Pune. My home for 22 years.
Being a cousin of a city as overwhelming as Mumbai, it would have been easy to fall into the role of a poor relative. Any other city would have easily succumbed, but not Pune. Not my Pune.
Pune is careful to ensure that Mumbainess does not rub onto her carefully cultivated veneer. Pune was a seat of power and culture- the center of the Maratha kingdom under the Peshwas, when Mumbai was only a group of backward islands. Every Punekar is keenly aware of this. Not just aware, but will make it a point to remind others of its superiority at every single opportunity. We know our Shaniwarwadas, Lal Mahals and Vishrambaug Wadas. Our Parvatis and Manache Ganpatis. We know, and we gloat.
Pune is young and vibrant. So young, that there are more two-wheelers than cars. So vibrant, that there are restaurants every 50 meters. Pune is supercilious, and haughty. Fortunately though, this supercilious attitude translates into action. Punekars think. They talk. Then unlike most, they act. Vinita Kamte, the wife of DCP Ashok Kamte who killed in the 26/11 attack embodies the spirit of Pune. One callous comment about her husband’s bravery provoked her to take on the powerful establishment. But once she got her message across, she retreated into the quiet of her city, to live undisturbed.
In other places, people form queues because that’s the fastest way to get things done. In Pune, they do it because that’s what a disciplined city should do. Discipline though, is only to be shown when on foot. When on wheels, Punekars make their own rules. They decide when they have waited long enough for a traffic light to turn green, and then make a decision themselves. It is a phenomenon worth watching. Ten vehicles jumping a signal together.
Punekars love their Chitale baker-wadis and amrakhanda’s. They also love their Vaishali. But they embrace Hard Rock Cafe with equal enthusiasm. And education is the city’s pride. Yes, you have degree spewing colleges. But you also have NDA, BJ Medical, Ferguson. The list goes on. Pune is growing. IT hubs on the fringes bring in a new influx of people from all over the country. New folks and varied mindsets. They remain separate from the core of Pune though, like oil floating on water. Pune takes its time assimilating people. No, it doesn’t reject them outright. But you’ve got to stay in the city for atleast a generation before you can be called a Punekar (you might become a Puneite much sooner).
This is my last post from Pune. It might be quite some time, before I sit in the comfort of my home in Pune and write a post. My last 48 hours, for a long time.
But I am a Punekar. And once you are that, you will return to your city by choice.
When your job is done.
Return, to live and die here.