When you first think about Pune, some things come to mind. ‘Cultural capital of Maharashtra’ and ‘Oxford of the East’ are just two of them. Pune is a very cultured city, a perfect blend of the past and the present. The people here, the roads, the restaurants, everything has a charm of its own. Now there are things people like to complain about in every city, and Pune is no exception to that! But mostly, if you’re prepared, the good definitely outweighs the bad. Trust me!
Pune is a shining example (one of the only cities in India, actually) of why we should really pay attention to the little government boards which say “Clean City, Green City”.Why?
Because even though it’s a major city with lot of traffic, Pune shows an amazing lack of pollution in most of the areas. It’s only in the most central places like Shivajinagar and Swargate that you’ll encounter any pollution (a lot, actually), but in other major cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, not even a single small area is spared from the menace that is pollution. It’s surprising, considering the fact that the traffic in Pune is terrible (meaning there are way too many vehicles), but I guess the ‘green’ in Pune beats the pollution. This is by far Pune’s best quality. It’s the first step for outsiders to start thinking of Pune as home.
There’s one thing about us Indians. We love the cold, because when it’s hot here, it’s hot. That is why Pune’s climate is so lovable. It’s cold in the winters and pleasant in every other season except those three months of summer. They are absolute hell, but it’s hell everywhere else in India at that time too…so I’d pick a pleasant nine months with a teeny amount of hot to the unpleasant hot-all-the-time of many other cities… won’t you? Besides, during the hellish months of summer comes the timely term-end for most college students…during which we could escape India itself or go to the Himalayas or something. After all…anything to escape the heat, right? (Unless we have exams. College students can bunk anything….but exams are sort of important…right?)
Don’t get me wrong; the driving is pretty rash all over India, but Pune takes the cake. As college students, we usually don’t have vehicles, so we are usually the brave souls who are walking on the roads. Every time I cross a street without a bus hitting me, I thank god that I’m still alive! But PMT buses, though the most scary, are not the only rash drivers. Every moving vehicle here can be considered a life hazard for pedestrians. The drivers assume that all pedestrians are accomplished circus artists. This has led to a new problem: rash crossing (because the pedestrians think it’s their job to live up to these expectations). And good luck if you want to be a one of those nice drivers pedestrians would praise. (after all…when in Rome… It’s the sad truth, but of course, our stories of our near death experiences make conversations with anyone more interesting. Plus, it gives you an appreciation for life every day. And since we students have invoked God on a daily basis, we probably have an assured visa to heaven :P. Despite the visa, though, I hope our ticket to heaven is not issued quite so soon.
The way a normal human brain (one without super-direction skills) remembers the directions to any new place is….they first reach the place with help from many locals. Then they return using the same path, basically retracing their steps, with corrections. Alas! This can happen only once in a blue moon in Pune. Why? Because almost every single road is a one way. If you’re the philosophical type, you’d probably say that it has a profound meaning, and is symbolic of life and time. “Once you decide your path, you can’t turn back”.It’s not as ominous as all that, of course, but it is surely very irritating if you’re not used to it. It may have worked wonders for traffic and everything, but unless you frequent the place, it is unlikely you’ll remember the directions to and from it.
Of course, you’ll end up trying that much harder to remember the directions because you don’t want the auto drivers to fleece you, so it serves as a memory sharpener 😛 . Another upside is that considering the traffic and the driving, it’s difficult enough to look only left or right to cross…I can’t imagine the condition if we actually had to look both ways here!
I will never compare Pune auto drivers with the ones in the South (nalayak, you’d call them if you’ve lived in Pune among Marathi speaking people long enough), but Pune auto drivers can be pretty nalayak on their own! They take advantage of people who are obviously in a hurry, and refuse to switch on the meter! (Dude, that thing exists for a reason, you know?) They demand a fee and give some standard nonsense excuse. But being in Pune gives you an advantage. Pune just somehow gives you the feeling that you can speak your mind to the point of rudeness (especially to auto drivers) and no one will blame you. In other words, you can be unabashedly rude here without feeling like a terrible person :P. (Not that I mind. There’s nothing I like more than being able to unload my frustrations by being rude, and if the person I’m talking to is rude too, it just gives me a better excuse). Having lived in Mumbai all my life, I miss the kind we find there. But it’s only in select few cities like Mumbai and Gandhinagar that the auto drivers are really good. So I shouldn’t really complain, but rather thank God that He’s introducing me to the world of rude auto walahs gently.
“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” This is apparently not the case in Pune…well, not the name per se, but the surname. Because of that dratted caste system which has been creating divide in India since the Vedic period, surnames here tell everything. And by everything, I mean not only religion (of course), but also caste and even sub-caste! (Who knows? Maybe it also tells you what we eat, our heart rate, our BP and all the info an expensive health band gives). We new-comers (the non-Marathi people) have no idea what caste or creed or anything the surname indicates, but the first thing a person here wants to know after the first name and “where are you from?” is the surname! It is not a common practise in places like Mumbai and Delhi to ask “But what is your surname?” but it’s a perfectly acceptable, even expected thing to ask
“Tuz adnav kay?” (meaning ‘what’s your surname?’) here.
So folks, if you’re a South Indian who doesn’t have a surname, or your surname is weird, my advice to you is…have a response ready for when you get asked, because in Pune, you will get asked!
Well, this is the only thing in Pune in which, try as I might, I could not find any pros. This is one serious problem which should be remedies. Being a major city, one would expect at least one multispecialty hospital in every area. A place like Shivajinagar, which is in a central part of Pune doesn’t have even one good hospital in the area. Well…there are hospitals (2 of them, in fact), but they are exclusive bone specialty hospitals. We may break our bones due to accidents once in a while, but the major need is general physicians and hospitals in which one is available around the clock. We make do with the nearby clinics, but those doctors have specific timings which may not match out hectic schedule. But say we manage somehow. There are very few medical stores which can actually cater to all needs, from the over-the-counter medicines to the hard-core prescription drugs. Pune, being a major city which also happens to house many students coming from other big cities, needs a lot of improvement when it comes to the health department. Because, after all, “Health comes first. Always.” Doesn’t it? May be people here do not fall sick as often as we do!
So these were the 7 things that an outsider student should know about Pune. Loved what you read? Then share among your friends and spread the word. Didn’t love what you just read? Then share it among your friends and criticise us. But yeah… Share! Share! Share!
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Cover Image Source: George Kurzik | Flickr