Saturday, July 01, 2006
Pune in the rains
The sun has just set. I'm sitting looking out at the river flow by, swelled by the rains, rushing past a few bold rocky outcrops and islands of tall green rushes. The basaltic crag on which yesterday a young shepherd lay under an umbrella, while his herd of goats grazed nearby, is now almost completely submerged. Birds call out, returning to their resting places. A perfect row of young ducklings swims upstream following their mother. When this shower stops, the bullfrogs will start their cacophony. The crickets will join them shortly. In the distance, a mellifluous voices floats across the water, proclaiming the greatness of God in the azaan for maghreb, calling the faithful to prayer.
Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!
Ashhadu alla ilaha illallah
Ashhadu anna Muhammadur rasulullah
La ilaha illallah
God is great! God is great!
There is no God but God
I bear witness that Mohammed is th messenger of God
Make haste towards prayer
Make haste towards salvation
Make haste towards the best thing
God is great! There is no God but God
The condo is in a fantastic location, with an incredibly beautiful river view. Mornings spent sipping chai in the idyllic calm on the hinchko (swing) in the living room, are precious memories of the year I spent here, oh about a dozen or so years back. On the opposite bank is a bird sanctuary, so the view and the calm should be preserved from development. As it is, on the periphery, the concrete jungle of the booming economy encroaches on the bucolic scenery, with so far,only one bright blue neon sign blaring "Cybage Inc." to the world.
If there's one city (of the ones I know) that I can imagine living in India, it's Pune. Bombay (and it breaks the heart of this die-hard Mumbaikar to admit this) is simply unbearable. It's clogged, suffering from a serious atherosclerosis of the polis. Baroda? Way too provincial (besides there's too many darn Gujaratis there :)). Delhi? Oh lord -- Jat-Panjabi da raaj! Besides, we all know that northerners are barbarians and uncivilized. No way! Pune is beautiful. The climate, especially in the monsoons is wonderful (upper 70s! In July!). Yes, it's growing rapidly, and is getting more congested. But it has space to grow. The roads are wide, the traffic bearably chaotic. There's a certain gentility that its self-image as the preserver of pure Maharashtrian culture brings; something that can easily be oppresive if it weren't for its increasing cosmopolitan nature. Gone are the days when one would have to know some Marathi to get around. Hindi is ubiquitous (outside government offices and mundane, yet vital, things such as electricity bills). And one doesn't have to go too far, at all, to encounter that other India -- no, not the poor one (that's everywhere), the rustic one. The one that us urban elites romanticize so much.
[The Pune skyline. The spire is actually a 19th century synagogue. I don't think it's seen a minyan in years.]