#PunekarReminisces: Growing Up in 411004 (Continued)

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So picking up from where we stopped last week — Balgandharva and its vicinity.

Back then, you could catch a magnificent sunset over the Mutha, which flows behind Balgandharva. This lissome snake hurries along to meet her (someone in their grand scheme of things decided that Mula and Mutha were to be ascribed the feminine gender) twin Mula. Watching Omkareshwar (Shiva temple) as its resident crows settle in noisily and bats make way for them can be a moment of awakening, not only in a metaphysical sense of the word, but surrealistically speaking as well.

Of course this is a treat from the past.

Today, both rivers have been reduced to veritable gutters clogged with plastic and other rubbish that the city so uncaringly dumps in them.


If you are brave enough to ignore the stench and venture close to the river bank, be prepared to be sucked into a quagmire of detritus of the most unsavory sorts. The sorry state of affairs has of course come to pass over several years. And it will take as many if not more to (hopefully) reverse the scheme of things.

But, I am an eternal hopeful.

Any story about Pune 411004 would be incomplete without a mention of the various tekdis that mark it.

Tekdis are our pride and lifeline and of course our version of  ‘Central Park(s)’.

When life gives us lemons, it is to these green oasis that we head out searching for sugar and salt. Tekdis are to be climbed, boasted about and saved from avaricious and ill thought out road widening schemes.

Everyone takes to them once in a way, well, almost everyone.

There are tekdi regulars — people who trek up these tekdis at the same time everyday (most days at least) and have formed loose or strong bonds over a period of time. Entry to such clubs is based purely on the merit of discipline and regularity.

Groups are based on timing, distance, frequency and such.

So you could have a pre-dawn group that treks every second day, a group of daily dawn trekkers who will climb just one hill, or a group of weekly post dawn trekkers who could be probably be doing three rounds of the hillocks.

There are evening clubs and morning clubs and sometimes members from both may overlap. Permutations and combinations can vary. And quite like Venn diagrams, each intersection can throw up a new finding.

Also, members take intense pride in their ‘own’ tekdi. So if you are a regular at the Hanuman tekdi behind Fergusson College, the Hanuman tekdi behind Law College is not quite your cup of tea.

Both sides chaff about how the other side actually walks up a molehill that is being masqueraded as a prestigious tekdi.

Hanumaan Jayanti is an especially propitious day not to be missed at either tekdis.

Generous ‘regulars’ distribute pedhas and a piece of fresh coconut.

No matter how many pedhas or pieces of fresh coconut you may have eaten earlier, these ones taste especially nice.

One of my favorite memories of trekking up Hanuman tekdi (behind Fergusson College) is from 1992-1993 or thereabouts. It was winter and me and my father would go to the tekdi in the wee hours to catch the sunrise. Back then, traffic would be thin at an early hour and one could sense and enjoy the silence all around. As the two of us were making our way up the tekdi we heard distant strains of a song and we both stood listening to it for a very long time. After a while Baba (my father), turned to me and said “Panditji gaataayt.” (Panditji, as Bhimsen Joshi was fondly known, is singing.)

Sawai Gandharva, the annual, classical music festival was being concluded and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the man behind the festival, was taking each one of us to a time and place called peace. I have no recollection of what happened next or what raag the maestro was singing, but like Wordsworth’s Daffodils, it is this memory of a pre-dawn moment, and strains of a distant song, that till date ‘flash upon that inward eye which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with….’

To be continued

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