As a non-resident Punekar, I feel lucky as well as unlucky. That I am a resident of Mumbai (albeit temporarily), I feel the same – lucky and unlucky! This isn’t a comparison of which city is better, but more a wistful look at whether I’m a Punekar or a Mumbaikar or a nomad!
The hard question first: What does it take to be a Punekar? Birth, sure! Growing up in the city? Maybe! There’s actually more intangibles than measurables that will make you a Punekar. For instance, do you love small bylanes over big roads? Do you like a small-town feel for your big city? Do you feel a sense of belonging in the city?
The last question is perhaps the most relevant… hard to answer. In my case, I feel like I belong in both cities. It’s not too hard for me to “do as the Romans,” if you catch my drift! My hardest test is usually when Mumbai and Pune teams face off in sporting events! I usually end up feeling good and bad at the same time! Yep, that happens!
By birth, I am actually a Mumbaikar. I grew up in Pune’s leafy neighbourhoods, studied there but moved to Mumbai for my first job… and spent a long time away from Pune. When I came back, I felt disconnected. It took almost two years for me to feel like I belonged again. And then, a few years later, I left again to be a Mumbaikar.
It took almost two years for me to feel like I belonged again.
Every visit to Pune now fills me with dread. Infrastructure is crumbling and isn’t being renewed or planned for nearly as well or as fast as it should be. People seem to be on a short fuse all the time – stand at a traffic light and catch the number of road rage fights that break out! Common sense was always at a premium; it seems to have become an absolute scarcity now. These problems also exist in Mumbai, but there’s something about the anonymity that the city offers which makes you care a bit less. Yes, the garbage problem could be handled better as could the teeming slums everywhere, but that’s the cost of growth the city is paying. Pune will too.
…there’s something about the anonymity that the city offers which makes you care a bit less.
As a Punekar first (yes, I’ve accepted this), the heart longs for the regular kattas one frequents. We all have them. These are the places that make the city ours and define it for us. The familiarity of the nameless faces at the kattas, the food, the noises… all these make up for our connection to the spot and the place. It’s hard to ever forget them.
I love Pune. I love Mumbai. Can I continue to enjoy this dual citizenship? Do I need to answer the question of where I belong? I’ll forever be a dual citizen. Of that, I’m sure. Could be Mumbai or another city or country.
But my primary citizenship shall always be Pune.
Always a Punekar.