Rediscover your CITIES….!!!

There are very few times in life where you are transported into an another space. In our so mundane lives there comes this breath of fresh air which makes you happy, your eyes see a whole new world. A world which always existed but which you never wanted to see. But then you make an effort somehow and open this closed door and you see a hidden world, a forgotten world, a magical world and sadly a neglected world.

I opened this door last Sunday and it left me spellbound and hungry for more. I out of a whim enrolled myself up in ‘a heritage walk’. This walk is organised by the Pune Muncipal Corporation and and an NGO called Janwani. It starts at 7 am in the morning till 10 am. They provide you with a very well informed guide and there are may be 10 people in all for the walk. The walk starts from the Pune Municipal Corporation building and ends at Vishrambaug Wada which is on Bajirao Road.
a place from the past under the bridge
Shivaji Bridge
Our first destination from the PMC building was The Shivaji Bridge. This bridge was earlier known as the Llyod Bridge named after a Governor of Mumbai.. It was made between the year 1924  and 1926. The complete bridge is made of stone and has some structures which resemble that period of architecture. If you look beneath the bridge there is this very mysterious structure which completely looks from another time and place. Though of course the water beneath this bridge is unclean and almost resembling a gutter which kind of unsettles you.
The Mastani Gate
Our next stop was the Shaniwar Wada. In my 10 years here in Pune I have never been here, and I am not too proud about the fact. The Shaniwar Wada is an enchanting place with so much of history. The foundations were laid by Peshva Bajirao I who was the Prime Minster of the Maratha Empire. This place has witnessed triumphant marches of Maratha armies , assassination of Narayan Rao and the suicide of Savai Madhavrao. Though the story I really loved was the love story of Bajirao and Mastani. Mastani was said to be the most beautiful woman a man had ever seen. She was Bajirao’s second wife. In spite of a lot of opposition their love survived. The legend has it the Wada actually has a door called the ‘Mastani Gate’ which only Mastani was allowed to use. Inside there is also a room where she lived. Peshva Bajirao was one of the most successful warriors in the history of India, he hardly ever lost a battle. The Peshwa’s in the 17thcentury almost had taken over the whole of India from the Mughals.
Shaniwar Wada
Kasba Ganpati Mandir
Then we went to Kasba Ganapati Mandir. The mandir was laid down by Jijabai, Shivaji’s mother. The story is that before this temple was made this whole place had been looted and destroyed by the Mughals. What the rulers also did was to use a donkey and make him go around the whole place which had a symbolic effect. According to the Hindu religion a donkey is  an inauspicious animal which brings bad luck and poverty. So after the Mughals left people were not keen to settle down on this place, so Jijabai made this temple. To bring people back and encourage them to settle here. Also Shivaji made it a point that he would always visit this temple before he went for a battle.
The Lal Mahal
Next stop was Lal Mahal. This was built by Shahaji Bhonsle for his wife Jijabai and son Shivaji. It was destroyed various times . The original Lal Mahal no longer exists , though the place where its been made by the PMC remains the same. The most interesting story of the Lal Mahal is about the Shivaji’s war with Shaista Khan. Apparently the combat war that was won by Shivaji has been termed by various historians as the best ever implemented strategies in the history of combat wars. The army strength of Shaista Khans was that of 1 lakh and Shivaji just had around 300 to 400 warriors, but still Shivaji won the battle. He also cut off Shaista Khan’s three fingers.
Nana Wada
Right opposite to Lal Mahal is the Nana Wada. This is Nana Phadnis’s residential wada and it is huge. He was basically the administrator of the Peshwa’s and a very rich man. He was very shrewd and honest in his dealings and made his extra money from treaties signed between different rulers. It was all legitimate money. He was very meticulous about everything he did.  It is said that the way our typical Maharastrian thalis are set, in the sense the salt, lemon,chutneys on the left and all the vegetables on the right was initiated by Nana Phadnis and has been since followed. He was not exactly a brave guy or a shrewd warrior though he was an ace administrator and responsible for all the economic planning of the Peshwas. The Nana wada boasts of the only original paintings of that time that are still existent in decent condition and are situated on the second floor.
the colorful Mandai,near the flower market!
After this we strolled the very famous Mandai and the Mahatma Phule Udyan. The Mandai is a vibrant market where you can find anything and everything. Some great speeches by Mahatma Phule, Lokmanya Tilak have been delivered in this very place. There is also this small library where Winston Churchill was a member and used to visit often. We then strolled through Tulsibaug and then finally reached Vishrambaug Wada.
Vishrambaug Wada
Vishrambaug Wada was basically like the Government rest house. Here people visiting Pune for a few days would come to rest. It also has two huge courtyards where there would be host of entertainment programmes being performed. The walk ends with a performance by the Shaheers, they are the people who basically sing Powadas. We heard a Powada which was written on the greatness of Pune by none other than Veer Sawarkar. The powada is pretty intimidating it kind of is something you dont hear very often and it’sbasically a story that is told with the help of songs and music.
Valued objects and qualities such as cultural traditions, unspoiled countryside, and historic buildings that have been passed down from history, is what is heritage. Though Pune is blessed with a hell lot of it most of us are not aware of it. A lot of these places are almost breaking down. Especially the old core city where most of the old wadas are located. A whole lot of them are being broken down and made into the modern buildings. This I feel is a shame. The Government should raise better policies and help people living in these wadas with restoring these old structures.These places are not maintained or cleaned regularly. Though gradually with programmes like the heritage walk ,NGOs and PMC are taking the right steps to save heritage buildings. I was pretty impressed with the restoration work that has been undertaken in the Vishrambaug Wada. They have painted up the place and also made three fountains there which adds to the beauty of it.
a lot of the old buildings are collapsing,it breaks my heart!
When the next generation looks back all we have left them is a concrete jungle, with corrupt leaders , hi- tech technology, violence,terrorist attacks etc. Unlike us our ancestors have left us with stories of love, courage, love for the motherland, culture, pride and so much more which is so much more valuable. The least we can do is honour and respect that and most importantly preserve it. I personally just knew Pune as a city with horrible traffic,multiplexes,shopping malls, bad public transport, innumerable places to eat and so on, but now that has changed. Pune is a city where the great Bajirao fell in love with the so beautiful Mastani, where the great Shivaji defeated Shaista Khan, a city where Mahatma Phule started the first girls school and Lokmanya Tilak started the great Ganest Utsav. From being critical and almost frustrated with my city I have finally found a lot of pride in being Punekar.
Go and actually visit your cities. Find those doors which you never cared to unlock, and who knows you will find some magical places with glorious stories. Like me you would may be feel proud of not just being an Indian but actually find what it really means to feel like one!!!

