Pune Memoirs, 2004-05:
It was quite a joy ride in Pune during those days where life flickered like the breezy wind and meeting the college gang, I mean the usual suspects, was not a call but a walk away. The wintery evenings was spent at the college hang out, Savera restaurant just opposite our Fergusson College where you would find mates and acquaintances sipping, sipping cups of tea and coffee. The place was calm in those days unlike now where the traffic is crazy and sitting at Savera watching the traffic moving in peace to a certain degree was a soulful exercise. Of course, the definition of ‘peaceful’ is subjective unlike now. I enjoyed gazing at the road from the restaurant and the horde of people swarming on FC Road. The place was serene, peaceful and lazy. Pune was quite a lazing off affair where life moved in a comfortable zone.
I enjoyed long walks, wading past Deccan to have a taste of pan carefully snuggled on a pack of ice, scouting for paperback books and woolen winter cap spread on the pavement. The best thing about walking at a stretch towards JM Road is that the body becomes warm in the cold and of course, tea was brewed and served hot at the street stalls. I enjoyed the Mastani sweet drink which is a Pune specialty in the cold season that sends a cool sensation down the body. In the apartment where we stayed, there was a rickshaw uncle whom our flatmates befriended and he would often come to visit us, bringing hot bread, bun, and cookies wrapped in newspaper for all of us. Quite a quirky character he was! He wasn’t really dumb but his voice was choked due to dysfunction where we had to follow his lip movement attentively to understand. At times, uncle could be very irritating when he would comment on the number of pair of shoes lying on the rack and bitching about an acquaintance in whose apartment, there were innumerable pairs. Of course, he meant no harm and was a kind man.
Once he took us for around and sashayed his vehicle at a screeching speed past the red light area at BP Road, showing us the commercial sex workers. It was quite a sight, frightening but also an outsider’s view in another world we were alien to. Of course, uncle’s advice of how we shouldn’t go there but end up laughing at his own joke asking if we want to go. Of course, none of us ever did that. Once, I was walking on the busy FC Road past Vaishali restaurant when a hand grabbed my arm and almost jumped in fright to see rickshaw uncle pulling a prank on me. Of course, I was shit scared.
But, I had an almost scaring incident with a random rickshaw wala at Deep Bangla Chowk while driving inside the crowded place surrounded by a lineup of small electric shops when my vehicle brushed past the former. I didn’t realize that my bike almost stumbled on the speeding rickshaw and somehow lost my balance to regain control before accelerating past the chowk. The infuriated rickshaw dude did a u-turn to stop in front of me and bang a resounding slap on my face that almost deafened my ear. I didn’t defend myself and was smart enough to avert danger since, in this particular area, there could be a risk of dozens pouncing on me on account of a rickshaw stand not far away. The shop wallas came out of the shop with the aim to separate me from them and it was time for the asshole to run away, who earlier thought that I bumped his vehicle to flee. The shop guys told me you should have slapped him back and he has no right to hit you. But, then, I guess it was a minor incident that doesn’t weigh against the fabulous times spent in my city. By that time, Pune has already become my home where I became a Punekar in no time.
The best thing about the localites are their welcoming nature and not once, I felt like an outsider in the city. It’s what makes the beauty of Pune that gave a sense of belonging. It’s very important to have local contacts and one such nice people were the Bhave who managed Bharat Gas on FC, uncle and his son Siddharth Bhaiya. They were like family and would often lend me cash from the company account when I was broke. I would often visit them when in need of cash. Adi would joke that whenever I would visit the outlet, they must be thinking, ‘Oh! He is again here…in need of cash.’ Might be holier than truth.
There were no dearth of visitors at our apartment and one such good guy was Pradeep who was much elder than us who at that time sported a mustache and long hair like Aamir Khan in Mangal Pandey who was all over the billboards. Pradeep who is a techie would always bring for us huge Cadbury chocolate box and sweets during Diwali and on any random occasion. Once he took all of us for dinner at a Rajasthani place off JM Road and the place looked like The Great Indian Wedding on a Saturday where food was served unlimited for 150 bucks. On the day, we were treated to a royal feast, we waited for a long time outside since there was a huge crowd but once we were in, the treat was sumptuous with mouth-watering veg and nonveg Indian delight plus sweet meat. Pradeep loved music and he would often bring his guitar, encouraging us to sing along with him to the tune of typical Goans songs and dancing to Kajra Re, where he did the perfect AB and Junior B signature style. He was not only a genuine soul but also very jolly dude. He would hug you by slapping on the back. That was his way of greeting us with a smile. He was a well-built fellow at that time and very athletic that we would often joke that if had to beat someone, we would bring Pradeep bhaiya along. Then, one day, he simply disappeared and wondering where he went but then heard from that he moved to Dubai without telling many people.
When we were not having visitors, Saturdays were spent having vodka, smoking up both cigarette and the shit by sitting on the stairs with Adi where we would talk just about anything under the stars in the sky, from girls to exams and people we liked and disliked. At that time, we were up past 2 a.m and yours truly was always high. He also tried to get me hitched to one of his friend from Mumbai and who was studying medicine in Nagpur, N. Of course, things didn’t work out and he harassed me to keep messaging her. Of course, I did but on and off. The friendship and carefree days were priceless where life was taken for granted, at times.
Before I wrap it off, there was an anecdote where I was unintentionally made the joke while sitting and studying like a good boy for exams in my room. My only fault was listening to the Walkman in loud volume while writing on loose Sundaram paper sheet as an effective revision method to retain concepts. Somehow, I sensed some human movement behind my back and heard laughs and was greeted to roomies sitting like disciplined kids on my bed. I was right. They were laughing at me. I thought it was some pranks. Adi just said, “Asshole what’s up?” He used to call me that and I would return the compliment with bitch. He again asked whether I didn’t hear anything. Everyone ended up laughing. An earthquake that shook the building made each and every one of them who were confined to study in their respective rooms leap off their feet and storm their way inside the hall that was converted into my room. Yours truly was the only specie oblivious to the earthquake that rocked the entire city and shook our building.
I shall leave you with this episode in the Pune Memoirs and hope you enjoyed this episode that I believe turned out to be a spicy and filled with anecdotes worth a memoir. Sometimes I do blow my trumpet.
Postscript: Going back at times can be quite painful in racking the brain to separate the chaff from the wheat to recollect moments worth telling. The past shall not bear the burden of pain but glorious moments that made life worth living and taking a risk. I am at my candid best.