Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Comparative Tale of Two Cities.

Being in Pune makes me feel like I'm seated right in the middle of a time-continuum discrepancy. Life in slow motion. None of the bustling rush that is only so characteristic of the capital. Every morning, you're greeted by something that can only measure up to a mere excuse for a newspaper. Apparently, nothing much happens in the city. I cannot express my amusement at finding the Page-3 section featuring a culinary workshop, with a 60-or-so year old chef demonstrating the finer points of a zucchini to a bunch of middle-aged women, all swathed in aprons with spatula in hand. Talk about contrasts! This is usually a good thing as long as you're on vacation. Living in Pune is, of course, an entirely different proposition.

The people are better behaved. Nothing like your average ostentatious Delhite. I personally find them to be unusually amicable, without being the prying sort. At least here is a place where people have mastered the art of minding their own business.

Owing to the presence of the Hinjewadi IT park, and the various universities that attract students from all over the country, my layman estimates accredit my predisposed notions of most of the city being a humongous, over-grown campus. In any case, there has got to be a good reason for it being called Oxford of the East (which, even to me, is too much of an exaggeration). The fact that I have friends there back from school days, only adds to my enthusiasm.

What I find strange is that if ever you choose to venture out of the city, and into the many quaint little towns dispersed all over the western ghats and the Konkan belt, it is like being in an entirely different country. Mahabaleshwar, Matheran, Lonawala, Khandala, Panchgani, Malsaaj Ghat, Hari-Hareshwar and Diveagar are the places I have had the opportunity to visit during the course of my stays in Pune and Mumbai, the last two being the most recent. In the more remote of these places, it is not uncommon to find that nothing is ever written in Hindi or English. Navigation can be especially fun when you find that even the people don't really speak anything other than Marathi. I found myself comparing this with my experiences in Guangzhou, China where at least all signboards and text was accompanied by (grammatically absurd) English translations! The extent of cultural diversity to be found in our country, within a matter of a 1000 km or so, is nothing short of astounding. In a good way.

The weather is great. So are the vast expanses of lush greenery. And the never-ending monsoons and thunderstorms. Pune is also the point of confluence of the Mula and Mutha rivers, which have an unusual inclination towards being flooded, in all convenience.

Pune is pretty much the only place where I have been denied entry into a store like Croma, at exactly 9:02 PM. Something of the sort is fairly unimaginable in Delhi, where the shopping begins post office-hours. And as a friendly word of advice, if you ever happen to be in a mall, dining at a restaurant, and decide to leave anytime post 10:00 PM, be prepared to walk out and find the place having been shut down on you. The "stores closed-lights out" sort of shut down. Yes, that happened. :)

And I do have a lot more to say, but I'll let pictures do the talking.
"Sights through a Pentax".
Coming soon.


Anty said...

Pune sounds like such a beautiful romantic city and the fact that people can mind their own business.. Pure Bliss :)

You're lucky to be there

Mer-curial-maiden said...

... *and* you write superb travelogues :)

My Evil Self said...

@ Anty : Oh yeah..! Sure is. Which is why I make it a point to have bi-annual visits there.

@ Mer-curial-maiden : In all fairness, you're far too kind. :)