Pune is my adopted city as Delhi was…the difference is that I am tied to Delhi with an umbilical cord, my mother was a true-blue Delhi –ite while Pune is a choice.
The first time I visited Pune, in 1971 from our Mumbai visit, I fell in love with its wide tree-lined avenues, presence of eminent educational and research institutions and inherent Maratha culture and valor in reference to Shivaji, establisher of Maratha Empire (courtesy school textbooks). Subsequent visits to this ‘Oxford of the East’ and ‘Queen of the Deccan’ did not lessen the bond with a city fast metamorphosing from a laid back hinterland of Mumbai to a buzzing IT land. We purchased a villa and looked forward to staying here. It is a different matter that it took us 13 years to honor the commitment made to ourselves.
Social Strings: Pune is a city of societies or ‘group housing’ giving residents an opportunity to share the trials and tribulations of daily living. There are upmarket, down market, middle rung societies contributing in developing Pune’s infrastructure, safeguarding natural resources and environmental safeguards…. community living in short. Initially I was unsure how to respond to community living, having resided in single unit homes, sometimes with unfriendly neighbors, but a month on and I like what I see.
Ganesh Mania: Call it mania, hysteria, religiosity…the celebrations are awe-inspiring. It is a 10-day affair, similar to West Bengal’s Durga Puja, with each society and association having their own pandals and statues. Going into history the festival was celebrated on large-scale during Shivaji’s rule (1630 – 1680) loosing state patronage and confined to private celebrations during British control. Lokmanya Tilak, freedom fighter and social reformer, revived it as a unifier for Indians. The city and state made Lord Ganesh, the God of New Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles, Wisdom and Intelligence, as their talisman. There are numerable temples, big and small and friends suggested I visit Dagadusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple, a 19thcentury historically significant magnet for devotees with its beaming 7 feet Ganesh coated in gold. Crowds intimidate me so I avoided temple visits and hope that in coming years I will be a willing participant in Ganesh’s earthy pleasures.
The cherubic elephant-head god is my favorite and I feel sad for all the idols, so painstakingly molded, ending in water on the 11thday. The idols are carried in processions, music and group chanting and immersed in nearby ponds and rivers. The reason for water immersion is to send Ganesh to his heavenly abode carrying with him the sorrows and troubles of the earth. I remember a cartoon of Ganesh in a psychiatric chair saying that ‘he is having recurring dreams of drowning’. I can empathise at this yearly ordeal. I to am scared of going under water.
Another discovery was the modak, a dumpling look-alike prepared with rice flour and sweet fillings and steamed
Till then I am taking small steps integrating in a new neighborhood, literally and culturally.
Next : The city. …Traffic woes