Streets of Pune

Old Pune
- 24 & 25 November 2012 -

Between all the traveling to work and historical sight seeing, there was something in-between that caught my attention. From the reality of the poverty and street children that roam the streets, to the commerce and the people making their living to the shopping and the nightlife, this is my favourite part of Pune. "Old Pune", the streets of Pune.

I would drive daily to work in a taxi and pass lots of small street and lots of people, I initially packed my camera in the car with me to see if I can catch some of what was going on around me, but I always caught a glimpse of a street or person next to the road, but I'm moving so fast, by the time I have my camera out and ready, it's gone. Through my journey into photography, I have learnt that the only way you get to see how things really are, is to walk. 

The photos in this post is made up of numerous events from when I walked to town, but at times I got a taxi to drop me off and pick me up later.

The first thing you notice is the shear quantity of people, the pollution (air and ground) around you, and this is the sad truth of what a massively dense population can do to people when the country or city doesn't have the infrastructure to carry the load. But regardless life goes on, people laugh and cry, people survive, people "live".

If you have children, or even just been around children, you will notice that they have a superior ability to adapt to their environment as compared to adults. It is still not nice to see children on the street, but if you look past your sympathy you will notice they are content with their surroundings, this given that they have fair parents who do the best they can for them. Children seem to make do with what they have. Until a certain age they don't seem to be worried about what they don't have, but more about what they do have. 

Between all the people and cars lives a community of street dogs, to me, they look more or less the same. No real breed difference. These dogs seem to go unnoticed by the locals, almost as a bird would go unnoticed. If you look at the build of the dog you come to notice that these dogs are built to last, they are built to fend for themselves, and although the humans presence makes life easier for them, you get the feeling that if the humans were gone, the dogs would keep on.

On my way to see Shaniwar Wada just after I visited the Pataleshwar cave temple I had to cross a bridge across a large river which flows through Pune. The bridge is about 110 years old and joins the new Pune municipality to old Pune, which was the exact reason they built it back in the day. The first thing you notice about Shivaji Bridge (a.k.a Navaa Pul or Jorge Loieds Bridge) in comparison to the street around it, is the quality. Made from small intricate tiles and cast iron palisade fences, the bridge was built to last. Earlier in the day I walked across a newer bridge which crosses the same river upstream, in comparison this bridge actually has a side walk, a place to walk, the newer one doesn't. For the tourist, this bridge is made to walk across.

I did take some photos of the river itself, but I'll be totally honest the river is so polluted it didn't make much of photo.

Due to the route I took while walking, I eventually veered off the main road and into the smaller streets in-between. I was so happy that I did this, it is almost a different world when you enter these urban suburbs. What I noticed almost immediately was the lack of litter I had got so used to seeing. The streets were clean. In addition, the building were old with character and most importantly, lived in. 

I was wondering why these streets were so clean in comparison to the main routes, but soon I saw why. The residents clean it regularly, they emerge out of their tiny houses and apartments with handmade grass brooms and sweep the street. They clean the litter and all leaves lying around. 

Although I didn't get a picture, I even saw the residents coming out of their homes with water to rinse off the walls. This was quite common, and I guess this is to wash away dust.

This if definitely my favourite part of the city. Working people, old and young, these are the homes and streets of old Pune.

Some of the building aren't in that good shape, but it still adds character and charm to the place.

Street stalls are a common form of income in Pune and they have the equipment to move back and forth between their homes and their favourite corner. Basically a mobile stall with the idea of pushing it where you need it.

Scooters and motorbikes are a common sight in Pune. Makes sense considering the amount of traffic. When I mentioned to a colleague of mine in South Africa who is from Pune, that I will be going to his country, he warned me that Pune is "motorcycle city", where the bikes weave between the traffic. From my experience now, at best case I would say that there is 50 / 50 split between cars and bikes. More realistically, there is probably 40 / 60 split for motorcycles. This isn't the transport for the bachelor, it's a regular sight to see 2 or 3 people on one bike. But its not uncommon to see entire families on one bike, 4 people +. And not many of them wear helmets....

