Pune

During my recent trip to India, I spent 3 weeks working in Pune. It struck me today that I have written about Delhi and Agra, and have not writen a word about Pune. Today my post is dedicated to Pune.

Pune is a very large city in the provice of Maharashtra. It is the same province where Mumbai is located. Pune is the 8th largest city in India with 3,115,431 inhabitants. It is the cultural capital of Maharashtra (Wikipedia). It is a mere 30 minute flight from Mumbai.

I spent 3 weeks over January and February, in winter, walking around in short sleeves. I am told it gets very hot during the summer. It was wonderful weather when I was there.

I stayed in an apartment complex in Magarpatta City. Magarpatta City is a self-contained city within a city, consisting of residential, business and commercial settlements. It has schools, gym, spas, and recreational facilities. It also has eco-friendly practices, such as rain water harvesting, vermiculture, a bio-gas plant, garbage segregating at source, use of fly-ash bricks in construction, and has one of the largest residential solar water heating systems in India. Solar panels have been installed in every residential apartment complex. Read more about this here.

Magarpatta City has wide leafy boulevards and has a constant maintenance team looking after the pavements and parks and making sure everything is spotless. The image below is of the road into the city from the main gate. The gate is manned by security. Busses and rickshaws can be found outside the main gate.

The leafy streets of Magarpatta City
The leafy streets of Magarpatta City

Pune has many shopping malls. Magarpatta City has 2 and the 3rd one, the Magarpatta City mall is being built and looks huge. Opposite Magarpatta City is the newly build Amanora mall, it is also huge and looks very upmarket. The other malls I went to were Inorbit Mall and Phoenix Market City, both in Nagar Road. This last one is truly colossal! I need not mention that all the malls I went to have the full range of retail, entertainment and wellness choices. I also don’t need to mention that they all carry the full range of branded shops. This goes without saying for any mall in India. Destination Centre in Magarpatta City has all you need for daily shopping, and stays open until late in the evening – great if you are working late. It also has restaurants, and the BEST masala tea I had in India!

Pune has more than enough to choose from in terms of restaurants. If western is your style, the Hard Rock Cafe will suit you. The Sizzlers range of restaurants offer lots of yummy food. There are many trendy restaurants. I am vegetarian and I had more choice than I could eat in all the time I was there. In fact, in the month I was there I did not eat the same thing twice (except if I chose to, like Gulab Jamun, described in a previous post).

Sukanta is a pure vegetarian thali restaurant. Within seconds of seating and with huge flurry and a whole lot of noise, a round stainless steel tray is placed in front of you with 9 or so smaller stainless steel bowls on it. Each bowl is then filled with yummy food – veggies, curry, dahl, breads. Even the sweet is placed on the tray. As each bowl empties it is immediately filled (I kid you not, it is that quick) – waiters walk up and down the restaurant looking for empty bowls to fill. And they know just which ones need which food. You literally have to put your hand over the bowl to prevent them from filling it again.

The next day we went to Soho for my friend’s birthday. This is a trendy place, where you can get a good meal and have a good dance, it is place to go when you want to have a good party. We were there on a dry day, so no alcohol was served, so just time your visit well.

Deccan Harvest in the CyberCity area of Magarpatta City was also good. Fancy and with good food. Another thali restaurant I went to was in Phoenix Market City mall, very fancy. Food very delicious. Same concept as Sukanta, called Rajdhani.

Pune restaurants - Soho and Rajdhani Thali
Top – Soho Restaurant; Bottom – Thali at Rajdhani

Now if you are going to Pune, you simply have to shop in Laxmi Road. In terms of clothes and jewellery, whatever you can get in the malls you can get here, with more variety and much better prices. One can’t bargain in the malls. But you can bargain in Laxmi Road. If you are not a local or speak Hindi, go with someone who does to do all the bargaining for you. I bought some beautiful clothes, including sarees there.

The hustle and bustle of Laxmi Road Pune
The hustle and bustle of Laxmi Road Pune

I am told that Pune is a city where the motorbikes outnumber the people. I think this is certainly true. It was also here that I drank the heavenly nectar of sugar cane juice mixed with lime juice. A simple corner stand housed a medieval-looking press, hungrily eating chunks of sugar cane, fed continuously by a sweating attendant.

Sugar cane juice stand and the some of the many motorbikes in the city
Sugar cane juice stand and the some of the many motorbikes in the city

Getting around Pune is easy. There are busses and taxi cabs. If you are brave, hire a scooter, or a car. If you want some adventure, I can definitely recommend the ubiquitous rickshaws – ready my post on this interesting, fun and sometimes frustrating mode of transport – Rickshaws. They are everywhere, their sound unmistakeable as they putt-putt-putt their way around the streets looking for fares. I would be lying in bed in the middle of the night, and their putt-putt-putt sound would reach up to me on the 10th floor.

On my second last day I visited the Aga Khan Palace. It is a beautiful, majestic palace. It was here that Mahatma Gandhi was held under house arrest for almost 2 years with his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary, Mahadev Desai. Both his wife and secretary died here, whilst in captivity. The gardens are large, beautiful and serene, despite the noise and activity of the Pune-Nagar Road just outside the gates.

The Aga Khan Palace in Pune
The Aga Khan Palace in Pune

There is so much to see in Pune. I did not do much of the tourist stuff. Tourist sites mention the Osho Meditation Resort. I did not go there, only drove past and I must admit that I was dissappointed to see lots of westerners there. It is geared towards western visitors. I suppose western visitors bring in tourist revenue to the city. Even though meditation and yoga are of India, to go to a resort catering mostly to western visitors is not to know India. I believe that the gardens are beautiful and are open for an hour or two at sunrise and at sunset. Otherwise you will have to book in to the resort.

I prefer the real India, the grittiness and gentility, rubbing shoulders with people, street food and drinking the local tap water – YES, I did it in Pune! And I was fine.

I loved being there, living day to day, absorbing the culture and the vibe. I hope India is on your list of places to visit. And that Pune will be part of your itinerary.

 

 

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Photographs by Regina Martins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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