I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll say it again. I Love Pune. I might be a tad biased, but that city is everything.
Okay. I’m completely biased.
This is the city I grew up in. This is where I found friendship, love and heartbreak. So yeah, it sits snugly right here, between my auricles and ventricles. No other city can take its place. I love you too, London, but Pune was and always will be my first love.
I was there last year and like with every visit, I was taken aback by how much it’s grown. A lot has changed except for the love for food and the sharp wit and sarcasm which every Punekar is known for!
Here are a few photos from my trip. This isn’t a travel post in any sense. I’ll tell you why. One – It’s my hometown, so I didn’t go to any of the touristy places. Two, I’m a mom, enough said. Having said that, my childhood jaunts and my favorite places do deserve a post of their own. I promise I’ll plan my next visit better. But for now, I hope you enjoy these pictures, a little slice of my home.
A gorgeous view of the Sahyadris on my way to Pune from Mumbai on the Expressway. We stopped for spicy vada-pav and milky chai on the way. This is exactly what I love about road trips in India. You can stop and sample a smorgasbord of foods.
A cool leafy by-lane in one of the suburbs.
Hot pink bougainvillea in full bloom.
A roadside bookseller in his shack. When my sister and I were kids, these shacks were where we got our weekly reading fix. Pune, called the Oxford of the East has these little shacks all over the city with vendors selling second hand books at low prices. If you have the patience to scour through these piles, you can get yourself a pretty sweet bargain on some amazing books.
The older part of the city ( where I grew up) is steeped in history. In the 18th century, Pune was the headquarters of the Peshwas, the Prime Ministers of the Maratha Empire. Old Pune or the ‘Peths’ used to be full of ‘wadas’ or mansions where the Peshwas resided. Very few of these majestic structures remain and unfortunately, in a dilapidated condition.
‘Raste Wada’ is one such historic building in my neighborhood. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside, but I managed to get a few from the outside. If only these buildings could speak, imagine the stories they would tell!
The photo above is a temple situated at the entrance of the wada. I would imagine Peshwas on their horses paying obeisance here before entering.
This is the external facade of Raste Wada.
This is what you see when you enter. There’s a large quadrangle, where I presume horses would be tied down. We saw a few old rings dug in stone in the quad, hence the assumption. Raste Wada was built between 1779 and 1784 by Sardar Raste, who was a commander in the Peshwa’s cavalry*. Except for the broken windows, the sanctum sanctorum is said to be standing strong.
Another historic structure in Rasta Peth is the ‘Untade Maruti’ temple. ‘Unt’ means ‘camel’ in Marathi, and I’ve heard stories of Peshwas riding camels and entering the city through Rastapeth and praying at this temple. This might not be historically accurate, though.
No visit to Pune would be complete without shopping at Tulsi Baug. It’s an open market selling everything from clothes and jewellery to antiques. Super crowded, though. Weekday mornings are the best time to go.
And after a long day of shopping, what better way to cool off than a glass of fresh sugarcane juice?
This contraption is a two-person machine. One feeds the sugarcane and the other rotates the lever, which helps crush the sugarcane. A dash of ginger and lime and it’s ready. Throw away those sodas, this is the stuff, I’ll tell ya!
I’m sorry I couldn’t get a better picture of Shaniwar Wada. I took this from an autorickshaw! This fort was the seat of the Peshwas until the British took over. So much history is buried here. Shaniwar Wada (literally meaning ‘Saturday House’) is rumored to be haunted. Head over to its Wikipedia page to read about the history of Shaniwar Wada. There’s an amazing sound and light show which I’ve heard you shouldn’t miss. I’ve been inside millions of times growing up, but now all I could get is this hazy picture! Oh well, c’est la vie!
No visit to Pune would be complete without a visit to my favorite elephant headed God, the most famous Ganpati temple in Pune, Dagdusheth Halwai.
If you happen to visit Pune, don’t forget to arm yourselves with some yummy bhakarwadi (a wonderful savory snack) from Chitale Bandhu. And remember, we Punekars love our afternoon siesta, so do not go knocking between 1:00 and 4:00 PM.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual trip.
The fog in my jetlagged brain is slowly clearing. I’m hoping to get back to writing fiction really soon. Stay tuned!
*Historical facts sourced from Virasat Pune