Old Pune in a few words to me is where time stops but the traffic doesn’t, is where the people return your smiles and the decaying wooden facades are not just gateways but time machines into an India of the past.
[A Doorway in Pune OLD]
Like Bombay’s Girgaon is divided in wadis [read Khotachiwadi], Pune is dived into Peths [burrows]. The old city is divided into 18 such Peths- interestingly some of which are named after the days of the week in Marathi: Shaniwar peth, Ravivar peth, Somwar peth, Budhwar Peth - just to name a few. All this designed with an amazing sense of Indian town planning. The old city is anchored around its heart the Shaniwar Wada and sprawls around it, dividing into different burrow, each having unique characteristics. It is a hive of activity and its got all the buzz to pull a sting. Hidden treasures greet you at every corner: if you want a second hand Enfield cheap head to Rasta Peth; if you want to buy your textbooks on extra rebate Appabalvan Chowk in Budhwar Peth is the place; if you want an eighteen yard paithani sari look no further than Laxmi Road.
[Chuddiwalli - Bangle Seller]
Deciding to gauge the festive pulse I decided to walk through some of these neighborhoods. The houses without exception are caught in a dance of beautiful decay, chipping paint, burnt and broken wooden doorways and high trellised balconies from which old women in their elegant saris can watch whether the sabjiwalla [vegetable seller] has passed by yet. Traveling salesmen hawk their wares in the lane shouting out in low pitch calls with elongated vowels. From the kabadiwallah [vendor who buys old items] to the man who will sharpen knives on his mobile grinding stone. Take a turn around the narrow lanes and you see men sitting crossed legged shaping brass vessels with hammer and tongs, beating it with a rhythmic twang that sets the street alive with what would best be described as industrial jazz. Turn another corner and the scene changes into one of hectic diwali eve shopping. Diwali to my mind is basically a giant nationwide form of house cleaning for a very esteemed VIP guest, a certain goddess of wealth. This huge operation spearheaded by the women of each household involves cleaning all aspects of the house and goes on to decorating all aspects of it and on the big day lighting it up with as many diyas [small earthen lamps] as humanly possible
[Streets in Pune]
[Diwali ,Colour of Money]
Diwali in its design becomes a festival for each and every member of the family. The women are in it for the new sari or the new jewelry set in their locker, gluts like me are in it for the mithai, kids are in it for the fireworks and the men are in it for the arbit socializing and the games of cards that follow. Out of all these things I quite like diwali except for the gunpowder induced noise and the pollution that is its by product. What is unique about Diwali in Maharashtra is that kids make small model killas [forts] and decorate them with tiny clay figurines. It is a fun tradition.
[A Boy and his Fort]
Anyway before I forget- HAPPY DIWALI . I think its time I go hide in the kitchen before I’m deputed to scrubbing the walls. Why the kitchen ? for the chakallis and the karanjis of course.