It all started with a casual conversation between a friendly senior and me wherein there was this slight mention of the PUNE MUN (MUNs are interesting simulations of the United Nations, hosted and participated in by school and college students). I had always been to domestic MUNs and going out alone for the first time, felt like a challenge. Having not travelled to regions below the Tropic of Cancer, to me, they resembled warm tropic lands interspersed with plateaus and charismatic sunshine. So, I somehow convinced my mom to let me go, and Before I knew it, I was on my way to the airport after some days!
I am leaving on a Jet Plane…
Travelling on a plane after a gap of 3 years, the whole experience somehow seemed so fascinating and intriguing. Somehow, I felt like a kid sitting in the plane for the first time. Staring at the crevices of the subtly lined runway, waiting to video record the ascent in a slow-Mo and hoping to tell my travelling partner to take some supposedly candid photographs (Defeats the very purpose of the photo being a candid, eh?), I was in my own game. I’ve always felt like maintaining this travel journal kind of thing, wherein I record everything like a photojournalist and update it on the web. I just turned 18 and with the augments of the New Year, somehow life seems like a tricky place. And travelling to a new place, meeting new people and seeing already established marvels, somehow sets forward a loop into motion. A loop, with infinite beginnings and infinite ends.
Light pours in from the oddly crafted windows and wails of a baby shouting at oblique intervals of undefined time create a perfect balance of peace and disharmony. A casual glance outside reveals a sea of suspended matter floating with grace and tranquility. Almost feels like sitting on a boat, rowing past waves that gently caress the titanium and propel it forward. The white hues annotate the melodramatic speckled tints of yellow. Coming to the more observed aspects of life, I was flying Jet Airways then and the food was quite decent. Good Service by the stewards. As of then, there was no specific turbulence aboard. Though those baby wails continued to test my patience and acted as precursors to alleviate my temperamental mood.
As the plane touched down, the exhilarating feeing of the aircraft landing on its wheels and the subsequent friction in its motion was supreme. We (The passengers, basically) were warned that Pune being a defense airport didn’t allow photography. So, basically this announcement forestalled about 30 Instagram and Snapchat cheesy posts, which announced the arrival of its users in sumptuous (vexatious) manners.
The air outside had a mildly cold tinge and unfamiliar Marathi slangs dominated the setting from taxi drivers. They basically asserted their rights over the passengers, and soon our luggage was handled with precision that boasted of extensive experience, in the boot of the car.
Oxford of the East
Pune is a very vibrant and slow-paced city, but is also one of the largest metropolitans in Maharashtra. Slow-paced and metropolitan kind of sound like an oxymoron, but that’s what I felt. There was a traditional handicraft market with beautiful embroidery and artefacts outside the airport, which caused a glint in my eye for the first time in the city. It was delightful to see a blend of modernity and medieval cultural roots blend together, to create architectural marvel. Called the Oxford of The East, Pune has more than 400 college affiliations to the Pune University along with 9 more deemed universities. With each passing red light, a university name flashed by, thus confirming the actuality of the above stated fact. Historically known as ‘Poona’, Pune has succeeded in embracing its true Maratha roots. Each road ended with a Maharashtrian name in well-crafted Marathi that confused and beguiled me at the same time.
‘Mehmaannavazi aur Khatedaari’
Travelling with a friend of mine, we found the best and most authentic tour-guide in our college senior Aditya Vijay Kumar (fondly referred to as ‘V’). His ‘Mehmaannavazi’ is something everyone visiting Pune should aspire for (Not being cheesy!). Post our MUN, we had a wholesome dinner at the Ramakrishna Hotel with one of the quickest servings, I’d ever had, accompanied by Kulfi from the roadside vender. With Kulfi in one hand and listening to V’s stories that included how film shootings and ad-campaigns are literally an everyday-scenario at Pune, and theories about the Parsi conservationism, on the other was a delight as we walked down the MG ROAD Avenue. He explained to us the demographic foundations of the city, with forts from the medieval era existent, some 40 Kms from the main city. British architecture found itself repealing( It isn’t a typo!) in his words again and again as Poona’s military rendezvous was discussed. How Pune evolved from a mere cantonment area to one of Maharashtra’s liveliest city formed the rest of the discussion.
(Sincere Apologies, for not mentioning Aditya Patil, popularly known as Golden Bhai! who showed me around the FC ( Ferguson College Road) on his vibrant orange Vespa!)
Remember the palatial ‘Shaniwar Wada’ from Bajirao Mastani?
The next day, we found ourselves gawking at the spiked gates of the supposedly haunted fort, Shaniwar Wada. V told us about how the entire city originated from the erstwhile seat of the Peshwa rulers, and spread on to its currently existent geography. Walking along the ramparts (or ruins, the fort was almost burnt to the ground during the British times), it felt like history seeping in through your veins and creating a majestic aura of how splendid things would have been then. On V’s suggestion, we explored the Old city on foot. Having completed the religious quotient of out trip by praying at the Shreemant Dagduseth Halwai Ganpati Temple, we proceeded to enter the ‘Diagon Alley’ of books in Pune. There were about hundreds of bookshops lined along the road, which fulfilled fantasies of thousands of literary enthusiasts like me, just by existing! Also special was the distinct taste of Chocolate MnB and the exquisiteness of what Marathi people call ‘Dabeli’, we had, at a very famous and quaint shop.
Goregaon: *K bro..(Get the Pun?)
Time and Traffic connived to create certain constraints for our full exploration of the city. Having heard about the popular quotient of Koregaon Park, one of the Pune’s most upstate (Metaphorically also) places, we ventured out there to walk. It’s one of the cleanest and most serene spots to be at, in Pune, with the likes of artificial nature also impressing you. As said by some native, “The nightlife is not a measure of a city’s growth, but, it definitely defines the youth quotient of a city.” For you to live in the moment in the city and enjoy its nightlife, with a multitude of cafes giving you exuberant choices, Koregaon is the place for you to be.
Since, I could not extensively travel the city, I don’t have much to say as of now, but I promise that the next time someone mentions Pune, I’ll be the over-enthusiastic creep persuading them to travel to the cultural capital of Maharashtra.