Riding on a bike in the city is a skill, the distance that is given between commuters, is truly hair raising. At least for me that is, it seems like second nature to the locals. When getting out of my taxi the one day I opened my door a fraction (I mean I wouldn't even be able to get my hand through) and another vehicle clipped the door. I got a huge fright and apologised to the taxi driver, who assured me that "I need not worry, this a common thing". 

Commerce in the city ranges from simple street vendors to elaborate stores. For street vendors and small stores getting your goods and stock is done largely on foot, bicycle or motorcycle.

Occasionally though, if transporting the goods is not done by foot or 2 wheels. 3 or 4 wheels will do, but mostly the vans and pickup are of very small size. In general most 4 wheel cars are small cars, it is rare to see large SUV's and luxury Merc's, at least in this part of the city.

You will find various fruit traders all over the place. But fruit and vegetables are in big demand around here.

Passing all these fruit, there was some I didn't recognise, so I stopped at one of the vendors to ask what a certain fruit was. He was sitting on the floor organising his figs and he couldn't speak english very well, so he didn't really understand my question and I didn't know how else to put it. He instead saw this as an opportunity to sell some figs. He offered me a fig to try out, and WOW. It was really the most soft and sweetest fig I have had ever tasted. Impressed by the quality I decided to buy some, but overwhelmed by the taste I clearly wasn't thinking straight. I landed up buying 1kg of figs for Rs200 (about R34). I clearly wasn't going to eat all of them but seeing that I was buying something, I had no problem getting him to pose for a photo.

Laxmi road is busy road where you will find a wealth of local material, cloths, fruit and various other things. 

It seems too that the store owners take pride in their stores and make good effort to keep things clean. I observed numerous owners, sweeping around the store, washing windows and rinsing the walls with water.

I assume the red phones are pay phones.

The one thing I love about India and my experience of it, is the colour. The people here love colours.

I stopped off in a material shop to buy some shawls, obviously not for myself, but I have some lady friends and family back in SA that would love it. I bought 3 shawls, which looked like good quality to me for a total of Rs1300 (about R220), I thought it was a bargain.

But my favourite thing about India are the people. They are friendly and helpful. I read somewhere before I arrived that just try smiling at the people who walk past and you will receive 10 smiles back and that is exactly what I got. Besides that I love the way the woman dress, men's clothes are more boring. Generally people are interesting in India anyway, I love it.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, the shear quantity of people can be over whelming, but then you have the traffic and cars too. Never mind driving, just crossing a road on foot is an experience to remember. It didn't take me long to figure out how it works. Just start walking, walk constant, don't run and don't change direction suddenly. Basically just allow yourself to be seen, and the vehicles will go around you. Strangely most people slow down and most drivers don't mind you getting across the road.

Due to the passing of Bal Thackeray which I mentioned in my first post about India, Mumbai to Pune, you literally see hundred of posters and billboards of the local legend.

As I was waiting for my taxi I noticed a very fancy horse and carriage. I'm not sure if was for a wedding but I'm sure the occupant weren't the intended occupants.

I have been asked the question recently and have considered the answer quite thoroughly. "Would I live in India (Pune)?" Well yes and no, I guess you can say I haven't made up my mind. The one thing that might put me off is the pollution, specifically the air pollution. I can't remember a day when I went outside when there wasn't a screen of pollution in front of me. I even find the sun filtered by the pollution. On the other hand, I love the people, the street ,and authenticity of life here. It's an experience and I loved it.

The streets of Pune was my favourite, and I would go back in a heart beat, at least for a holiday. Occasionally I spoke to people from America, UK, South Africa and various other countries. Some love it, some hate it. I even overheard an America lady on the telephone in the airport, she said "let's just say that we won't plan our holidays to this place". So I guess it just all depends on what you looking for. I mean I can't believe people like going to Las Vegas, but I've never been there, so who knows maybe I'd like it (sarcastic).

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