The once lush canopy that spread over the city is now reduced to mangy tufts of isolated patches of green. Worse still, it is something that exists only in nostalgia backed by a few photos. Unfortunately, nobody in their present encounter with the city would remotely associate the words verdant or lush with Pune.
These were houses that were built for ‘personal consumption’ and had all the moods and trappings of ‘personal taste’. No fancy Carrera marble, no lavish driveways, no French gardens and other displays of grandiose shrieking for attention.
Maakadwala In Hindi, he would be called Madari. English will loosely translate him as a ‘Monkey man’, but like all things touched by English, the translation can make one overlook it as a profession and assume it to be a characteristic. Marathi has it rather straightforward – Maakadwala (Person with monkey/s). Maakadwaalas don’t exist anymore. […]
The first time I saw her I was balancing a huge bag of mithai in one hand and trying to juggle out money from my wallet to pay the auto driver with the other. She stared at me for a moment and once I had paid off the auto guy, walked close and demanded to know what was in the bag.
As her name suggests, and those of you who are aware of the trade, she was a vegetable vendor. She would come home almost everyday, balancing her toplya (wicker cases) on her head. To make sure that her head did not bear all the weight of the two toplya, she would rest them atop a coil of cloth.
Keliwaale kaka is how he is known to everyone. And he got this name because he sells bananas. I suspect, even his family maybe calling him by the same name. He has been around since I went to school.
I recall someone once asking her why she chose to forgo of this garment of modesty. Blinking into the sun that shone into her eyes she had replied, “We tribal women have forsaken the blouse for Sita’s sake. When Sita was condemned to live in the forest with her husband Ram, she chanced upon a golden deer and desired its skin to stitch herself a blouse. Ram set out to trap the deer, but in the meanwhile Sita was abducted by Ravan, the famed king of Lanka. And of course, Sita had to forgo her desire to stitch herself a deerskin blouse. It is in Sita’s honor that we have abandoned the practice of wearing a blouse.”
So goes the first verse of J. R. R. Tolkien’s poem All that is gold does not glitter, which appeared in his trendsetting novel The Lord of the Rings. Most of us are familiar with the movie version of Tolkien’s fantasy novel and the tale of the weird and brave that it lovingly narrates. It talks of dwarfs and giants and orcs and fairies. People who were once a part of ‘middle earth’. Like the lost and lonely from Tolkien’s book, our great city too has its share of the unseen and unsung.
My earliest memory of spotting Sinhagad was from our terrace. I was fairly little and my grandfather would point at a distant hill in the hazy horizon and proudly declare, “To bagh, to Sinhagad ahe” (Look there, that’s Sinhagad).
Pune 4 is a virtual Pandora’s box.
It throws up a lot of the past, and if you are not especially alert can well mix it up with the present.