I couldn’t think of a better post to start 2019 with than my last travel experiences.
Of the many things that 2018 has been for me, the most exciting has been travel (aside from my marriage of course). I’ve been lucky enough to go on 3 trips last year! More so because my dry spell on the travel front had been an excruciatingly long one till 2017. Come 2018 and the travel bug in me got pampered good. I welcomed the change with open arms and an open mind.
May, 2018 – Thailand
September, 2018 – Chandipur
December, 2018 – Pune
Pune was a work trip. My colleagues and I were booked for the Christmas week.
Our train was scheduled at 8:30 in the morning on Saturday. Duronto Express. Some early morning blues, a few chilly hits of the winter wind, a tiring 30-hour train journey, lots of tea, a quick tour through Koregaon Park and Kalyani Nagar later we were signed, sealed and delivered to our hotel.
The 5 of us had put up at Bhagyashree Executive Hotel (Hadapsar) for the 7 days we were there. A cozy hotel with a nice view. The food is good there and I was amazed at the variety of breakfast they provide. Lunch and dinner menus are no less exciting. I prefer eating light when I travel, so I loved the yellow Dal Fry they made. I suggest you mention the way you like your Dal while ordering it. They would be happy to prepare it your way.
I was warned about the Pune cold and had packed accordingly. Surprisingly, all I needed throughout my stay was a light jacket, even at 8°C! Pune is far less humid than Kolkata. It’s dry weather conditions prevent you from feeling the chill. However, the other parts of Pune experience the chill that Hadapsar is almost devoid of.
We had arrived on Sunday afternoon. So we had the evening to explore. We drove past the Solapur Road racecourse to MG Road. Pune traffic can be a headache. There isn’t much public transportation options in Pune to rely on except autos which would overcharge you regardless of whether you are a resident or a tourist. To avoid this, most people resort to private vehicles. And most of them decided to visit MG Road on that Sunday evening. It was taxing to find a parking spot.
MG Road is like High Street. Most of the fashion brands have parked there. There are busy streetfood vendors jiggling up delicacies like Oli Bhel and the likes. Too many people selling Scary Movie masks for some reason. You would find bright flowery corners and spooky abandoned houses alike on this strip of road. If you are lucky, you might even spot a carnival truck. MG Road was alive with music, laughter and conversations when we reached there. We walked around looking at junk jewellery, flowers while munching on Budhani wafers and clicking photos.
A gala dinner at Chinese Room, a sound sleep, quick showers and breakfast later, we were ready to meet the Pune office teams. It was refreshing to put faces to the names we’ve known and the voices we’ve heard over Skype calls. Like every meet, it was a little formal at first. But the ice-breaker for me was our Christmas trip to the Girivan.
Christmas day. I had set the alarm for 5 am. By 7:30 am we were seated comfortably in one of the Wingers, making our way to Girivan. It’s a hill station approximately 2400 kilometres above sea level – a picnic spot with a picturesque view and provisions for a bunch of exciting activities.
The hills are generally barren during the winter giving them a rustic look. Come rain and the hills cannot look any greener – so I’ve heard.
There were a slew of activities to be covered like zip line, Burma bridges, rifle shooting etc. If you are going to go all in on the activities, dress light and carry enough water. The heat can get to you even on a winter morning.
A hearty lunch later, we ended up playing dodgeball. Some resorted to cricket, some football, some basketball, some cycling, some napping on the field and some went AWOL!
By the time we were back from the hills, the teams from the two cities were chatting about our personal lives, bonding over evening tea, learning each other’s languages and laughing at silly jokes. I had a feeling that Pune was beginning to welcome us.
We were astonished at how quickly the rest of the week passed. But luckily, I didn’t miss the little things. The colorful flower pots on the window-sill of the apartment beside our hotel, 3 little puppies in the open canteen, the safe-city tag of Pune seconded by the trial room attendant lady of a store who shook hands with me before I left, watching the city wake up from my hotel-room window, the dust of the day settling at night.
Daylight stays on for a long time in winter. The sun sets at around 6:30 pm. Long days spill on to brief, busy evenings when people scuttle back home on their two-wheelers. It isn’t the largest two-wheeler city for nothing. People in Hadapsar are happy to strike up a conversation. The ones I’ve met are polite and have a sweet way of replying to your questions. Pune is a city where clothes dry easy, conversations are made with a smile and food is cooked spicy. There is something for everyone here.
In no time, Friday was upon us. A party was scheduled for the evening at the FML Lounge of Season’s Mall. There was loud music and people were grooving to it. Our bosses had some sick moves up their sleeves! Haha! We’ve had quite a laugh about everyone’s dancing on our train journey back home.
In the Uber the next day on our way to the railway station, to my surprise, I didn’t feel the pang of sadness to be leaving the city – which I thought I would especially after the tearful goodbyes of the previous night. I was leaving with a smile because I knew I would come. Next time with Tathagata. I’ve seen the city through Tathagata’s eyes a million times (he’s lived in Pune for 13 long years). But this time, I was coming back home with my own version.
Until next time.