While toying with my childhood memories yesterday (the summer brought a sweet nostalgic ride with it), I remembered one of my most favorite places in Pune city. With this place, came a lot of memories, a lot of growing up lessons and most importantly, my love for animals.
Peshwe Park was one of the most fascinating places in Pune for a lot of children. Seeing animals up close, petting them and watching our furry buddies laze in the sun was pure joy. Being too young, we did not understand the concept of cages. We do now, but while our innocence stayed intact, Peshwe park was one of the best things to have had happened to our city.
A lot of children today won’t be able to experience the pure pleasure of watching animals from such close proximity; we have made sure of that. Kids learn a lot when they take care of animals, when they observe and cherish them. Simple nature rules; Peshwe Park offered my generation exactly that.
Built in 1953, Peshwe Park was located near Sarasbaug, and it was managed by PMC. A seven-acre land was allotted for the park and the sole intention of the park was to remove the element of fear of animals in kids.
There were two main attractions of the park. Three, for me, if you had to count the abandoned army tank which was displayed as a war relic. You could climb inside it and explore it (and experience a nasty bee sting). Apart from that? Of course the animals.
Despite being locked in cages, the tigers and foxes were still playful enough for us to walk closer and wave at them. The Antelopes and Deer used to jump around in the morning after grazing, and if you went there with a group of children, they would walk over to the fence and lick your hand. This untainted, pure memory serves as a reminder, for how important it is to protect our animals.
Apart from the animals, the birds were a huge attraction as well. Parrots, Australian Macaws and American Robins all chirped in their cages and flew around to greet us. One parrot could even say, “Namaskar”, and it used to leave us giggling.
In the evening, a bird trainer would show us how his pet Eagle could fly almost all the way to the clouds and then return and perch on his gloved hands. As a child, these memories shaped the animal kingdom for me. I learned to respect and love them because of Pune’s Peshwe Park.
The last attraction was the toy train, ‘Phulrani Express’. Riding it was the best way to experience Peshwe Park; it used to act as a guide and take us to all the important parts of the Park. The train was painted in vibrant colors and you could see it arriving from a distance, gleaming in the sun and chugging small clouds of smoke. Through it, many learned to love railways and the spirit of traveling. Phulrani Express celebrated its 61st birthday last year.
Truth be told, the Park was a metaphor for everything our parents wanted to protect in us. The innocence, the carefree laughter, and the love for each other and most importantly, the love for animals. A single trip to Peshwe Park taught us almost as much as our classrooms did. I’m glad I have those cherished memories and noble teachings from a seven-acre land mass. Indeed, the best teachers are those who say very little!