Of music and memories in Pune: 22 years on

It doesn’t take much to trigger off old memories. Take for instance the invitation I received to attend a classical music concert by renowned flautist Milind Date at the Gandharva Mahavidyala, Pune.

The invitation took me back to the time I was studying in Fergusson College (Pune) where Milind and I were batchmates with some common classes and practicals.  We were not close friends or belonged to the same ‘group’, but were more of acquaintances with some common friends. All through college, I had no idea of Milind’s music and got to know of it only in my third year of college. How I got to know is a story worth sharing, but I request for a little patience from you.

Milind and I re-connected many years after college when I joined Facebook in 2007 and over the next few years, remained in touch via Facebook. I followed his concert announcements and tours and listened to the snippets that he would share, but never managed to meet him or make it to one of Milind’s live performances. The invitation was a chance to remedy that. 🙂

The invitation was doubly attractive as it was taking place at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, where I learnt Hindustani Classical music. Every Wednesday morning, for 2 years, I attended vocal music classes before college. I loved everything about my music school — my guruji, the traditional architecture of the school building, the cool whitewashed halls and dhurrie-covered floors, the music rooms lined with tanpuras, sitars, harmoniums and tablas… Those musical mornings were magical and after a world filled with Bihag or Kaafi or Yaman or Patadeep or whatever raga I would be learning at the moment, it would be difficult to concentrate in my college lectures.

In other words, it was musical heaven and one that I had not visited in 22 years. And after I receive the invitation, I could not wait to visit it again after all this time. So that Wednesday in January, I took the afternoon bus to Pune to arrive well in time for the evening concert.

You know that feeling when you are about to meet someone or return to a place after a long time? That feeling of mounting excitement? That’s what I was feeling when I got off the rickshaw and walked towards the entrance to Gandharva Mahavidyalaya.

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A walk of faith: Palkhi

I wonder about the concept of “faith” sometimes. Faith in a belief, faith in a religion, faith in people, faith in relationships, faith in God… Faith. An abstract, nebulous concept for some; yet, a strong, clear path for others.

My faith in the concept of  faith was tested during my recent trip to Pune, when the annual Palkhi Festival of Sant Tukaram and Sant Dnyaneshwar passed through the city on 5-6 July 2010. The palkhi or palanquin of Sant Dnyaneshwar carries his footwear on a silver bullock cart; I am not sure what the palkhi of Sant Tukaram carries.

A group of varkaris singing abhangs (devotional songs) around an idol of Sant Dnyaneshwar

According to the Maharashtra Tourism website, the Palkhi Festival is a 1,000 year old tradition where devotees/pilgrims, known as varkaris accompany the palkhis on foot to Pandharpur over 22 days in June (the Hindu month of Jyeshta)–July (the Hindu month of Ashada). The Palkhi Festival ends on Ashada Ekadashi.

Thousands of devotees make this annual trip every year. This year, the ToI has estimated that 3 lakh varkaris joined the 2010 Palkhi Festival. On the day the palkhis pass through Pune, roads get blocked, traffic diverted, and schools and colleges declare a holiday.

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Colour therapy @ Tulsi Baug

A walk in the Tulsi Baug area was just what I needed to lift my spirits after the visit to Vishrambaug Wada. Of course, it helped that the Tulsi Baug area is just across the road from the Wada. 🙂

It is difficult to explain what exactly Tulsi Baug is. In spite of the name baug, which means garden, it is not one. Tulsi Baug has about two temples and shops selling brass and copper items, as well as puja items. The market surrounding Tulsi Baug is also known as Tulsi Baug, though I am sure it must have a name like Lakshmi Market!

I first discovered Tulsi Baug as a college student, when I had time to spare between my music classes and my college lectures. Each week, I would set off in a different direction and explore yet another lane or market. I still recall those days with a lot nostalgia.

Anyway, I spent a happy hour wandering around in the Tulsi Baug area and poking around in the shops, generally having a good time. It was colour and texture therapy all the way.

Enjoy the photographs. 🙂

The dilapidated, but beautiful Rameshwar Temple at Tulsi Baug. Some kind of repair work seemed to be in progress.

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Vishrambaug Wada: A symbol of Pune’s cultural heritage and apathy

Vishrambaug Wada was built as a residence by Peshwa Baji Rao II in 1811. Today, part of the Wada is open to the public, while other parts have government offices and a post office installed in them. Located in the heart of Pune city, the Wada is a symbol of Pune’s rich cultural heritage. Ironically, it is also a symbol of neglect and apathy to that very rich cultural heritage.

I visited Vishrambaug Wada on a Sunday morning. Though the markets were open, there were not too many people around. The hawker that you can see outside Vishrambaug Wada in the photograph below was busy displaying his ware of sofa and TV covers and bedsheets, when I arrived.

The terracotta, brown and white façade of the Wada, its wooden balcony, and massive wooden pillars (which I could see from across the road), presented the perfect opportunity for a photo-op as I waited to cross the road.

Vishrambaug Wada

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Pataleshwar caves: A hidden heritage of Pune

I mentioned in my previous post that I had gone ‘site’-seeing when I was in Pune last week. One of the places I went to was the 8th century, rock-cut Pataleshwar Caves.

Situated on Jungli Maharaj Road, the entrance to the Caves is through a small garden with this magnificent banyan tree.

The beautiful banyan tree

In spite of its size, the banyan tree was homely, if you know what I mean. If the grounds had not been wet from the rain, I would have snuggled up to the tree with a book. I had to be content with just hugging the tree and moving on to the Caves.

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A Pune tradition

Each time I visit Pune, I follow a tradition. It begins with my boarding the 7.00 am Shivneri bus from Vashi highway at Navi Mumbai.

I reach Pune station by 10.00 am. Then I hop into an auto rickshaw and head straight to Kayani Bakery at East Street in the Camp area.

Kayani Bakery

I always enter Kayani with a prayer on my lips, and rightly so, as I have often had to go back empty-handed because their products have been sold out.

I love Kayani’s cakes (sponge cake, mawa cake), biscuits (Shrewsbury, ginger and wine), and bread and make sure to fill up my backpack.

My next stop is Marz-o-Rin on Main Street or M.G. Road, a 5-minute walk from Kayani Bakery.

Marz-o-Rin Bakery

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