Monday, December 3, 2007

Toss your soul to the wind

As it goes to call the morning sun,

Scampering in, silent, sometimes softly whispering,

You can’t see it –yet you feel it invigorating,

filling every corner with energy,

Blending the inner scape and the outside.

In one canvas…

Through life…

Expressed through your home..

..The Pune I love

It would be a cliche if I wrote that Pune as a city has changed a fair bit .Like every other place in the world Pune isn't immune to change though it has to be said the city is still retained its hilly charm.The trees probably have lessened to accommodate the multitude of malls springing out of every nook and cranny .Albeit one has to mention Pune has massive amounts of green to it with its ghats, quaint little parks and of course beautiful treetops.
Pune is a city which abounds in hills and forts but malls aren't far behind. Having been there a few months back the fact that malls have sprung up literally everywhere did not fail to surprise me especially if one has been going to Pune for the last twenty years.These malls cater to most sections of society.

As one flies into Pune the first thing that one sees are the ghats .The daunting sight of the ghats leaves one spellbound.The hilly scenery fills us with wonder and excitement.We get a view of nooks and crannies coloured in brown with pockets of green in it.Yeah when I think of Pune the ghats are what I envision first.Having said that one could leave the climbing to experienced mountaineers . A trip to Pune is incomplete without going hill climbing (read: the not so steep ones). Standing atop the hills we get a panoramic view of Pune.

Pune for me I suppose is a home away from home.If I was asked which city do I consider to be my hometown I'd choose Pune and Kolkata.Although I live in Kolkata Pune is never too far away .Perhaps the fact that I've spent most of my holidays there influences this thought process.Spending a insurmountable amount of Durga Pujas in Pune has done this perception no harm what so ever.

The city is also a historian's dream. Being a history student exploring forts such as Shaniwar Wada and other historical sites delighted me to no end. Any aspiring archaeologist can can look around to his or her hearts content as colleges such as Deccan college has a great collection of old ruins and fossils which are a few hundred years old.

Educational institutions like Fergusson College and Pune University are beautiful places to hang out because of the greenery one gets too see there.The grass is invariably lush and the constructions are graceful indeed .It makes for a nice get away. The Film and Television Institute of India is also a establishment of repute. The movies that I got to see there were simply out of the world .The documentaries screened would appeal to all parts of society as they were relevant.Perhaps this is why Pune is known as the Oxford of the East. Foodies would also have a good time here as the city awash with eating joints of all kinds. Indian, Continental ,Chinese you name it.

The truth be told even though one might live thousands of miles away one can't really get away from Pune as the city grows on you .

Indrajit - writer

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why I call Pune Home

I am what people would term as a hard core Bombayite . I have spent my formative years there. I now look back with a total sense of disbelief when I think of those split second train timings… that hectic pace to Life where every moment was spent in the fray to get to some place , which though well connected, inevitably took some determined effort and considerable time.

Then I went away to Dubai. Another city with a character all its own. A perfect amalgam of the old world that quaintly co-existed with the enthusiastic fervour of the new and the modern. Then just as it had carried us off to this interesting city of Dubai , kismet turned us around to point us homewards. Since Bombay no longer was 'home' after the passing on of my father, we decided to look to Pune for familial comfort. A lot of our relatives lived in Pune . That and the greenery beckoned to us to make it home.

So one rainy day in July of 2000 , two boys and dog in tow , we hauled ourselves up five flights of stairs along with our rather heavy baggage to our home . No electricity . So no lifts Our very first orientation with the whimsical electricity supply in Pune that invariably got washed out with the slightest hint of rain !!!

Of the next few years I spent time ....getting telephone lines ..then making sure they were working. Getting all my required appliances in place ..then making sure we had the electricity to run them !! If the phone lines were working and the electrical supply uninterrupted ..then I spent time getting corrections to the astronomical bills that were high enough to have given enough talk time and electricity to a small time industry !! During this time I met all sorts of people ..some rude ..some helpful..some concerned ..others nonchalantly carrying on with indifference to rules. Like any other city .

Life has now eased a bit . Quite a bit. The boys are both now strapping young men. Both into their maiden year at being employees ! I now wake up to a black and white wagtail pecking noisily at my window every single morning. Mornings are spent quite often over a leisurely cup of coffee while mildly wondering what different avian species might I be treated to today. Will it be a kingfisher? Or a frog heron ? Or a Bharadwaj? Will that noisy raucous gang of parrots make an appearance today ? Camera and binoculars always handy, the morning sun and the dusk always offer much for the bird watcher.

