Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Pune...Is it the same?

We left Pune 22 years ago. While we have been visiting and meeting friends we did not fully register the changes in Pune! This visit is different. Rohini, and Sundeep have moved from Vancouver and we are here with them and of course our grand daughters.

They live in a different locality and I reacted typically 'Rohini, we are not in Pune'. She replied with 'Pune has grown' and gave me a book to read, My Pune...discover Pune like never before, adding 'The company gave it to Sundeep'.

As I browsed, it felt nostalgic and pictures of notables featured in 'My Pune' made me feel right at home. In a similar book on Bangalore, my home town, I am sure I would not have known or found a connection to so many. Pune seems to have managed to keep its small town feel intact. But I am not certain that you would now see Rahul Bajaj and family at the Alka Theatre. I recall that we would see the same group of people at the West End every Friday evening. They would even occupy the same seats!

The Timeline in the book skips the sixties except the '61 flood. It should have shown '63, a landmark year , the year I came to Pune. I remember that people were still full of stories of the flood! I wish I had made notes. But then I never knew that I would be a blogger, a chronic one at that!

When I spoke to my relatives who had lived and loved the place about my move, they had assured me that people while conservative were very nice and that I would enjoy my stay. I do not know whether Pune ever accepted me, but Puneris' let me be! The place grows on you and very soon you begin to think it as my Pune!

While Punekars were not interfering they could be very direct. Having heard that the best place to stay was off Prabhat road, I went to check out the area. My first meeting with the landlord went like this:
'So you have a job in Pune! Were there no jobs in Bangalore?' I was totally taken aback but replied 'I had a job, but wanted to see other parts of India'!
'You have parents living?' he persisted. When I said yes, he looked surprised and wanted to know if we owned a house, and I said yes again.
It was now his turn to be taken aback. It made no sense to him why I left home at all!
Anyway I was told very nicely: 'People from Madras stay in Rasthapeth, why don't you try there'. I had no bone to pick with him, as I was used to being called a Madrasi by then. I did try Rasthapeth and being from Karnataka I found it to be too Madrassi!

Life was simple those days. The place I saw next had no cupboards. When I asked about providing a cupboard to keep my clothes, I was shown two pegs on the wall and wires strung across the room. I almost took it but I fell ill before I could move.

Probably my Pune days would have ended right there if my colleague Prem had not taken me to his home to help me recover. I stayed with the family for a month. Unforgettable hospitality and more amazing was to discover that his father was stationed in Bangalore and that my father as a public prosecutor had assisted him in a case. Again proves how small the world is!

Coming out of my home for the first time, I could relate to Pune in many ways. For instance when I suggested to a friend that we see a movie in the cantt, he said 'Why? It will come to Alka next month!'. I would have had the same reaction from some of my friends in Bangalore! While a shop keeper in Bangalore would ignore me if he thought I was just window shopping. In Pune, I would be told 'I will show only if you are buying.'

Actually Pune is very important to me as it has given me a lot, I am not speaking about the culture, music and theatre and so on. My life as a grihasta began here! My daughters grew up in Pune.

The story of my life can wait, but I must relate this story: It was my first weekend in Pune and while as I was waiting for my cup of tea at the coffee shop of the hotel, I picked up a copy of Sakal looking for movie ads. Suddenly I heard a person talking to me in Marathi. When I told him that I did not speak the language, he found it funny as I was reading a Marathi paper.

Looking for company I invited him to join me for a cup of tea. I meant to order, but before I could summon the waiter, my new friend separated the saucer from the cup and poured some tea into it and offered it to me. As a Bangalore guy I was used to one bye two coffee. But we would ask for an empty cup. This was something new! It was only later that I learned that he was showing me respect by his action. It was easier to cool tea this way and not scald your tongue!

To answer my own question, I really cannot tell if Pune has changed. I hope not! But I was shocked to see a news report that two girls were hurt by stone throwing kids on bikes. Cowards! Pune was a place where women were not afraid to walk alone in the night and a boy who acted stupid would be taught a lesson by the slippers' wielding women.

I think Pune has not changed in one way. It still has a stream of immigrants coming in each year looking for livelihood and occupying the river bed or the Parvati hills. While it surely has ruined the looks of the city, it could have been one of the prettiest cities in India, it has shown heart by giving shelter to all these hungry immigrants. I suppose that again is another subject.


Gayathri said...

You really have been on multiple nostalgia trips, haven't you - first Bengaluru, now Pune! Well, when you come to Bangkok next, that will be another one as well, right? Our very own Soi 2 has changed so much. Will leave that for you to discover and then blog about. Keep them coming - always fun.

sandhya said...

Thats really interesting and I think everybody feels places have changed if they haven't visited for a while. Actually we've been living in bangalore for 20years now and we are constantly talking of how B'lore was 10yrs, 15yrs ago... :)

srinidhi said...

I guess Bangkok is overdue! I should write about it.

nice to see your comment, sign you are back to normal after the hectic times arranging the wedding

Bhagyashree Ranade said...

'My Pune is not the same.....sometimes i dont want to leave my fifteen and half lane. Yet the madness of the city still makes me live here,the fragrance of the first drops rain still entice me and on any trip outside India makes me long to be back....there is something in Pune which makes me tick! I know you both feel the same nostalgia.'

N L Sriram said...

Thanks to you and Tara, my brief stay in Pune was quite enjoyable, even though the work aspect was not all that great. The 48 hour work weeks and the somewhat long trip back and forth to the Philips factory did not leave much time for interacting with the locals, except at work itself. The town did seem divided into segments, with the conservative old town area, Sindhi colony, the cantt area, Rajneesh ashramites, etc.

It did have nice restaurants - the Poona coffee house and the trio of Rupali, et al, the names of the other two escape me now. There was a good book shop in the cantt area, with a pretty impressive collection.

The new theater (was that Alka?) was also good, with movies changing twice a week or more, which was nice.

Would have been nice to have had a longer stay, with an opportunity to learn Marathi well, etc., but the US bug had bitten me! Perhaps we need to be thankful that we learnt to read and write Kannada, and enjoy its literature, doubt that the current crop of children there are able to do that anymore, at least those from the upper middle class families who are able to attend the better known schools.


N L Sriram said...

Your statement about Pune being a very safe place for everyone brought back memories of the murders in that time period, we would routinely see Shri. Abhayankar take his early morning walk as we waited for the factory bus - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshi-Abhyankar_serial_murders. Rumours were rampant at that time, with people staying home on certain days as they feared a repeat.

Pune has probably not gone the way of Bangalore and Hyderabad in courting the foreign multinationals as much, and that might have had some check in the growth.

srinidhi said...

Yes that was a scary period. But I was speaking about my stay on Tilak road where it was common sight to see just women walking back home at midnight after watching a Marathi play in the city.

VATSALA said...

Nostalgia dripping in the blog!
Lot of it strikes a cord with me. Of course I have been going in and out odf the city (rather town)all these years and watched its morphosis. Nevertheless old memories are fond. Go ahead and enjoy as long as you can.

srinidhi said...

Thanks Raghu. There could be a whole chapter on all the eating joints we tried and the movies, many b-grade we saw.