Aalo mi Punyaat...Part III
The bus finally leaves, and I am on my way to university. It is a bit disappointing, for the PMPML bus does seem to rattle as much as its older, population-reducing avatar – the PMT bus. The big road has changed in the time I have been away , it is now full of flyovers. I notice E-Square has been dwarfed by a bigger mall. It was a place where we NCL chaps used to hang out on weekends and catch up on movies. I saw Rajnikanth's Chandramukhi there, and loved every bit of it. Repeattu!
Get off at University (stepping in would have caused a huge amount of memory to suddenly descend), and catch a rickshaw to Baner Road, where Shama Ma'am is waiting for me. What joy to meet an old teacher, who never scolded, and yet could put you in your place. A great thrill to meet an old friend.
Her children are doing well, and we talk about our takes on art (she likes Impressionists, I like Indian miniatures) while we lunch over chapatis, potato and cabbage, rice and masoor dal. Much of it was about relationships – how in her time people married and made all kinds of adjustments throughout their lives, how this generation does not sacrifice anything, and when am I going to get a girlfriend.
As it nears 4 PM, I must bid her adieu and rush off to University Circle. Alaka is already there, and we have to reach Bavdhan for the poet's meet. I catch a rickshaw (whose fares are cheaper than in Mumbai,, though distances are longer), collect Alaka and we are off. We talk over each other's employer's work cultures, and how inane HR can be.
We catch Max as he is loitering around the main road at Bavdhan, and he guides us to our destination – the house of Narendra and Vidya Dengle. There we find out that it is actually Guggi's house – the huge German Shepherd who thinks he is a puppy. He has the run of his house, and while he is a bit suspicious of Puppysingh's scent on me, as long as I don't try to snatch his squeaky toy, he doesn't really care. Alaka's behaviour is strange – while she is not afraid of dogs, she is paranoid of being licked.
Then people start trickling in – Aashiqa, Vinod and his friend Varsha. Lakshmi and Nuzhat back out – one is working, and the other one's maid is ill. We start the readings, beginning with the stuff I wrote in the train, moving on to a revolutionary poem by Vinod, a few shy haiku by Varsha. Then Aashiqa and Max read out their Urdu originals and English transcreations respectively in a jugalbandi. Narendra and Alaka follow, and then we read out some of our exchanges that we had – especially on summer and spring – over the past few months. Happy to say my data card did not let me down in Pune, and that was something to be grateful.
Vidya then read out her stories about Guggi, especially one about him wanting a pension like what the police dogs get.
Finally we depart, Alaka to Nal stop, while Vinod drops me at a travel agency where they have no tickets to Mumbai or Thane. So I have to catch a rickshaw to Parihar Chowk, at Aundh.
Aundh is Pune's attempt at becoming Mumbai – huge characterless apartment blocks, enclosing cocooned middle-class families. As I wander from shop to shop, a bit hungry, I do not find any guy who has a seat to spare. Finally a MetroLink guy offers me a seat – on some strange terms. The bus leaves immediately (it was 7:30 PM), I occupy seat 27, and I pay the guy at Wakad. Apparently the Wakad guy did not fill his quota, so he lent it to the Aundh guy. What nice people, even though their language and offices look terribly shady, and they do overcharge. But I have to get home.
Nice cold Volvo bus arrives, and I get it, waiting to pay the guy at Wakad (which I ultimately do). Tired at the end of a rather, rather long day, I nod off to sleep until somewhere near Malavli, under the shadow of Visapur and Lohgad, we stop for dinner. I grab a roll and a sandwich, and like the nice-middle class boy I am, carefully pocket the sauce sachets for later use at home.
Sleep having been dispelled, I compile my Pune memories into a renku, that's now on my blog. And that is the end of it.