So I wrote this a while ago and it’s perhaps truer now than it was then.
As a Maharashtrian and an honorary Mumbaikar for many years, one of the arguments you immediately tire of is the classic ‘natives vs. outsiders’ aka the Mumbai vs. Delhi one.
I mean, we all know there’s no real argument there… And I’m gonna just leave it ambiguously at that!
Living in Pune, you’re mostly spared of these accusations of parochialism; guess not too many people are keen on staking claim to the city. Hmm.
To me, though, these last few months back in the hometown have revealed perhaps a trickier phenomenon of cultural change. While most of these turf wars feature territorial angst against the blatant ‘North Indian’ invasion of Maharashtrian soil and culture, this is a whole new ballgame!
This time the challenger to the city’s cultural conduct is no ‘outsider’, but an insider – it’s the clash of sons-of-the-soil with the sons-of-a-more-soiled-soil!
Pune seems to be the new playground of the not-really-so-rich and certainly-not-famous yet completely uncouth and obnoxious variety of Marathi manus.
Inhabiting a wide range of the financial spectrum, this species can be found driving a Swift Desire or a Fortuner (which, reliable sources tell me is the new Scorpio) and the traditionally “cool” areas of town are their preferred habitat.
The behaviour is templated. They’ll park in a way so as to cause the most inconvenience to everyone else using the road, particularly residents of the area, and then proceed to act in the most annoying manner possible.
This includes arbitrary ‘attention seeking’ behaviour because hey, it’s not enough that we instantly lower the real estate value of a nice locality just by our presence, so, we must ensure that we are not just seen, but also heard.
This means startlingly loud laughter, raucous talk peppered with expletives followed by spitting forcefully, scratching of unmentionables etc.
Strangely enough, these specimens seem to actually believe that this behaviour impresses the opposite gender in some way, like some sort of neanderthal mating dance.
What’s worrying is their complete lack of any sort of respect for any sort of authority – I don’t mean their respect for uniformed authority – but even the usual respect for things which we take for granted – older people, women, etc.
And now it’s not as easy as to just blame it on geographical genetics and move on.
“Hee north chi loka na… / parapraantiya havet kashala / sagle hey UP-Biharche bhaiyy” and such regional remarks no longer apply.
That’s because the Jaat has finally found a match; there’s a new ghaat in town.
Their native narcissism that they wear on the half sleeve of their linen shirts and on their steeds of steel – Malshej cha Maharaja, Baramati cha Bajirao, US madhye Texas aani Maharashtraat Udgir aamche jhakaas – makes it evident that while these are no “outsiders” to the Marathi milieu, they don’t quite consider Pune to be their home either.
Their feeling of abject immortality seems to stem either from some sort of minor political affiliation or the weird strength of the relative anonymity Pune offers to them. Plus, they’re not even typical young brats – in fact most seem to be in the age which only political parties optimistically refer to as youth – 35+ men with wives (who they often don’t acknowledge) and sometimes children (who’s upbringing they often don’t contribute to).
And while I may sound unnecessary alarmist, I feel it’s perhaps just a matter of time before this very strange combination of cocky confidence and new-found entitlement leads to acts of extreme unpleasantness.
To me, and certainly to more like me, MH12 always signified a solid sense of safety. And it’s a shame if these morons are going to try and change that.
I’m learning to get used to Pune’s laconic laissez faire way of life, but I do hope the city reacts strongly to curb this unsavoury phenomenon, however “in-house” it may be.
And, Pune has always been welcoming of the outsider, albeit grudgingly – and as long as nobody challenges our claim that bakarwadi is better than manna from up above. But let’s be protective of more than just that and our dupaarchi zhop…
After all, like I’ve said before, this is Pune, not Sparta.