If there is no WILL, there is no WAY!!!

Death in anyway is not a pleasant thing. The recent jubilation and joy shown by so many of us at the death of Ajmal  Kasab, is understandable.   He is the guy who killed innocent people and our brave police men but so much joy and jubilation is something i don’t share with many. I just somehow find celebration uncalled for, the dead are still dead.  The truth is there are hundreds of Kasabs  there being trained everyday to kill us. Hanging one of them should not really satisfy us or make us happy. What really would make me happy is catching hold of the root cause of the problem. The high command the people who train 18 year old, poor Kasabs  who live in filthy and poor conditions. Their poverty and suppression is used to fill them up with all kinds of rubbish and at 18 it’s all very easy to get carried away.  You are promised respect and money, and made to feel like heroes for doing such crimes. We should be satisfied only after men who teach are punished not the ones who are taught. Another thing that I do find very contradictory ,is we were mourning BalaSaheb Thackeray death(at least in Maharashtra)  just two days ago and suddenly we are also celebrating and bursting crackers and dancing on Kasabs  death. I think we are suffering from lack of perspective. How can mourning and celebrating go hand in hand?

Speaking about contradictory behavior  recently i was in Jalgaon for a weekend. My 7 th standard cousin was totally excited about this magnificently huge Gandhi museum which she was taken to by her school. I love history and so I’m always excited when it comes to visiting museums. I was pretty excited about the trip. When we reached the actual place I was completely taken aback with the location and  how huge the whole place was!.. It was situated on a hill top, greenery all around and the area was almost that of huge palace. There was a huge Gandhi statue, reading a book. We went inside and there was a guide wearing khaki clothes to welcome us. The whole place was made of marble and air conditioned. We were given headphones and the guide a concealed mic. First there was a welcome speech by the man responsible for the museum about how we have forgotten Gandhi and his values and how in reality with the world going all crazy with violence and environmental hazards , we should revert to Gandhi’s teachings, to find solutions.

This museum is filled with LCD televisions and the recent technological revolution of the touch screen. The guide told us that this whole project cost them almost 100 crores, the daily electricity bill was almost 5 to 6 lakhs. There was a wax statue made up of almost lakhs of rupees of Gandhiji working on a charkha. (there are atleast 6 statues already) It took us almost 2 hours to see the museum. When we came out my whole family couldn’t stop raving about how well the whole place was done. I didn’t say much because I wasn’t much impressed with it.

My reasons as I explained to my mother and sister later were these. Firstly other than a very few unseen photos, unseen live footage of 2 mins of Gandhi speeches, very few unseen paper cuttings, there wasn’t much to learn. If one had read MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH, Gandhi’s autobiography you know majority of the things that the museum tends to offer. The only thing the museum did was use air-condition, hi tech technology, kaleidoscopes to tell us most of the things we already know. I have nothing against a museum, it always great to have them. Though what I was baffled about was the amount of unnecessary capital that was being used to make it.

Here you talk about following Gandhi’s footsteps., and right after you go ahead and build a 100 crores plus museum on his name. I find that very contradictory. Gandhi was a very simple man. His teachings were mostly towards simple living and high thinking mantra. He believed that people with the extra money should go ahead and do things that will help the poor. He believed in making villages self-sufficient. My question was just this, why not make a simple museum with a much smaller capital and then spend the surplus money into doing something much constructive in the villages.

I have no doubt in my mind that Gandhiji would be much more happier and at peace if he saw majority of that 100 crores were used exactly where they were most needed. In the welcome speech we are told that this museum is to inspire the coming generation. Though sadly my 7 th standard cousin was more interested in the technology and the LCD and what not. That’s all most of the children would take back rather than Gandhi.

India is a country with multiple problems. All I feel is that all of us should work towards making it a much better nation. We have the resources and the money all we lack is the will. I just hope we wake up before it’s too late. I always dream that if we had men like Gandhi, Nehru, DR.  Ambedkar and so many more leaders of the pre-independence period in a economically richer India of today , our country would have been a dream to live in!