Saturday, September 27, 2008

Adieu Pune

I bid thee adieu... yes!! I bid thee adieu...
That's all I could think of as the train pulled out of the station at Pune. It was a funny feeling. I had spent some of the best years of my life in this city, in fact it is a city of firsts for me. And yet as I leave the city behind I feel a sense relief creeping within me. I guess I had been expecting to leave the city for far too long or may be there were circumstances which made it necessary for me to leave the city behind. But then, they are besides the point. What I really want to do is take a look at the city of Pune/Poona as I felt it, saw it.

My first day in this city took me to the office of my future employers. I still remember the first impression: A busy town with loads of dirt around and yet... It was the "and yet..." which made me accept this city as my future home, a city I grew to love as I discovered it's hidden qualities and traits. The city has got a funny mix of the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. Delve into the history of the Marathas as you walk by the Shaniwarwada, the life that was as you are taken through the peths, the Oxford of the East as your feet trudge along the grounds of Pune University, the halls of Fergusson College, which has street named after it - FC Road. Yes, that is the popular way of identifying this youth hangout spot. Rarely is the road clear of the young bloood who dream of taking over the world, with just a aloo paratha (potato stuffed Indian bread) at Chaitanya. Drive into the area of Pimpri-Chinchwad and you are in the area of the richest municipallity in Asia (or so I've heard) where the Industrial belt is one of the most prosperous in India. A tour around the city reveals the IT and ITES belts at Hinjewadi, Senapati Bapat road, Kalyani Nagar, Magarpatta and Hadapsar.

From a small hilly, getaway town for the well to do Mumbaikars to the big destination of students for decades to the employment haven for the well-heeled people - Pune has come a long way in the past century or half. The quite laid back lifestyle of Pune has been replaced by a much more busier and hectic life where running along in the rat race is more important that anything else. But then, one still does stop by to enjoy life here. The Iraani cafes though dwindling down in number can still provide what I found to be the best breakfast in town. My favourite was Vohuman near Pune station. I personally feel that Iraani cafes should be marked as sites of heritage for once they die an important part of the city would die along with it. Pune has always been the cultural capital of Maharashtra and there are stories galore how the Iraani cafes served as the melting pot for the some of the best that the land has known. But then, like some, the rest may also succumb to commercial ploys and probably start functioning as restaurants apart from being what they really are.

For transient population of students and workers like me, Pune has a lot to offer in terms of lifestyle. You get some of the best food that you would ever sample in the country at pretty average cost, try Koregaon park for that. Going ahead with the lifestyle, may be not too many hangouts, but the quality at most of them is quite good, my personal favourite being Toons on Mahatma Gandhi road. And that brings me to the fashion quotient of the city. With the delicate mix of the young and the old, Pune fashion can take you on for a ride. Looking for the best deals on western outfits, apart from the malls, M.G.Road is where most head out to because of the exquisite collection one might find there. Step a little north onto Laxmi road and ladies are in for a treat as rows of shops on both sides of the road scream for their attention. The flavor of this fashion station is traditional though one might find shops saying otherwise, the variety of clothing you would find here can leave you, well... breathless!

Three beautiful years floated by as I flirted with the spirit of the city and enjoyed every moment of it. I earned some of the sweetest and most loved memories through this city. A city whose streets would always remain special for me for more than one reason, I would like to come back... may be for good... may be for a visit... but as I sit in the cold weather of a city 8000 km away I dare say, I'm missing Pune. May be just a little but yes....

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tequila Sunrise

This isn't being written at sunrise, but the seeds were sown at one. Running around with a zillion things to do and stuff to get in place before one embarks on a journey across continents, I felt drained. And yet, I had managed to stay up all night keeping myself busy with some work regarding the uni. As dawn broke, I went up to the roof and stared out into the eastern sky to see the sunrise, slowly spreading its orange light over the grey . As orange took over the sky from grey, only to be taken over by others, I was reminded of the song Tequila Sunrise by Eagles. Simple lyrics and talks of just another chappie falling for some lady. Made me wonder about the laddies I have seen fall over ladies much beyond them. Aware of the limitations these fellas were content to stare at the ladies rather than ever approach them. And, slowly things move on till the ladies become just another ship that went by.

Here's the lyrics:

it's another tequila sunrise
starin' slowly 'cross the sky, said goobye
he was just a hired hand
workin' on the dreams he planned to try
the days go by

ev'ry night when the sun goes down
just another lonely boy in town
and she's out runnin' 'round

she wasn't just another woman
and i couldn't keep from comin' on
it's been so long
oh, and it's a hollow feelin' when
it comes down to dealin' friends
it never ends

take another shot of courage
wonder why the right words never come
you just get numb
it's another tequila sunrise,this old world
still looks the same,
another frame, mm...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Slice of History

There are times when you visit a place you really get the feeling that if presented with a time travel machine, you would like to travel to back to an era at the same location and see how things were back then. On a recent trip to Mahabalipuram or Mammallapuram I had a similar thought. Standing on top of it's hillocks, and exploring its "known" secrets I couldn't help but think "what if".

Mahabalipuram hosts excellent specimens of early Pallava art around 680-720 AD. The Pallavas were the then rulers of the land and used Mahabalipuram as a port city. The sculptures consists of Monolithic carvings, Reliefs, Excavated carvings. The most notable of them all are the five rathas (chariots), said to be carved out of a single stone. The rathas are dedicated to the Pandavas and their wife Draupadi. The different styles of chariots allows one to understand the designs that the sculptures back then used. The excavated caves/mandapas (ones built into the stone) are present about a kilometre away. The temple of Govardhandhari and Ramanuja Mandapa shows the showcases craftsmanship and perhaps engineering expertise that people of that age exhibited. The Ganesh chariot, made square and carved of a single rock (monolithic carving) does leave you in awe as you would look closely at the details carved on it. The Bhima ratha is of a similar style. The other notable temple is the Shore temple. Being next to the sea, has caused a lot of it's details to be eroded with time, but the architectural splendour of the temple would still catch you breath. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it has Shiva in a reclining pose within one of its temple chambers.

Pallava Dynasty: A powerful dynasty in south India which ruled for more than 500 years with its capital at Kanchipuram. Read more at Pallava, Pallava Dynasty

Pandavas and Draupadi: Mythology has it that the Pandavas were borne to Kunti and Madri, wives of king Pandu, by gods due to a boon received by Kunti from sage Durvasa. Read more at Pandavas.

Mahabalipuram is connected by road to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu and is 52 kms away. One can hire a car or take a bus from the city. The entire trip to Mahabalipuram would last a maximum of 2-3 hrs. Do ensure you have a guide with you when you visit the town, as without it the importance of the sculptures would never be evident to you. Sadly enough the ASI has done little on that account, with hardly any plaques around describing the importance of the structure.