It was during my first year in Pune that I moved places on Bhandarkar Road near Joshi Hospital, Aundh and Deep Bangla Chowk in the flick of month before finally settling down. The initial days was spent flirting with the city in all its hues and expressions. I stayed for a while at Bhandarkar Road after landing straight in the city.
I was home sick and teary eyed. The emotional me took long walks at Kamla Nehru Park where I strode, surrounded by the lush flowers and plants in the garden. The place sparkles with vibrant energy and the eyes shines brightly looking at senior citizens, young and married couples doing brisk walk. It was lovely making a couple of round at the garden opposite the road where you can hear sounds of cars, rickshaws and bikes honking their way. The busy street at Bhandarkar Road was home to a line up of shops, restaurants, mini-markets and cyber cafe. I stayed in a residential area where minutes away, Joshi hospital is located at the end of the street.
One can spot kids playing around and young students learning to ride the bike in the peaceful locality. It was during the moments of homesickness that I befriended a talkative girl who chided me, ‘Look at me. At times, I am also homesick.’ She urged me to pull up the socks and enjoy my studies plus life in the city. In fact, she saw me in tears while waiting in line at the STD booth following my call with Mom and Dad. She immediately came to me and gave an earful. That’s how we got to know each other.
I was yet to experience my first monsoon in Pune but when it came, it made it worthwile to snuggle it inside the memory trove. We were chatting in the kitchen when it suddenly started to rain heavily. Tree branches shook. Rain drops made a fluttering sound. Every one was moved. After all, it’s the blessing sent from the sky. Loud steps were heard scampering on the stairs with laughter and legs plodded down with full force. It made us realize that it’s the beautiful girl who stays on the top floor and admired by the boys. There is not one guy at Erandware on Bhandarkar Road whose eye balls were not shooting atop the floor she stayed. It was a scene that came straight from the countless Hindi potboilers captured in reality. Remember Diya Mirza introduction in RHTDM.
There are moments in life that the camera cannot capture for reality can sometimes be too beautiful, marvelous and flawless. Yes, real life can beat reel hands down. She wore a beautiful Salwar Kameez and stood on the ground, letting her hair flew in all directions, clothes drenched and swayed by the monsoon. She was soaked from top-to-toe and unfazed by the heavy showers, she smiled and looked beautifully divine. It was her conversation with the divine and cosmic energy, perhaps. It was my first brush with the Monsoon which stayed with me forever. I remember once my flat mate made an excuse when the light went off to knock on her door to borrow a candle. A smart ploy to strike a conversation and perhaps, meeting over coffee. To think, there were bundle of candles lying in the kitchen. He lit the candle she gave to him, as if it was some prize possession or her scarf that he stole.
Miles away from Bhandarkar Road, you drive straight to Deccan and swerve to the left of Cafe Goodluck chowk to enter a paradise called Fergusson College (FC) Road teeming with students. It was the road of glamor. The place where our lives are led, roaming endlessly and of course, the sight of beautiful girls . There is no dearth of them.
There are bevy of shops lining up on both sides of the busy road, teeming with the youthful crowd swarming their way on bike, rickshaw honking or walking in delight. It feels like entering into a newly discovered world. It was love at first sight. The small shops on the edge of pavement where cheap tees, jeans, shirts and kurtas for both boys and girls were on display makes the sheer beauty of FC Road. Dress for kids and women nestled on the huge tree trunks, winter caps, chapals and of course, sun glasses where you are given a complimentary mirror to admire yourself with, adding to it a sign board written self service makes Pune an endearing affair. Trust me, if you dig deeper into the stuffs, chances are there to land yourself something good. You could buy books, magazines and newspapers spread on the pavement for a mere 40 bucks. The items were cheap but being students, we would haggle for the guy to whittle the price for grab. One could hear the Marathi conversation referring to the huge majority of us in Marathi as ‘Students ahe’.
One would see some fortune tellers spreading their charm by doing somersault on the road and there was a young kid accompanied with a bearded fellow, dressed in orange robe, whipping him to impress Punekar. I shuddered and some people almost yelled wondering whether the poor chap was hurt. No! The young boy was smiling and almost harassed few girls and guys, that too, in exchange for few coins. Or, the very popular Mausi often dressed in a green sari whose face was smeared with colors and carrying idol of Goddesses. Once, she told me, “Beta! Give me some money. You will soon get married.”
The small shops held their own forte in the city at FC Road where you could spot the quirky crowd hell bent to charm the city folks, dressed casual smart. The coffee shops like Barista and CCD cohabited with the tapdi (tea stalls), hawkers selling pani puri, bhel and vada pav. The evening at FC Road were gloriously spent sipping chai and biscuit for three bucks after making CCD my hot favorite sipping Cold Arab Eskimo during the day, spending a fortune to admire the sexy crowd and, of course, the angels. You get the drift right? Girls. Life was such a happy affair. That what makes the charm of Pune city and of course, FC Road our prayer, small shops and hi-fi ones standing together and people hailing from various backgrounds made it a soulful affair.
It’s the same place where we would shop for books on the street, buying note books and pens at the stationery shop. I developed a fetish for the Sundaram note books and needed any excuse to buy. Today, it’s still lying somewhere in my room. It’s not just local Punekars but people who made Pune their home or visited the city will know what I mean by that or simply the aha feeling surrounding Pune. FC Road is a way of life and a culture for Fergussonians and non-Fergussonians. After all, Pune wasn’t called Oxford of the East for nothing.
See you in the next episode on FC Road.