katraj ghats at break necking speed. Ashok was a champion driver. Our money allowed us to eat only dal and rice at a restaurant called Apsara!  

Friends I could go on and on but as usual everything good has to end. Of course, we still remember these things when friends meet; alas Ashok passed away long back but most our gang is still around but our meeting frequencies are very low but let me assure you that while writing this blog I felt as if I had physically traveled back 50 years! I wish this could be achieved just once!  For now, at least I should cross the Katraj ghats and check if Apsara Restaurant is still around!