It was the end of a year well spent in Pune. It’s been fulfilling, unpredictable, crazy and loads of happiness falling from the sky. I finally made it and was totally in love with the place. I shuttled between college, movies, and my own world. Exams got postponed after a paper leak and when it got over, it felt like bucket load of happiness. The year 2004 was a year of crushes, tale of wronged number, walloped in my own excitement where I finally settled myself in the ‘Oxford of the East’. After all, I had loads to tell at home on how I fell in love with the city. It was my destiny which was largely unplanned.
The year passed with a tale of wronged number when a girl sent an sms by mistake and you know the story, right! Endless chat during the night. There were no whatsaap or Facebook during where he had to content ourselves on Yahoo chat. We chatted till the wee hours, dashing at the Kirana shop for a chota recharge on my favourite BPL prepaid-yes, it didn’t go into oblivion at that time. I still remember the confession of sort, ‘I dunno how I dated that guy’ that the sms wali made.
I fell in love with the Maharashtrian Thali, regularly going for food at China Gate on JM Road and, of course, yummy places like Shahi Dawaat at the huge market in Camp or the best biryani hot spot at Blue Nile. Any reason was good enough to be at Blue Nile or more regular Mc Do that was a special treat we gave ourselves. The fish pickle at Savera still lingers in mouth and it was the most divine thing to have for lunch with friends.
We hopped on the rickshaw towards Camp and taking long stride from Camp to Aurora Towers on MG Road ‘yes we did that! We walked past the fast food outlets, paperbacks books sold on the streets and shoppers swarming till late night at eateries and shop, was quite a sight! Vibrant and full of zest. It’s Pune, after all.
I particularly enjoyed frequenting the cyber cafe at DBC, walking the steel but slippery stairs, treading down cautiously at Funtoon, the restaurant at the basement. The owner is an affable guy with whom I became friends and we used to casually chat over Chinese noodle and Pepsi…Yeh Dil Maange More. There were times when he would treat me by charging less and on some instances, not even a penny, insisting that it’s on him. I would enjoy sitting and watching boys and girls playing pool. It was fun and amusing when there was a particular cool girl missing her cue and would shout loudly, Fuck man. Quite amusing but was impressed by her confidence to stand out among the boys.
My first tryst with job interview happened at SB Road where I was in for quite a surprise at the call centre interview at JACCC the acronym stands for Jobs At Call Centre. I waited for the whole day. It was quite something for the inexperienced me sitting throughout the day and the patience wore thin on me to wait for the different rounds of selection process, General Knowledge tests and briefing by the company. The nice guys outta there even proposed me to call them again when I am back from holiday and the very pretty leader would work out something for me. It was quite tiring at the end of the day and it happened just after exams.
Pune is the place where I met many lovely and affable people and one such person was an uncle who brought goodies from home. One day, he called and gave me the stuffs that Mom and Dad sent. He gave me his card and told me to drop at his shop on Laxmi Road. It was on New Year eve that I visited him along with my flat mate but since he was busy with customers, we told that we will drop next time. It was New Year eve and it’s not nice to disturb him like when he had to attend to a huge crowd. The shop, Anjali XM is a high end sari shop in the centre of Laxmi Road.
I consider myself lucky and grateful for having met such wonderful souls who believe in simplicity despite having so much in life.
Koregaon Park (KP) is another place that I loved to visit in Pune. It’s a beautiful place in downtown where many foreigners flock to Osho Park which is the abode of serenity and tranquility from outside. I heard so much about the place and recall I went there on a Sunday evening, wandered towards Osho Park and, of course, German bakery-the charm of the place was unparalleled before it was the victim of a terror attack in Pune. The pastry and coffee were amazing. I love the small, wooden benches which had a cosy atmosphere as well as the shops nearby that display a variety of goodies, flowers, attires and what’s not. It’s a world in itself that draws you in. KP is one place which is very expensive but beautiful houses, adorned in the shade of lined trees. It’s one of the best places in Pune to take a walk and you feel in a different world. Ecstasy would be an understatement!
It was the eve of my departure for home. The exams got over on April 4, 2004 if my memory is not playing havoc with me and two days later, hopped on the Volvo bus to Mumbai where I wanted to chill till the 10th before heading home. It means that I had only two days to shop for Mom and Dad.
A whole day was spent scouring Laxmi Road for sari, dead tired and just imagine a clueless guy shopping for the malkin of the house. I finally got back browbeaten, came back to FC Road and while plonking my feet on the pavement, my eyes stumbled on a sari shop in a small lane where I finally got Mom a nice cream sari with intricate patterns.
Shopped like crazy and bought so many things, a nice chappal for myself and miniature Ganesh idol fitted with light under 100 bucks at the small shops in Janwadi at Gokhale Nagar and few other stuffs for neighbors, friends.
I drank alone on the eve of leaving Pune at Namaskar, which is part of our college hang out Savera that compromised a non-veg family restaurant behind and in the basement daaru ka adda. It’s a three in one restaurant. I sat at Namaskar, sipping my favorite King Fisher Beer and complimentary channa, peanuts with coriander chutney when a middle aged dude sat next to me on seeing me alone. We had a nice itsy bitsy conversation. That’s what I like in Pune, super friendly, warm and welcoming locals
Pune is home to the much awaited Chaturshringi Fest that we attended in 2003 and the road till Senapati Bapat Road is packed with huge crowd thronged to the venue to see the display. You are spoilt for choice: music, bangle, food stalls, balloon shooting, theatre, rides, films and drama. It is held during Navratri at the foothill of the temple where we moved slowly, at brisk pace and sweating along with the motley crowd.
It was quite a task to move with the crowd in different directions but so much fun. I got myself a big Buddha statue for 50 bucks and it was quite tough to shop or eat at ease for you are always pushed by the crowd. Not a breathing space to move. We wriggled our way out with utmost difficulty and the moment you are out, it feels like the great escape. Moments like these stay forever in life.
.The first year in Pune not only defined me but gave me a sense of identity and belonging to the city that embraced me with open arms. In no time, I became a Puneri.
Stay tuned for the second year in Pune. It will come soon after a break. The first series was exhaustive emotionally, going back and the pain I went through in writing. I am sure that I missed so many instances in life. It hurts when we can’t get back those days of bliss.