This dear friend of mine is an exceptional narrator and a musician, and proof that although life takes away something so important, it can also open several other doors. Upon his request, I will exclude his name, but the following is a conversation with him wherein he described Pune in ways I hadn’t imagined.
“Blindness is more about imagination; it took me a long time to realise this. Although you do have visual and sensory indicators, they can never replace sight. I accepted this, with the utmost hesitation, but when it finally happened, I set out to explore the city I call home. I wish I can explore every inch of it, but unfortunately, that will require time and some serious patience. However, this is what I make of Pune, from what my nose, ears, and fingertips have guided me towards.
I identify Pune by specific noises. I have traveled to almost eleven cities across India, but Pune has a very characteristic sound. It starts from the Peth areas; I remember Kasba Peth and Ravivar Peth. The distinct sound of metal crafting metal, bundles of cloth being unraveled, the fingertips slightly grazing the silk sarees on Laxmi road are very easily identifiable.
If you go to Market Yard or Mandai, just close your eyes and imagine you have stepped in my shoes. You can hear the droplets of water sprayed on vegetables and fruits by vendors, or the rusted weights on metal scales shifting around. The old city is extremely charming, the suburbs of the city, not so much. In areas like Koregaon Park, Baner, Balewadi, I hear more laughter, for sure, but also more footsteps. More honking. Everyone seems to be always rushing, always eager to reach somewhere.
If I’m to describe Pune with the help of touching something, I’d ask you to bring me a wood carving. The intricate layers; some chipping parts, some carved and hollowed, that’s how Pune is.
Shaniwarwada feels the coldest when I touch it with my fingertips, and the RTO road feels the hottest. Camp area feels like walking through an endless layer of curtains left drying in the balcony, wave after wave of people cruising towards their destination.
Tulsibaug is one of the most interesting places to touch and explore because it still confuses me, the difference between people and their belongings grows very thin. It always keeps changing and I would love to explore more of it but it’s almost impossible to find my way out every time (he laughs loudly).
As to what Pune smells like, now that is a very tough question. In the mornings, it smells of freshly printed newspapers and adrak being boiled for chai. Sometimes, freshly chopped coriander and coconut too. Mornings are my favourite time because the air is comparatively purer than the rest of the day, so you can identify the time of the day.
Early afternoon smells of petrol and diesel, of cigarette smoke and burnt rubber. Evenings are leftover tiffin boxes, and sometimes, fresh fruit being crushed. Also, more chaha and treated wood smells from cricket bats. Night smells of tadka, fresh rice being taken out of the rice barrel. It smells of jasmine perfume and leather purses; surprisingly, nights bring about a very strong smell in Pune.
Truth be told, every city is very special when you can’t see it. You learn to read it in a way, and Pune keeps changing every time. I was taught to rely on my past experiences and then compare them with the new ones, this is how I deal and understand change, but lately, everything is a collage. Maybe the city really is growing rapidly, but I say this in a positive tone. To face new challenges and to discover new rewards, now that’s the real deal about living in a city like Pune!”