Monday, April 1, 2013

A little bit of the Punyanagari in Pune.

It's interesting to observe a place's timeline. It's fascinating to know what a city once was, and to live the thing it's becoming. Even as it embraces globalisation and comes of age as an 'upcoming metropolis', it's those few ancient structures that still exist, which give a threshold to the city's identity.

When you visit such areas of your own city, it's amazing how the modernity drains out to almost none and confuses you to believe you've stepped in to a 'multiple-decades-ago' scenario.

The feeling is almost euphoric.

6.35 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
Yesterday, I visited the 127 years old 'Mahatma Phule Mandai.' It's one of the prettiest vintage buildings in Pune, which roots the city's culture right from the time of the Raj. Made of stone, this structure is circular with eight entrances and appears Gothic and gruelling. In the pre-independence days, it was a central meeting place for reformers and the janta. And now it stands as the city's biggest 'Bhaji Mandi.'

6.40 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

Along with the overwhelming architecture, there were numerous other visual cues that took me back in the time, I haven't ever lived. 

Pune was once known as the Cycle City. And this is still so true of the areas around the Mandai. A lot of these Bhajiwallahs cycle here every morning and park their cycles against the wall opposite their stall. Yellow bulbs lit up the otherwise dark place and spread a warm, 'old-time-like' glow. It's beautiful.

6.40 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
You would still see vendors with a humble note-pad and pen doing the accounts. Vegetables shall still be weighed on this ancient tarazu (weighing scale) and not on an electronic weighing machine. When we talk about Digitalisation and the Internet, we forget that the opposite is also very true in a lot of places.

6.45 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
I really loved how cane baskets full of garlic lay stacked over tin boxes on a wooden platform. Also how a bulb hung down from a ceiling beside which was an old framed photograph. Probably the vendor's father lived in the era when this place became a Mandai.

6.45 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
Everyday lots of farm fresh vegetables come to the market. Along with that I'm sure there are lots of mice that breed here. And, to get rid of them you obviously have a lot of kitties around. These kitties keep bouncing off the onion sacks and old, kaput scooters, hiking away for a prey. That also explains for their friendly behaviour towards humans and vice-versa.

This cat actually paused; meowed away to glory as I clicked her. Unlike other stray cats.

6.50 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
If you've noticed the internal structure is still the same as it was back then. Also, you'll see a lot of kashta clad women around. You hardly see such women in most parts of the city these days. It indeed feels like being in a different era all together.

7.00 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

As the sun rises up, and as all stalls are put up a lot of people seem to stream in for vegetable shopping. It's been the same buzz everyday for years now.

8.00 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

There is a very pretty, but almost-in-ruins staircase there. This tabby perched on the staircase with grace and flamboyance as if it's her thrown. Wonder which all social reformers once went up and down these abandoned stairs, now taken over by cats.

8.05 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

This could have been one man who's seen Pune evolve. He probably comes here to be in his comfort setting and feel at home. Eyes closed, head lowered, palms intertwined, legs dangling, he sat there lost in a reverie, reminiscing.

8.10 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.

And, his reverie breaks.

8.15 a.m. inside Pune's Mahatma Phule Mandai.
 Right outside the Mandai, and opposite a wada is this alley. There seem to be two shops opposite each other, yet to be opened. Locked old wooden doors, flaked paint, cycle, erected handcarts and a motorcycle-what a fusion of past and present! Minus the motorcycle I'm sure it looks like a 70 year old setting.

I love studying people. I love exploring cultural and understanding how it has evolved over time. It was lovely wondering session for the wandering me. :)


  1. I grew up in a place called hirakud in Odisha and there were two markets which i was acquainted with- the Hirakud and the Sambalpur old market. Even they look quintessentially the same as described by you.

    I am forming a generalization that most of the pre-independence markets have remained untouched and un-modernized in most of the places over the country.