Monday, February 27, 2006

Pretending to be Pune

A warning at the outset, to all those who call themselves Puneris, Punekars, Puneites - basically take pride in the town that's called Pune. Yes, you heard me right, it's a town pretending to be a city, and yes, this is a slugfest against the pretentious town, so keep out, if you adore it.

First brush

I have lived 17 years of my life in Bombay. Wait, 9 in Bombay and 8 in Mumbai. But, I never got a chance to see this neighbouring bustling township they call Pune. My mom still rues the fact, but I wonder why. As I grew up, more and more of my friends started telling me about the pretty femme-fatales that crowd Pune and that I should desperately seek a job there (or here, cos I am here now). So, when as fate would have it I landed a job in Pune, my friends were evidently more excited than I was.

I leave behind my parents and my bro, all my bosom buddies, and move to Pune to earn my living on my first job. Its raining (record rainfall that year actually) most of the time, and the weather strikes me as pleasant. False first impression that. Later that year, the summer records desperate highs, and the winter records temperatures almost ready to freeze your veins, and all year long dust billows around riding on hot winds like you are in a desert. The journey hath only begun.

The earth is round, not flat

The folks in Pune are said to be well-educated and smart. I am sure even the guys who direct road construction here know that the earth is round, and not flat. They carry forward this knowledge blatantly, ensuring none of the roads here are flat. How can you have flat roads, if the earth itself isn't flat? The roads are filled with both intentional and unintentional speed-breakers. A tiny pothole gets filled overnight with tarry goo, and becomes a mound next morning. I have been used to potholes from my rainy days in Mumbai. But, the healthy mixture of ups and downs in Pune's roads reminds you that life is not just about downs.

I bet my bike has aged thrice as fast since I came here. You can only slow down so much for every bump, and there are too many around. A ride in the auto-rickhsaw, sans the shock-resistance of course, is most definitely a break-test for the spinal cord. Damn, I have seen better roads in a lot of other cities that Puneris like to compare Pune with. Pune is a town, with roads that deserve a place not even in a town.

Public transport - Two-wheeler

Everybody, and I mean everybody, owns a 2-wheeler. Public transport system? Conservation of fuel resources? Duh...Ok, there's a so-called PTC bus system. The buses are so filthy from the outside itself, I haven't dared step into one of them. I'm used to the more cleaner buses I have seen in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad...Hell, even the buses in Calcutta are more inviting. Plus, its not like the bus system is flawless and efficient and has a good span or coverage. Walk a mile to the bus stop, get down at some unknown place, and ask for directions during another mile hike toward where you really wanted to get. I know comparing with the BEST in Mumbai is pointless, but how bad can one get? The only semblance of public transport then becomes the auto-rickshaw, which is hell by itself. City or town?

Weird alarm system

I don't use an alarm to wake up in the morning. Precisely at 8am, the power is cut-off and I am woken up by the lulling hum of the fan being suddenly withdrawn. This is one of the ways mom used to wake me up when she thought I'd had enough sleep. But, I live alone now, and its plain rude! Damn, what worse time could one choose? People have their bath, prepare to leave for a day's work, and they gotto do it without power? The philosophy behind this of course is an attempt to 'hit where it hurts'. Try to cut off power when people need it the most. Thank god they haven't realised yet we need it most in the nights actually.

Femme Fatale

Yeah..women that kill. Of course, that was meant in a poetic sense by an arduous French admirer of women. But, my first venture into the streets of Pune made me rethink - perhaps Femme Fatale was meant to be taken literally here. Women may not be killers, but boy, they do dress like one. Bombarded with those images of militants and terrorists covering their faces with elaborate pieces of clothing, one can only help but relive those memories when they see the women here walking around, driving around, in exactly the same garb. You wonder if they will pull out a gun if you say a meek 'Hi'.They say it protects them from the sun and the dust. They even have some wrinkled horrendous polka-dotted thing they call a sun-coat to cover the rest of their exposed skin. And with the stereotypical arranged marriages that happen around us everyday with the groom seeking 'Pretty fair-skinned girl', how can you blame them? The only quirk of course is, when people ask me about the girls in Pune, I come back with, 'I am yet to see them, really'.

Afternoon slumber

Another annoying bit I hate is the fact so many of the shops and services shut down for a whole 2 hours in the afternoon. No, it's not a lunch break, its more like a siesta break. People simply shut shop at 2 to re-open at 4. I've never seen somebody run a business like this anywhere. The shops shut early at night too, if this isn't already bad enough. It took one long trek at 10pm to find an open pharmacist before I realised, I should ensure not to fall sick at night, or stock up my home like a little pharmacy.


Everything about Pune is pretentious. A town pretending to be a city. Riding the IT-wave that has now hit most of the country anyway. Pune may have started early, but believe me, its not keeping up. With infrastructure in shambles, that's no surprise.

A town is made by its people. And that's where the pretending begins. You only have to speak to the youth here to know what I mean. So many of them carry a fake American accent. I don't know where they picked that from, unless the TV is their only friend and they have healthy conversations with it. 'Pune is a fashion conscious city'. People are obsessed with how they look, how they present themselves. They build a facade to hide the real 'them'. The less I speak about this the better. Cos I will be called judgemental, but in my view this is where all the make-believe and pretention starts.

At best, Pune is still a cantonment, tempted to blow into a city, but this really looks set to implode if the governance doesn't wake up and take note.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Made In Heaven

Last week, I attended a special function - the wedding of one of my best buddies Jigesh. I have been skeptic about attending marriages as they've always felt drab and massively over-elaborate. After this experience, they arent really drab, but still massively over-elaborate. But, with Jigesh involved this one had to be extra-special. Especially, cos I had met his better half in Los Angeles, and loved her pleasing personality and her kind, but savvy attitude. One thing she excels in is having the tolerance to stand a bombardment of bad jokes from me and Jigesh at the same time.

