October 2020: Months are rolling into one another at shrinking speed, with Covid smirking “Honey… I have shrunk the Months’. We are not amused.
The second half of 2020 has been action packed with glamour, drugs, social issues jostling for space in print and social media. Ruling the waves was the media trial of suspected offenders and perpetrators, keeping us glued to the shenanigans of loud mouth television anchors and their channels. Waiting for the end result we were told TRPs are the issue, a high level Maharashtra Police enquiry is on, leaving us with loss of escape route from lacklustre scary perspective ‘There is nothing better to do’. Covid plus television manipulated our collective wisdom making us believe what we hear and see.
Sometimes, being an outsider helps have a better understanding of the situation, to ask questions, to peel the layers from fake presentations. Selection or Selective are two sides of the same coin and I continue to flip the Channels hoping for a figment of reality.
A recent WhatsApp message, from a friend chuffed us up for having selected Pune as our retirement city. I agree with most points… particularly population density. The numbers, from 2005 when we purchased our house and now in 2020, have grown exponentially with the city keeping pace…vertically, horizontally and demographically.
Here is the list verbatim. I have highlighted points I believe confirm Pune’s changing position plus added a new one.
1* Pune topped the list of cities with highest number of Covid cases in 2020. And guess what…A Pune company, Serum Institute of India (SII) is manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines for the developing world.
*1.* *POONA/Pune* has the impeccable record of highest growth within a span of 20 Years
*2.* Pune has highest number of pubs in Asia.
*3.* Pune has highest number of cigarette smokers in India. (might be)
*4.* Pune has the highest number of software companies in India-212, followed by Bangalore – 208,Hyderabad – 97. Hence called the Silicon Valley of Maharashtra
*5.* Pune has 35 engineering colleges, which is highest in the world in a given city. Pune University has 57 Engineering colleges affiliated to it, which is highest in the world.
*6.* Pune has commercial and defense Airport operating from the same strip.
*7.* Pune has highest number of public sectors and government Organizations in India.
*8.* Pune university has highest number of students going abroad for higher studies taking the first place from IIT-Kanpur.
*9.* Pune has only 38% of local population (i.e.Marathi) .Hence a true cosmopolitan with around 20% North Indians,10% Tamilians, 14% Telugites, 10% Keralites, 8% Europeans (Koregaon Park), 5% Africans, 2%Bangalis and 6% a mixture of all races
*10.* Pune police has the reputation of being second best in India
*11.* Pune has the highest density of traffic in India.
*12.* Pune has the highest number of 2-wheelers in the world
*13.* Pune is considered the fashion capital of east comparable to Paris
*15.* Pune is 3rd in producing the maximum international sportsmen in India for all sports.
*16.* Pune has produced the maximum number of scientists considered for many high profile Prize nominations
*17.* Pune has produced the highest number of professionals in USA almost 60% of the Indian population abroad is from Pune (except Gulf).
*18.* Pune is the only city in India where there are seven Universities.
*If you ever live/d in Pune/ Poona ….then….this one has to be shared !*
This is one of the crowded parts of the city. There are open spaces and societies where we live, experience time and space, share joys and sorrows savouring Puneri food and culture. A Delhi-ite (from New Delhi) I have learnt to relish broon-maska* dipped in hot Irani Chai* at an Irani-Parsi cafe, know the difference between maska-pav* and the batata-vadas* of Garden Vada Pav stall ( Camp area) selling since 1970s. It is a must stop spot whenever we pass Camp. Our neighbours introduced us to Maharashtrian Thaali* that became a must every 15 days. In the list of favourites I can add Shrewsbury biscuits from Kayani Bakery* and LaxmiNarayan Chivda*. There are clones but the originals are still in demand. ..
I am not very good at learning languages and picked up a few words….kundi….meaning pot. The Gardener asked me whether I wanted the saplings to be planted in a kundi or in flower bed. I looked at him and wondered why he wanted a kundi which sounds similar to khundi (Hindi) and latch in English when I am asking him to plant some rose cuttings. Seeing me perplexed he pointed at a flower pot. There are other words that I have added in my conversations much to the amusement of listeners.
October is the festival month and like everyone else I am missing visits to Durga Puja Pandals, the Garba sessions in our Society lawns, the neighbourhood loudspeakers trolling us with filmy music every night. Zoom celebrations cannot compensate for real life events.
My sensitivities for Pune are summed in few lines from the poem Crossroads by Louise Glück, recipient of 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature.
by Louise Glück
My body, now that we will not be traveling together much longer
I begin to feel a new tenderness toward you, very raw and unfamiliar,
like what I remember of love when I was young —……………………………………
it is not the earth I will miss,
it is you I will miss.
‘And then, just like that, the storm passes, leaving a shimmering light-filled sky in its wake, leaving the darkened colours not just restored but imbued with a new vibrancy as the setting sun blankets everything with its golden light. (Japanese poet and picture-book author Hiroshi Osada and artist Ryoji Arai celebrate in Every Color of Light: A Book about the Sky translated by David Boyd. (….a tender serenade to the elements that unspools into a lullaby, inviting ecstatic wakefulness to the fulness of life, inviting a serene surrender to slumber.)
In the meantime we wait for the vaccine to make its appearance and for 2020 to morph into 2021.
*Batata Vada Pav/Pao: A vegetarian fast food dish native to the state of Maharashtra. The dish consists of a deep fried potato dumpling placed inside a bread bun sliced almost in half through the middle. Wikipedia
*Broon-maska-or Bun maska…that bun lathered with dollops of butter…a quintessential Irani breakfast favourite.
*Irani Chai: A sweet and creamy chai with added sugar and optional addition of spices such as cinnamon and green cardamom.
Maharashtrian Thali: The everyday thali has serving of Chapati, Phulka, Bhakri (varieties of flat bread), Koshimbir or Salad, a Chutney, Dry vegetable curry, Pappadom, Pickle and Sweet dish. Puranpoli or stuffed sweet lentil flat bread is for special occasions and festivals. (web image as haven’t had a Thali for last 7 months)