A LEISURELY DAY IN PUNE - Fond Memories
[A Treatise on the Art of Leisure – Nostalgic Memories of glorious moments of idleness and leisure in Pune - my favourite city]
Art of Loafing
Please tell me Dear Reader: What is loafing? Idling away your time on useless things?
Loitering! Sounds a bit derogatory, isn't it?
Okay lets say it's aimless wandering. Perfectly useless time spent in a perfectly useless manner!
Yes. That’s how I would like to define the art of loafing - spending perfectly useless time in a perfectly useless manner!
And what is foodwalking?Loitering, or rather walking, in search of good food. Not so aimless loitering!
That's what I did once – long back. I loafed in Pune.
Foodwalked. In search of good food.
I spent a perfectly useless day in a perfectly useless manner – “Foodwalking in Pune”.
I still have fond nostalgic memories of that glorious day. Let me tell you about it.
A Glorious Day
It is a beautiful morning. I try to furtively slip out of my house unnoticed, but I am stopped in my tracks by my wife's piercing voice, "Where are you going"?
"I don’t know?" I answer truthfully, and this adroit answer probably precludes the next question she is about to ask me, "What time are you coming back?" for she knows I will again truthfully answer, "I don’t know".
It’s true – I really don’t know where I am going!
"Take the mobile with you," she shouts, but I pretend not to hear and make myself scarce and disappear as fast as possible for I do not want the manacles of technology to ruin my day.
Dear fellow loafer - If you want to truly enjoy life beware of the technology trap!It's a bright day. I feel good.
Flush with a sense of carefree irresponsibility, I walk with a spring in my step. I am going to enjoy my leisure. Should I turn left? Should I turn right? Should I cross the road and go straight ahead?
I am free. Free to go wherever I desire. Free to enjoy my day as I want.
True freedom – to be able to travel at will with no destination to reach, no task to complete, no deadlines to meet.
Just Loaf. Aimlessly. Timelessly. Pure Leisure. Spend a perfectly useless day in a perfectly useless manner. I see a bus. I stop it and hop in. "Where do you want to go?" the conductor asks.
"Where does this bus go?" I ask. "Pune Railway Station."
"Okay. One ticket to Pune Railway Station," I say holding out a tenner. The conductor gives me an amused look and hands me a ticket and a rupee coin.
I sit down on a vacant window-seat.
I think interesting thoughts and enjoy the view through the window.
On these trips of mine I prefer travelling by bus and, of course, I love to walk on foot.
Driving my car on the terrible potholed, crowded and chaotic roads in the terrible traffic of Pune makes me go crazy, and, at my age, I dare not venture out too far on my scooter, lest I land up with broken bones in hospital or, worse, lifeless in Vaikunth or Kailas crematoriums!
That's what I sometimes do on these glorious trips of mine. Just jump into the first bus that comes along and let it take you wherever it goes.
Just go where life leads you.
Last time I landed up in the heart of Pune near Shaniwar Wada.
In Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi loafing is even more exciting, as there are so many more routes and choices, trains, buses, walks, and you can serendipitously explore so many novel and exotic places you would not dream of going to in normal course.
The bus reaches the Pune Railway Station. It’s been a smooth ride.
I get down and admire the magnificent heritage stone building of Pune Railway Station. I stand in the porch and look inside. Trains, crowds, announcements, horns, cacophony, and chaos – I love the “railway” atmosphere.
On impulse, I enter, and stroll on the platform, panning my gaze all over, and stopping once in a while to feast my eyes on any attractive object that arrests my attention.
"Want a seat?" a porter asks.
"No," I say.
"Where are you going?" he pursues.
"Nowhere," I say.
"Waiting for someone," he asks, probably in anticipation of porterage.
"No," I say.
He stares at me for a moment and walks off with a look of perplexed dejection.
I look around. Everyone is waiting to go somewhere, or for someone.
I am waiting to go nowhere, and for nobody.
