The year came to an end for me in an almost uneventful manner in Pune. There was nothing much to boast about during the first year spent in the city. The introverted me made quite a few friends with Shiji, Pooja, Gauri, Savita, Harsh and Amrita, with whom I hanged around in college and we attended Economics lecture together. I treasured the friendship with the gang who shared home-cooked Maharashtrian and Keralite food with me in college.
Watching movies in theater was quite a regular trip for the film buff that resides in me. At that time, I was staying at DBC when E Square just opened its door in 2003 and I waggled for five minutes to buy movie ticket, walking past the chai ki tapdi and crossing the road. In fact, the multiplex was behind the apartment where I stayed at Model colony. It’s one way of putting things in perspective. I enjoyed my stay in the peaceful surrounding where you could enjoy long walks in the serene atmosphere towards shops towards the right and opposite the society, there was a huge ground.
I was in for a bad surprise for my first trip at the newly opened multiplex and the time I reached the ticket counter after waiting in the serpent queue, it was shown Housefull for Rajshri’s Mein Prem ki Deewani Hoon starring Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor. Not one to lose heart, I jumped straight in the rickshaw towards Mangala to watch the film. I still recall that it was the first movie that I watched at the single screen Mangala Theatre which at that time lent an old world charm and boasted of a priceless-cum-simple appeal. The wooden seats, samosas with coke made it an experience to be remembered for 40 bucks. What a bore the film was! But, one good thing in the movie was Abhishek Bachchan that stole the thunder in a small role under the nose of the main hero Hrithik Roshan went over the top, doing a Salman Khan. There are quite a few theaters in Pune such as Vijay where I watched Matrix 2 and What a Girl Wants. Finally, watched movies like Baghbaan-for the first time at Esquare . It was the perfect hang out spot with the modern food court and Crossword bookshop. Yes! I watched Out of Control for Shiji’s birthday with the gang at Mangala, same place where we watched Kal Ho Na Ho and Munna Bhai MBBS. Oh! Such good times spent in the company of the gang where the boys-Me and Harsh-were in minority.
Mind you! I didn’t just explore theaters in Pune but had a love affair with hospital during the first month in June itself when I was emasculated by high pitched fever and fell unconscious in the middle of the night. That day, I felt bout of fever and visited the doctor who prescribed few strong pills but munched only spoonful of noodles. During the night, I walked to the bathroom but passed out. I regained consciousness after few minutes and feebly walked inside the room. The next day, the fever hit another high and my condition deteriorated. There was no one in the flat and was confined inside, not knowing whom to speak. It was during such painful moments that you start missing your parents and become vulnerable. During the night, my condition deteriorated and turned into a lifeless body pretty much like a refugee in war zone and almost passed out. The flat mates, Alex, Kshitij and few other guys prodded me that I need to be admitted to hospital. At first, I resisted but finally gave in. The rickshaw was hailed post midnight when we reached Ratna Memorial Hospital to get treated.
A huge bottle of serum was hanging above my head and it made me wonder whether I can play kites with them. It was three terrible days, sleeping on the bed with serum transferred to the right hand, in an unmoved position and it really hurts. I almost gave up and wanted to leave Pune. I sneaked out of the hospital and called my Dad at the STD booth that I wanna come back but was placated by Mom, telling to take my medicines and everything would be fine. I am glad that I didn’t quit or else, I wouldn’t know what I’d be missing in the city that’s been a huge influence on me. I stayed for three boring days in hospital, being attacked by sipping pills, needle that pricked the skin but slowly made it by becoming hale and hearty. Talk about a new life. I felt like doppelganger,, sleeping in a fixed position with a serum bottle hanging like some helicopter hovering above my head.
The lone days in Pune were spent doing frequent trips at Chaturshringi Temple on Senapati Bapat (SB) Road where I walked all the way from home and enjoyed trudging up 100 steps to reach the main temple of the Goddess Chaturshringi. It’s quite a strenuous task but a good way to exert the legs where one could find monkeys prancing around to hunt for bananas. The place is so peaceful and no matter how tired you are, a visit to the temple calms and soothes your inner sense. I remember once I met behenji, our Hindi teacher on January 1, 2004 in the evening. She is such a kind lady and her face shone with happiness on seeing me at the temple where she forced me to join the Kichdi dinner. It’s one of the rarest occasion that I ate non veg food on first day of the year. The year 2004 started on a good note after the society’s gathering on the balcony with the residents, free of booze for New Year eve and woke up without a hang over.
The next part of Pune Memoirs will be dedicated to my stay at Gokhale Nagar, the world of Aslam Bhai, the cafe owner and the Maharashtrian shop. Stay tune for an interesting ride.