I havent written what I like to call poetry on my blog ever before. But, this occasion definitely calls for one. And I dont care what you think of my poetic skills! And don't think Woodsworth, think Mike Myers.

Buddies in college, sharing the 371 bus,
If there were two in a lecture, had to be us.
So kind and helpful was he, people exploited him too,
But then he made friends, only to stick like glue.

(Stop laughing..I am serious!)
He wrote all the assignments, coded all the programs,
All we had to do, was wait till he gave away the alms.
We silenced our conscience by saying "Damn, he lives so close",
"While we travel for hours, he takes a refreshing doze!".

Giving rides in his car, companionship for where you wanna go,
Tons of support and tutoring, helping you keep up the score.
When you wanna stay awake, even when the teacher sings lullabies,
Bet on him for a timely nudge, right before you close your eyes.

Always gives, hardly ever takes, he's a bag of joy and fun,
Little did he care that's not the secret of being number one!
I secretly told myself, there aint a girl good enough for him,
The ones out there are smitten by me, hell, what's left for him!

No wonder then, I was surprised to meet her the very first time,
I sensed it in minutes, better than this poem they shall rhyme.
One a gujju, the other a punju from gujarat,
That's where the differences ended, take my word for that.

I promised myself to make it to the wedding,
Had to see them both smile together in a divine setting.
As the day approached, the celebrations increased,
Hundreds, preparing, swarming around like bees.

Oh, it was a sight to behold, when his parents danced together,
Rejoicing the occasion when their son ties himself with a tether,
To the most suitable girl, they could never have found on their own,
And to see them rejoice, made me thrilled to the bone.

I, who never dances, pranced to the obnoxious and loud music,
I had no idea what I was doing, cos dancing makes me sick.
Who gives a damn if the feet and hands are never in synchrony,
We celebrate the couple and dance to the cacophony.

The two descend from the clouds, at the altar they take their place,
All eyes on them, no one cares for my pretty face.
Around the sacred fire, they do the seven auspicious revolutions,
With him following her, the trend for the future is set in motion.

Bless the couple, for a life together in peace and sanctimony,
Have the little tiffs too, to keep things in harmony.
May you always get the very best in life for each other,
And God Bless, someday you will make an excellent father and mother.

With Love,
Satwik. wasnt Mike Myers good...give me atleast Ben Stiller.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mum's the word...

Its late in the night - closer to daybreak, than to midnight. I wake up with a start. Im not sure if it’s the mosquitoes bothering me. Then, I start wheezing and my chest doesn’t seem to be able to expand to its full capacity with each breath. I sit up and try to find a position that would comfort me and make it easier. My brother shakes around in the bed next to me, as I start coughing slowly to clear my bronchial tract. Then, I hear light footsteps walking toward my room, and from the dark my mom emerges, bringing instant relief with some of her quick-help remedies.

Since I was little, I've had this problem of developing breathing complexities when trying to sleep. The doctors gave it technical recognition with names like ‘Bronchial Asthma’ and the lot, but couldn’t really cure it. It turned out to be one of those things that gets cured on its own with age, and now its simply a rarity, only rearing its head on the occasional exposure to extreme amounts of dust or pollution. But, the part I remember about all of this, is how my mom always managed to feel my pain and rush to my assistance. I am certain my dad got woken up too. But, he realizes that in such scenarios, it is definitely the mom’s touch that makes the difference. And he won’t arrive until it’s absolutely necessary – to dish out some medicine because it’s pretty severe, for example.


Of late, I have been living away from my parents and my brother, and I have learnt that it is the distance that finally gives you the realization of how important they were in your lives. When they were always around, you take them for granted, and give more importance to your television, sports and friends. Not once have I ever done anything special for my mom except for hand-made birthday cards once a year. I have of course, picked arguments almost on a daily basis, criticized her cooking even though I reckon she’s the best and never told her so, never appreciated her sacrifices – the ones she made so me and my brother could have a peaceful life and everything would be taken care of. Now that I live alone, all that comfort is suddenly gone, and I can clearly see what a great effort she put in everyday for me and my brother. And how thankless I have been.


If you tell her that you are sorry you never thanked her or appreciated her or even helped her out once in a while, she comes back with – “Well, you have atleast ensured you have a stable career ahead of you and learnt to live on your own. That is all I ever wanted for you anyway.”. Its like shes saying – “Mission accomplished”, but I cant get over the fact that I haven’t been the greatest of sons. However, I am glad I left home. Since then, I have developed a new-found level of relationship with her. I understand her more clearly now, I can talk to her about almost anything, I realize the gaps in my life she managed to fill so easily without me even knowing. Of course, I despise missing her cooking. Another thing I took for granted, cos good food was always just a few footsteps away - in the kitchen.

Mum is the word

So many of us search for God in idols, temples, peaceful surroundings, bearded people (?). None of us have really ever seen God. I think the closest I have come to seeing The Almighty is in my parents. Mum’s the word..the word I would use to describe God. Even though I gave her immense pain since the day I was born, she has shown great resilience and ensured that I have an unparalleled upbringing. That I can be proud of the human being she has moulded me into. Now, my visits home are more like a pilgrimage, where I look back at the times I was always in a temple and never realized it! Where I savour the sumptuous Prasad everyday, before its time to go back. Back to the material world, where I live with penny-chasers and become one too. Someday I will realize that chase was a waste too…will I?