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.


Nandan said...

hmm, Trust me this is just the beginning. Pune will throw many surprises as you will come to know it better. I suggest you shifting your base to Sadashiv or Narayan Peth. The post that you would write based on those experiences would be very interesting to read. :)

Sudhu said...

Abhi US se wapas aaya to Pune par attack? Good points though. I only had the opportunity to stay at Pune for a couple of days. Had a difficult time, trying to figure out how to spend time out there. Small place, but not all that bad. But if one has to live in a place like that, maybe opinions could be different.

Addicted To Chaos said...

Nandan : Frankly, if this is the beginning, I wanna get out early! And those places you mention, I haven't been there yet, and something tells me I shouldn't miss them too much.

Sudhu : This tirade against Pune has been building up since I came here, just that I had to step back into the thorny shoe to relive all that before I wrote.

Parag said...

Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.

--Robert Frost

Addicted To Chaos said...

Haha. Awesome Parag. I bet Robert Frost never visited Pune. I wish you had more specific comments, given you've lived all your life in this place, and have never really seen life any different and accepted what you see to be good. And I'm surprised this is coming from someone who just recently fell prey to the poor conditions of the roads.

Anonymous said...

you are pathetic dude; i dont want to waste more time on you

manoj said...

Abe aisa bol mat, main puna aane ki soch raha hoon. He He he ...

Shivani said...

Hey, nice peice of writing, i know quiet a lot about pune now. Hey by the way, i am coming to pune now. i now know quiet a lot about pune

Atul said...


I completely agree with you.

The attitude of people does not match with those in developing regions across the world.

The word 'Planning' does not occur in the dictionary of Pune Municipal Corporation.

With absense of these two major nerves of Development, how is it developing? Is it really developing or is said more then developing?

I pray for those IT guys who invested heavily in properties of Pune.

sharz said...

Well.... I guess you will feel equally bugged up if you leave Mumbai n shift to any other place.. If all your friends would ve been in Pune... you would ve definetly enjoyed.. breaking the signals n driving on the roads full of lumps.. It was more of your mental frustration..

Shailesh said...

Boy, i agree with you.. i am born and brought up in Pune and i really miss the true Pune which has changed a lot in years which is not called Development but worsining of the City.
I don't know when Punieties will learn that they have lost their beautiful city