So I walk out of the station and head for Shiv Kailash Milk Bar bang opposite on the other side of the road. If you arrive at Pune by train on a hot morning, never make the blunder of heading for the rickshaw stand. You'll get all stressed up waiting in the never-ending queue and haggling with the rickshawallas trying to con you.
Just cross the road to Shiv Kailash, sit under the shade on one of the stainless steel stools placed on the pavement, invigorate yourself with a tall glass of cool refreshing lassi (which is guaranteed to banish the depleting effects of the tiresome train journey) and tell the waiter to hail a rickshaw from the many hanging around.
This is what I have been doing for so many years, during my numerous homecomings, since the days when Pune was called Poona. Shiv Kailash serves the best lassi in Pune. It’s almost as good as the one at Pehelwan at the end on Lanka near BHU in Varanasi. The lassi freshly made in front of you topped off with a generous dollop of soft fresh cream. The sumptuous fulfilling soothing lassi is thick, lip-smacking, nourishing, and gives me a heavenly feeling.
I sip slowly, relishing every mouthful, almost eating the delectable fluid after letting it perambulate on my tongue, as I watch the world go about its business outside.
People come in a jiffy, gulp their lassis down the hatch in a hurry, and rush away, while I blissfully savour each and every drop of the delicious lassi.
I walk leisurely towards Camp. Past Mira College, GPO, Zero Milestone, Police Headquarters, Nehru Memorial Hall, where I cross the Moledina Road admiring the imposing Lal Deval Synagogue, and turn left, past the place imperial Dorabjee Store Building used to be once. Now there is a huge shopping complex and a glitzy mall opposite. I reminisce. West End, New Empire, all the adorable landmarks gone. Now there are Malls and modern places like Landmark. Landmark – you know it don’t you?
Landmark is Pune’s swanky new music-cum-book store. Like Crossword – giving competition to the grand old Manney’s, International, Popular, TBS and the bookshops at Appa Balwant Chowk.
I walk in. The place is swarming with chic salesgirls and sales-boys. No one pays any attention to me. Maybe I blend well with the surroundings.
I realize the tremendous advantages of obscurity and the benefits of anonymity.
Had I been a successful person, rich and famous, or someone with a striking personality, people would notice me and I doubt I would have been able to enjoy myself with such carefree abandon.
Only non-achievers like me can truly enjoy a life of carefree irresponsibility and the unadulterated joys of genuine leisure. I roam around the ground floor music section. There are no music stations where you can listen to music like they have in Rhythm House and Planet-M in Mumbai. So I go the first floor bookstore. It’s spacious, neatly laid-out and looks impressive.
The books are arranged subject-wise, clearly visible from anywhere. There are cushioned stools to sit and browse and also two long sofas below the huge tinted windows towards the far side.
I start from the left side. Food, Philosophy, Self-Help, Travel, Coffee Table, Erotica, Classics, Fiction, Computers, Children, Indian Writing there are books on every topic you can think of.
The tranquil ambiance is so soothing and conducive that I browse to my hearts content, loosing myself into that wonderful state of timelessness I experience sometimes when I am totally immersed into doing something I love. By the time I leave Landmark, cerebrally satiated, it is almost three in the afternoon, I am hungry, and in desperate need of gastronomic satiation. So I walk past Manney’s, West End, turn right on Main Street, cross Aurora Towers, turn right, walk past ABN Amro Bank, and turn left on Dastur Meher Road, a walk leisurely towards Sarbatwala Chowk till I reach Dorabjee and Sons.
A Leisurely Meal
I dive in through the low entrance and look around. The eatery is crowded, with noisy families bashing away regardless greedily devouring the heaps food before them. The mouth-watering aroma, and the sight of the appetizing food, creates in me such ravenous pangs of hunger that I quickly sit on the only vacant table and order a Mutton Biryani the signature dish of Dorabjee.
