Aalo mi Punyaat...Part I

Have reached Pune and am writing the first instalment from my favourite place in Pune – the precincts of the Kasba Ganpati temple. Because this deity – formless and yet with form is my ishta devata – my own God, I recognise none else. Tamekadantamevatam vichintayami santatam.

Other than a few haiku/senryu, the journey from Thane was eventless. Unless you count the mild bomb scare caused by a guy leaving his baggage and disappearing for a short while. And if you decide to ignore mother's morning grumpiness, the anxiety on getting a bus to station, the anxiety of my name being on the reservation chart, the soggy fries and the cold cutlets I got on the train, and the frustration of being bunged out of the window seat by its rightful claimant. I think the last one was unwarranted. I think in trains and buses the window-seats should be given to poets and writers on priority basis, because they will do something about the scenery everyone will remember. The others will either watch without anything registering, or horror of horrors, go to sleep.

The view out of the window – brown hills parched by the summer and waiting for rain, village huts no city-dweller will want to live in but write Tennyson-esque poems about, and urban poor unwittingly mooning the railway passengers as they use the railways tracks as the world's largest toilet. And the sight at Kalyan station of a beggar waking up on the platform and promptly getting down to business. All this voyeurism suddenly turns back on you when you enter a tunnel and your own mug stares back at you. When the sights ran out, I – horror of horrors – dropped off to sleep.

Reach Pune station to discover a strange bridge has come up by it, and the station bus-stand has ceded its space for a multi-level parking (why?). Anyway I have to walk up to Sassoon Hospital - that hasn't changed luckily, nor have the hawkers gone away. A little beyond I get my bus to Manapa, from where I must walk to Kasba Ganpati temple.

What joy to sit in a PMT bus again! Though it is now called PMPML (huh?), it is still as nice and rattly as it used to be in my NCL days. As the bus passes by Kumbharwada, I am reminded of the potter-woman, whose dignity extracted a poem out of me, the only one I have published so far. (So what if it is only one, it was published in Amreeka, so there!).

Manapa is still the same, as are the lazy buffaloes pasturing by the Mutha (or is it Mula) as I cross the bridge to get to Shaniwarpeth. The bridge has a snake-charmer (in the 21st century) trying to wake a cobra into action. A shiver runs through me as I double my pace, for I have this Room 101 fear of snakes. I walk past Shaniwarwada, which still stands strong and bright in its tragic history – once the centre of power in India, now a mere tourist curiosity. Who's next – North Block?

And then finally, here I am at Kasba Ganpati. With thoughts pure and impure. The impure thoughts about food – I am dying to taste Pune's poha again, though I am quite full. But to purer thoughts – set foot in the temple, and no fans, no A/c, yet it is such a cool place with a soft breeze too. I think it is the serenity, the tranquility that does it.

I could sit here all day, but next stop – Deccan.


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