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A Tale of Two Cities – Pune & Prague

It’s been almost three years since I’ve returned from Prague, and the similarities still strike me every single day. Visually, there’s not too much you can identify with; I mean a Punekar in Prague. Does it have better infrastructure and civil amenities? Of course it does, but then again, almost every European city does. No, what I’m talking about is the culture- the people, their mood, their lifestyle and how they see their respective city.

The minute I landed in Prague, I was awed by the city’s flow. By flow, I mean the smooth one-dimensional operations. Everyone was too different from each other, and yet, it all felt like a homogenous mixture.
People warned me about the culture shock and how it makes you homesick, but I never got to that point. I realise now that it’s impossible to completely immerse yourself in a new place while ignoring your roots. These two aspects always clash and with me.

Imagine Pune with lots of infrastructural developments and er, smoother traffic (Oh God, here come the trolls) and you have Prague. Boom! It’s that easy to visualise.
Just like Pune, Prague has two important lifestyle aspects. The old Prague, town center, if you prefer to keep it local. And of course, the suburban and metropolitan Prague. Just like Pune, Prague residents are nostalgic about the old city center, but eager about the developments. Here’s the funny part though, the old city is almost as developed as the urban side!

After checking out Charles Bridge and the place where they shot Rockstar (Hype kelay, itka kahi bhari nahi), I had this weird craving for some amazing local food. Sadly, the craving never developed into me stuffing my face with some amazing Czech food because they don’t really have too many local delicacies. The beer though, that was something else.
Another glaring similarity between Pune and Prague is how passionate Prague residents are about their city.I actually had a conversation with a local person and after telling him about Pune, I was greeted to a warm response- “I would be so comfortable in Pune”. Just like Punekars, Prague(kars?) thrive on keeping their roots intact. They voice their opinions where they feel they must, and they love celebrating. Celebrating what now? Life. More than any festival or occasion, they simply celebrate life. I was a part of a robust and healthy party before I realised that it wasn’t really a party, just another normal family reunion. They have that every weekend. Whoa.

The biggest reality check for me however, was one statement from a stranger in a bar. “Yeah, Prague isn’t perfect, but it’s what we have today. Instead of complaining about the city, we’re finally doing something to change what we don’t like.” Believe me, I’m not making this up. A drunk stranger opening up to me in a bar. Kind, red-faced and smiling widely, that’s how I’ll always remember Prague. Coming back, I’ve seen this city in a new light. I now realise how important it is to love this city but also to be open to suggestions. Firm, but not concrete.