Tuesday, September 12, 2006


PUNE - Down Memory Lane

September 12, 2006. I turn 50. After traversing the length and breadth of the country for almost all my life I’m back in my hometown Pune. I am overcome by nostalgia, for the Pune I once lived in no longer exists.

Then, in the early sixties, when I was a small boy, Pune was called Poona, and I used to live in my grandfather’s house on Parvati Chowk on Tilak Road opposite Madiwale Colony in Sadashiv Peth. A hugely bearded man prepared the best bhel in town (Kalpana Bhel) just below our house; today the bearded man is no more, the stall is there, but the old tasty bhel is missing – today it’s just run of the mill stuff. And there was Santosh Bhavan opposite for Misal, thali and yummy snacks.

In the evenings we ran to Talyatla Ganpati, to pray, and Peshwe Park zoo, to see the animals, play on the swings and slides in the park, or ride the toy train Phulrani. Now there is a beautiful Saras Baug surrounding the Talyatla Ganpati Temple and the zoo has gone to Katraj.

If you wanted to have Non-Veg, there were Asara, Jeevan, Poonam, Good Luck and Lucky in the city, otherwise you had to go to Camp. Asara has closed down, Jeevan has become Grahak Peth departmental store, Poonam a pure veg place, Lucky demolished; only Good Luck at Deccan is going strong. There was Poona Coffee House at Deccan, and Irani joints like Ideal, Regal and Volga, for tea, coffee, bun maska, ommlette, kheema pav and samosas. In Camp there was the famous Naaz serving delectable mutton samosas and the Coffee House on Moledina Road serving delicious breakfast.

Naaz has been replaced by Barista, and it’s other avatar, the Maha Naaz, a veg place, is also going to close down. Most of the Irani joints and the Camp Coffee House have been transformed into Udipi eateries serving Dosa and the like, and Poona Coffee House, which underwent an upmarket transformation, may also close down as per a report in Sakal. Yes, Sakal, my favorite Marathi newspaper, is still going strong, but the Poona Herald (called Herald now) has The Times of India and the Indian Express to reckon with.

In camp Dorabjee & Sons is still there for scrumptious Biryani and Parsi food, but the inimitable Kamling on East Street, where I first tasted Chinese, has disappeared and in its place stands a veg thali place which I must visit.

Bhanuvilas, where I saw Marathi films, New Empire, which screened Hollywood stuff, and Hindvijay at Deccan have vanished, and the old world West End with its unique chairs and soda fountain has been replaced by a modern hall minus the soda fountain and the relaxed ambience. Now there are Multiplexes.

I can go on and on in this vein, but that will make me melancholic. So let’s look at the positive side – Ganu Shinde, Kawre are still there for pot ice cream, but Bua has gone. Ramnath and its fiery Misal still stimulate, and so do most of the Amrututulyas like Ambika and New Ambika and Badshahi Boarding is still unchanged. In camp there is George, Kayani, Kwality, Marzorin, Mona Food and Budhanis. And all the sweet shops like Chitale, Kaka Halwai, Karachi and Bhavnagri are flourishing from strength to strength. And many new places have come up. And all the bookstores like Manneys, International, Popular and the ones at Appa Balwant Chowk are getting better and better, and there is Crossword too.

And of course, “Yours’ truly” is still going strong at 50. So I’m going to celebrate my half century - Happy Birthday to me!


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