“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I am going and never have been before”—Warsan Shire
This article is a continuation of the series From Mumbaikar to Punekar.
I was lost in the hustle and bustle of Pune station. The crowd was nothing compared to a Dadar station at 4 pm, but the vibe was the same. I didn’t for a moment, feel alien or unwelcome. My inner gut goddess was weeping tears of happiness, as I felt just like I had come home again.
In my field of vision, I could see a group of Vada Pav vendors talking amongst themselves, a couple of small beggar children sitting on the platform sharing some chips and surprisingly not many coolies (unlike in Bombay, where at a main junction, a coolie will follow you like fish following its bait).
Nothing seemed different externally, but the main language of communication had shifted to Marathi. Right from greetings to abuses, to call-outs to announcements; all I heard was that.
As I jostled my way out, I saw a fleet of rickshaws, most of them empty because their drivers were out crowding travelers, coaxing them to ride with them. I escaped a bunch and just outside, a kind-old kaka wearing a Nehru-topi asked me “kuthe jaycha aahe maidam?”. I replied in Hindi stating my destination and he promptly agreed. There was this interesting conversation that ensued between a Mumbaikar and a Punekar, the learnings of which I must pen down!
Kaka v/s Bhaiyya
‘Kaka’ was an affectionate old man. He insisted on being called that. He said rickshaw drivers respond better when called kaka. I almost saved myself a lot of autowala-rejections there! In Mumbai, we are used to calling everyone ‘Bhaiyya’ or ‘Boss’; be it a sabzi-tarkari wala, or a bus conductor, or even the building watchman. But here, it’s Kaka/Mitra everwhere!
Tula scooty naahi yet?
I think this is one of the attributes that sets me apart from a Punekar. Kaka was apparently really amused that I don’t know how to ride a two-wheeler (He even braked the auto when I told him, “kaka cycle pan naahi yet”). After a few words of encouragement that I should master it, I did agree with him. Roads were covered with scooties and bikes by a huge majority! Being an integral part of Pune means having to know how to ride a scooty. Coming from the haven of local trains, BEST buses and metros, I never really felt the urge to use private transport. And here I was! Aiyyo!
To my horror, there are no taxis a.k.a kaali-peelis here! Kaka was really kind to me by now. He even offered to take me around for a day or two for some money. But for a person who doesn’t know scooty here in Pune, that sure spells doom. Bus connectivity isn’t that great, Kaka mentioned. Which meant the only options were rickshaws and shares/pools. The best part being that every location is in about a radius of 15 km, things looked good for me!
This made me miss Bombay a bit. I was so exhausted by the time I reached halfway, that I had a quick Vada Pav snack in between (dogded two bikes who almost hit me as I reached the thele-wale kaka). The traffic discipline is terrible here. People drive like it’s a race to win! Especially two-wheelers have no sense of discipline here… they were trying to get into every nook and cranny available in between bigger vehicles. At least in Bombay, the people have road sense and let you go ahead. In Pune, people run vehicle marathons!
I must have covered the 8-km distance in about 80 minutes, but it was the most welcome someone had made me feel. I thanked Kaka profusely, paying him some extra paishe to buy himself chaha. As I walked ahead towards my residence, I felt a sense of calm which prevailed inside me. After all, this was going to be home. I had no qualms in letting the Punekar grow in me. “Mitra, please samaan gheun yayla help kar na” I requested the watchman, as I smiled to myself and got into the lift.