Aalo mi Punyaat...Part II

The way to Deccan turned out to be longer than planned for, and an enjoyable journey in its own right. First stop was right outside Kasba Ganpati for poha – Pune's fabulous poha with its onions and peanuts. It is cheap and delicious, probably why Marathis have it every morning. Though towards the end of the plateful, eating the beaten rice does become a chore.

Then on towards Appa Balwant Chowk, where I thought I'd buy myself a Marathi dictionary. I have been sms-ed a Marathi poem which I still can't decipher. Never send a budding linguist a poem in a language he thinks he understand but doesn't really grasp well, it will set him off on a crazed quest that most men reserve for chasing girls. So I reach ABC (as it is affectionately known), scouring the bookshops there for a dictionary. I finally have to buy two – English to Marathi and the other Marathi to English, but they come cheap (but very small print), so that is okay. If I can read Marathi that tiny, perhaps my eyesight is still good. Now to crack that poem, ehe ha ha ha!

A whim leads me to Vishrambaugwada, which turns out to be farther than I thought. It was a Peshwa's pleasure palace – in its time overflowing with wine and the songs of nautch-girls. All that there is now is a wistful and poorly lit exhibition of Pune's history on an upper floor, and a number of municipal offices on the ground floor. Seems like a socialist's idea of a joke. Random facts learnt in the exhibition were the names of the Bara Maval, and that Pune was once called Muhiyabad.

Take a break for sugarcane juice, and then the highlight of the day – the long walk towards Deccan through Sadashivpeth. Now that was a lesson in Pune's culture. Old buildings, some probably a hundred years old or more, with wooden balconies, central courtyards and teak pillars have to jostle for space with whatever goes for 21st century architecture. The Peth is dotted with many temples from the time of Shivaji, the Peshwas and perhaps earlier. Some temples are crumbling, while others have been taken over by 'trusts', and renovated into modern white marble structures with excessive ornamentation. But the trees are huge, having been given the time and space to grow among human structures. Rain-trees, jackfruit, mango, and many others, and with a lot of birds collected around. I could hear koels throughout my walk.

Asking my way through empty shops (Pune shops are almost always empty, and there is a reason that P. L. Deshpande has explained why), I finally land up at the Mutha river, where I have to cross over to Deccan corner.

Deccan is of course the 20th century Pune that Pu La was familiar with, and which to some extent still survives that way – modern yet unbusy. International Book House – a haunt of mine when I lived in Pune – was closed for Sunday, so I landed up in Utkarsh on Alaka's recommendation. After browsing a bit, I finally pick up Apulakit, a collection of essays by Pu La. This is for the simple reason that the type size was large, and that I have to read it with the help of the dictionary I just bought. Since that was the point of wanting to go to Deccan, phase II of my trip to Pune was now over. Now to find a bus to Shama Ma'am's house, who is wondering when I am going to land up.


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