As is the hallmark of specialty cuisine restaurants the menu is select just a few choice dishes a single page. There's Sali, Curry, Masala and Biryani in Mutton and Chicken; Kheema, Brain, Eggs, and combinations thereof, cutlets in gravy, and a few Veg dishes, for appearance sake. On Sundays, you can have Dhansak, maybe on your way to the races in the season.
Pune may have changed but heritage institutions like Dorabjee still preserve the flavour of yesteryear Pune. I spoon some Biryani onto my tongue, seal my lips, close my eyes, turn my senses inwards with full consciousness to imbibe and savour the unique medley of juices released by the succulent piece of mutton, the bitterish-sweet taste of the slightly burnt crisp fried onions, and the spicy flavoursome rice. It is superlative delicious authentic cuisine at its best. Dorabjee serves the best heritage mutton biryani in Pune – no doubt about it. [Blue Nile and Good Luck are nearly as good].
The fervent atmosphere of the place and exquisite quality of the food is such that one eats enthusiastically, with wholehearted zest and gusto; not apologetically and self-consciously, as one tends to do, trying to be prim and proper, in highfalutin restaurants.
At Dorabjee, you can enjoy every morsel of your food with passionate ardour.
And as I reach blissful satiety I realize that a well-filled stomach radiates a kind of spiritual happiness.
The Art of Leisure
The ideal way to end this rich spicy repast is to cool it off with a Falooda.
So I walk down Sachapir Street, cross Main Street, and head for Badshah on East Street to down a deliciously sweet and chilled Rose flavored Royal Falooda.
And then to Kayani, down East Street, to pick up some Shrewsbury Biscuits and Chocolate Walnut Cake. I stand outside Kayani, wondering what to do. Maybe I can go to Manney’s and browse some more. If Landmark has got the ambiance, Manney’s got the books!
And then just loiter down Main Street admiring pretty looking things, till I am tired and hungry.
Maybe I will have some sandwiches, a roll and cold coffee at Marzorin. Or pastries and a softy at Pasteurs.
Or a Burger at Burger King, or a Chopsuey at East End, down East Street.
Maybe Kathi Rolls at Olympia, Chicken Masala at George, Chana Bhatura at Monafood, Sev Barfi at Bhavnagri, Wafers at Budhani, or Sizzlers at The Place next to Manneys, or one more Biryani at Blue Nile near the GPO.
The possibilities are endless!Or should I see the movie at Victory opposite, or at West End nearby?
Maybe I'll jump into the first bus I see and let it take me wherever it goes.
How about going for a long walk on Laxmi road into the heart of town?
Or an idyll beside the river in Bund Garden, or Saras Baug, or Sambhaji Park?
Or maybe I will just head home.
Oh, yes indeed, the possibilities are truly endless!
I am free to do whatever I choose to do! Loaf to my heart's content! To continue to spend a perfectly useless day in a perfectly useless manner! Relish moments of perfect leisure.You can take my word for it, dear reader.
There is nothing you will enjoy more than loafing.
It is when you cease to do the things you have to do, and do the things you like to do, and you want to do, that you achieve the highest value of your time.
The freedom to enjoy life is the ultimate reward.
Why should you defer happiness waiting for some elusive abstract rewards?
What reward could be greater than a life enjoyed as it is lived? If you do not find happiness as you are, where you are, here and now, you will never find it.
There is always plenty in life right now to enjoy for one who is determined to enjoy it.
The feast of life is before you. Do you have the appetite to enjoy the feast of life?
So my dear friend, discover the art of loafing, and you will redeem the art of living from the business of living.
The Art of Travelling, The Art of Happiness, The Art of Eating, The Art of Living, The Art of Loafing, The Art of Leisure - all inextricably intertwined, aren't they?
Dear Reader, do tell us about your glorious carefree leisurely loafing experiences in your favourite city too!
And let us know what you think about the Art of Leisure.
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.