With an inverter in place , the dark clouds no longer threatened. They along with the rain bring along with them brilliant flashes of a poetical streak that make me wax lyrical as I hear the cool raindrops sizzle on the parched soil of the garden. I hear the old timers creakily commiserate about the non existent winters. To me the gentle sun of a December morning in Pune is comfortingly warm. No shivers and chattering teeth for me. I spend morning looking for good art exhibitions to visit…enthralling music concerts to attend occasional play to watch. . I look on with amusement at the antics of the dahi handi brigade at Gokul Ashtami. With fatalistic resignation I face the music at Ganesh Chaturthi. My maternal instincts are touched when I watch little ones enthusiastically participate in the various cultural presentations made during that time.

Soon it is Navratri and the colorful gaiety heralds the coming of Diwali around the corner with the clicking of the dandiyas by revelers going in circles for the raas. The festive lights of Diwali turn the city into a fairy land at night as the twinkling sparks scurry back and forth feverishly on most windows . And star lanterns dress up a balcony or front yard bathing it in a fond indulgent glow. I hear the azaan and I know it is time for Iftaar. Christmas will be here too...
and one and all will wait eagerly for delicately flavored fruit cake . Then it will be the next certainly ..but with comforts of the familiar ...for Pune is where home is ..where heart is!

By Shubha S Nafrey

More about home


Thursday, October 11, 2007

And Now Begins the Future…

As a history student, I’ve read about how we have evolved. However, all those analytical history lessons have also taught me that we as a race have a tendency to arrive at a full circle – we repeat our mistakes.

Through these history books I have witnessed great leaps in technology, and this balances everything out for me – a parallel between constant creative genius and consistent political stupidity. Both very powerful forces, and when the first is used by the second, then it can take on its inverse form and reverse its function – creation turns into destruction.

In a vision for a happier future, we must put a full stop to this madness, this circular trap we’ve built around ourselves. Science will, in this glorious future, be used for its true purpose – to create and innovate, not destroy. A future where thousands of small animals will not be cruelly used to test cosmetics or tortured in order to propagate research for new medicine – where technology will be mastered by the humans, and not be our master instead.

However, I wouldn’t want this to be a future where everything is just so perfect already, that we start to stagnate and lose our survival skills. Instead, there should be many more possibilities, for further evolvement – to move from one great achievement to another; achievements that stand as witnesses to the great capacity of the human spirit to be pioneers.

Pollution is a problem that needs to be solved, urgently – in this beautiful new world other sources of energy will be harnessed, and much of this horrible waste will cease to exist. We have technology but we also have so much waste matter to dispose of as a consequence, and a solution to this ominous problem will present itself in the future.

The human race in its creative avatar will embrace nature once more – alternative health care will be considered as important as modern medicine and the holistic benefits of meditation, aromatherapy, massage and herbs among other natural treatments will be reaped.

A future, where the importance of the arts will finally be understood and embraced, a future where writing, music, dance and art will be much more respected than they are today, as career options and art forms.

A future where children will be looked at as citizens with rights, and will enjoy respect and due attention – a future where we live as one with the world around us.

These new citizens will contribute to the creative capacity of the world, and become the future artists and scientists, creating a wonderful balance between the skyscrapers and the tropical forests, and a world which is capable of forever evolving.

A future in which history books will look upon new developments – where that apparently interminable circle will be forever broken, and a path to greater possibilities will be carved, where nature and everything associated with it will be protected and revered, where religions will cease to be a basis for strife, where the word artist and scientist will be interchangeable – a future, where every child will face the world with a head held high.

By Shreya Sanghani - Writer and Activist

Eco Living

Kyoto and beyond

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

House that Granny Built

My grandma had built a log hut on a treetop. This was her favorite resting place. Come summer, the day temperature would zoom up to 45 degrees Celsius. The fans in her regular home, built by bricks and mortar, would emit hot wind. As children, we had the luxury of sleeping bare-chest on the coir mat under the fan. But such a luxury only the male members of our large family could enjoy – not the women and girls.

Grandma’s log hut was not only well ventilated but also covered from all sides by a thick canopy of leaves. Though I never measured the temperature inside the log hut, I knew it was much cooler because I never sweated there. The log hut fell into the hands of the children after grandma crossed 80 and could not climb up the tree. Over a dozen children would occupy the hut in the summer. They would play all kinds of board games – ludo, chess, carom.

I pity at the city children who cannot enjoy the luxury of playing on a treetop. They do play board games, and of course, video games, in the confines of the air-conditioned comforts of their apartment. But I can say for sure they would never get the thrill which we enjoyed in our childhood in my grandma’s log hut.
You can argue, “Your grandma could build the log hut on tree top because she lived in a village. How can you create a similar environment in a city?”


However, I have also seen some city dwellings, which make optimum use of the nature by letting in free flow of wind and sunrays. Classic examples of such buildings are those built by the British in the ‘Civil Lines’ or ‘Cantonment’ areas. These ‘Colonial’ bungalows had high ceilings, large windows and were surrounded by leafy trees.

Again, you may like to argue, “Where is the space to build such huge bungalows?”


