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Notes from Pune

Notes on Pune

I made a short 2 day trip to Pune last weekend. Some notes follow.

1) There are people who come to Goa, see fishermen talk in english and women clad in bikins, have a beer or two, then proclaim “This doesn’t feel like India”. Auto drivers in Pune always charge by the meter. Are polite and helpful. Take the shortest routes. No bullshit about round trips. This doesn’t feel like India.

2) The women. The young women, in particular, cover their faces. ‘Cover’ I think is an inappropriate word. Scarves are wrapped around the head leaving only a small gap for the eyes. Some wear shades over them. Didn’t realise this on Saturday but it became obvious on Sunday. Only the ones who were alone, or with men/boys. Also, women with husbands and children, but only those that weren’t clad in salwars or sarees. Someone told me later it was because of a spate of acid attacks some time back. Find it hard to believe. Attackers spare women if they are out with their mothers ? This doesn’t feel like India either. Atleast not the urban India that I know.

3) Goa ? What Goa ? I travelled by bus at night. Goa to Pune, was awake for two thirds of the journey, slept in the last leg. Pune to Goa, quite another story. My agent gave me the wrong boarding time and location. Got to the boarding station at what I thought was 15 minutes past departure time. Learnt boarding was not to start in another hour and the bus was late by another half. Had an urge to pee right before bus moved so dashed into nearby restuarant, peed, and dashed back into the bus just as it moved out. About an hour later, I realised that the scenery outside was nothing like I had seen on Saturday morning. Flat lands, industrial areas, lights in the distance ? Where did the hills and the jungle go? I started looking out for signboards and milestones. First two or three boards indicated distances to some towns or villages. Then, Bangalore 834 km. Bangalore ? Maybe its on the same route so… Three, four more milestones and an hour later I am still seeing Bangalore. Did I get on the wrong bus by any chance? I ask the helper/conductor. Yes this bus is going to Goa. My fault. Must have slept through this part. Two hours away from Goa, I still cannot see any signboards that give directions or distances to my destination. Then I slept, so maybe I missed some.

4) The problem with luxury buses is that they charge you for services you can’t use. I was told for instance that I could watch TV and read books under a personal light in my Volvo. I could, but only for 2 hours and 15 minutes respectively. And the driver got to choose the programs. So, first I saw Dhamaal, then Dhol on my return trip. Two very indistinghuishable and supremely annoying movies. To enhance our movie watching experience, the driver turned off all lights, including personal ones. Then didn’t turn them back on becuase everyone else was asleep. Three, four years back, between Delhi to Lucknow, I had asked a bus driver to turn on the personal lights so I could read. He told me that they were wired together with the smaller of the aisle lights. These aisle lights kept some passengers up and also disturbed his vision. And an A/C at this time of the year ? Pointless.

5) I sat in a large room, in a 100 year old building and heard more words than I had in similar sized rooms, in my college buildings, less than 10 years old. Apparently, architects were more sensitive to the needs of digital hearing aid users a century ago.

6) A bookstore on J.M. Road reminded me of a bookstore in Chennai. Crosswords and Landmark repectively. Both had a varied collection and a special section dedicated to their respective regional languages. Both were crowded with customers who were actually buying books. My complaint with bookshops in South Delhi and Panaji is that they stock too many of NYT bestsellerish books. And too little of non-american books. I bought Orhan Pamuks Snow. At Landmark, 2 years ago, I had bought My Name is Red.

7) Plays are advertised on the back of autos. Roads are stubbornly called rasta.

8 ) Damn too many statues. Almost like U.P. and very unlike Goa. Oh and they call them putla unlike moorti in Hindi. Putla, to me, is something you beat up and then burn :P. These putlas can be seen at the busiest intersections, the best commercial areas and near important buildings. A little away from the Congress Office, a little further from Shivajinagar depot near a bridge was a group, living in tents, by the road. Children shat on the footpath, the place smelled horrible. On a wall opposite, a hand painted blue elephant. Written beneath in Devanagri BSP, Maywati, Mumbai Chalo, only words I could catch. Ten auto-minutes later, an Ambedkar Sanskriti Bhavan near some big buildings and a little further a well kept Ambedkar Park with an Ambedkar putla.

9) Just too many, restuarants here are “Only Vegetarian”. Maybe they should put a sign or something outside non veg restuarants. Would help people like me. I ended up having three meals at McDonalds.

10) Snow. I had no idea what Pamuks book was about. I bought it only because I liked his previous book and his Noble acceptance speech. Had several deja vu moments. Saw India in Turkey, Hinduism in Islam, BJP in PKK, young Bajrangis in boys of religious school students, and Pune women in the girls of religious school. Or maybe vice versa, in each case. I am glad this book was translated in English and translated beautifully.


November 20, 2007 at 12:46 am 2 comments


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