However, I must point out here that the latest trend in fast growing cities is to live away from the downtown crowded commercial centre and build houses on land on which crops were cultivated by farmers. Much effort goes into landscaping and growing a green cover on these plots before even laying the foundation of the bungalow.

Past few years, my favorite summer sojourn is my village where my father has built a cluster of eco-friendly houses for a residential institute of which he is the director. The entire campus meets its energy needs from solar power and biogas. For some inexplicable reasons the rice, daal and sabji cooked in the solar cooker tastes yummier than that cooked on a gas stove and pressure cooker.

The use of solar power for heating water is very popular in Cyprus, the island nation in the Mediterranean. There are solar panels atop almost all the houses in Cyprus.

With so much of sun available round the year, I wonder why we in India are not harnessing solar energy to meet our daily needs?

Nachiketa Desai - Journalist, humour and short story writer

“I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun's energy... If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago.” Sir George Porter

Some food for thought

What do I call Home

When I wanted to buy my own place in a country partially alien to me, I thought back to about two decades back. Having spent only a small part of my early childhood here, I did not know what to expect of the old motherland. But ever since my mind was made up about getting back here, even if it meant a series of unavoidable upheavals, there was little on my mind other than getting a place to call home.

The time I spent here had been all about sunny corridors, running along the said sunny corridors and jumping into tanned arms at the end of sunny corridors. There are bits about being held over basins to brush my teeth, and more rot that festers there but I suppose the sunny corridors bit is entirely about India. I suppose there are a million reasons why I felt the urge to return here. Maybe it was spiritual healing, maybe some isolation, maybe self-discovery. The thing is, chorusing "O Canada!" and having a Canadian citizen status did not quite make me non-Indian.

Then I stepped on a alien homeland! Not that I was not amazed at the change in the people here. Sure, the air is heavily laden with pollution it tags me down with it, and sure, there are a lot more voices and background scores than my sanity had to cope with. Perhaps it bothers me that the people are unreasonably surlier, and more bent on hoodwinking me at every step though they are less discreet than the oil farmers of my land. But, for all my faith in things sorting themselves out, I was unnerved by the cultural shock that awaited me and my accent.

But then I came back.

Pune is not fabulous because it is fabulous. It is fabulous because it works for me. It grew on me, and I am very much in love with what appalled me just a few months ago. Pune is not about a broiling mix of emotional tensions which must erupt on any given day to vent it all in a nice little riot. I know I waited for that bit, but it never came. My friends did help me with my adaptation but I suppose there is only this much that friends can do. I also suppose there is no universal remote to switch myself on or off. There was just a gentle gradient that helped me acclimatize to Pune, and from a feeling of being seasick all day long, I went on to being at one with the world again; which incidentally is what life should be all about.

Now Pune is home, And I am no longer a foreigner to my own motherland. She accepts me as one of her own, and there is no joy greater than being accepted as one being a part of a whole.

Now all I need is a wife.

Nikhil Jay - Writer...Finding himself in Pune...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Home Coming

It is a hot day in July…. We are packing our bags for our annual trip to India. You see the schools in the Gulf close for nearly two months during July and August. And that’s when we make our sojourn to India to visit our near and dear ones. My two boys are happy. They love being spoilt rotten by their grandparents, uncles and aunts. Enjoy spending time with their cousins. India is a fun place. They manage to indulge in a lot of activities that they wouldn’t have in the desert city of Dubai. Climb trees, chase squirrels, pluck vegetables from the kitchen garden, wander under the umbrella in pouring rain.

Two years later – one more hot day in July…and we are packing our bags. But this time the mood is a little different. There is a sense of anticipation in the air. Our trip to India is for a longer stay. My husband and I have decided that the boys will go to college in Pune, Maharashtra. A lot of our family and friends are surprised. Most Indians would gear their kids to be able to cope with further education in the West, either the U.K. or the U S of A.

But here, despite having already traveled some distance west, we were actually turning around and heading back home – and to Pune !

It was a big decision for all concerned. For the boys Dubai was home. The younger one had turned two a couple of months after we had settled there. And now sixteen years later he was to leave these familiar surrounding that he grew up in. But that was something he had to do even if he were to go elsewhere for his education. For us as parents it really was one of those things that one ponders and ponders about, hoping very hard that the decision taken will prove to be the right one.

I laid it out as plain and simple and as gently as I could in front of my boys. So far India had been a holiday for them. They may have spent a lot of time here during their holidays, but never lived here as such. They had so far been visitors here and never integrated into the way of Life here. So far they always went back home, to Dubai. I wanted that to change. I wanted that the family and relatives mean more to them than familiar faces and that they truly bond with their cousins and other relatives and appreciate the close-knit ties we Indians share with our families. I wanted that they no longer be stranger to their country and know it for all its good and the bad. Logic being very simply that tomorrow even if they ever emigrate and settle in any other country, they would always be known as Indians. So it was necessary for them to know India !!!

By Shubha S Nafrey