Locals is a new series here at PedroL where I invite a local to share some of his/her recommendations on his/her city, ideally not the touristy ones but what is, in fact, worth seeing to feel the city, just like the locals do.
Discover Pune with Samiksha, a seventeen year old girl in the final year of high school. Samiksha likes to equilibrate herself in a roller speed skate but also as a ballet dancer and a writer: ‘I have published two short stories and a poem in an anthology’, she told me. Don’t forget to read her blog and discover her instagram here. But now, let´s discover this important city of India, located in the state of Maharashtra.
My favorite area of Pune is Sopan Baug because it is always so aesthetic and beautiful, in any season! There’s a walking plaza, named Victoria Street, where you can see peacocks on the road and there are these military-owned gardens where you can see exotic birds when you go for a jog or a walk.
The entire area is like a sanctuary for birds, I’ve had five generations of humming birds build their nest on a palm tree in my terrace! Eagles and parrots are regular sightings and sometimes, kingfishers and hornbills make an appearance!
I live right behind the turf club where the racing season lasts from late summer till autumn. During this time, the riders practice 24/7!! Literally! I have all the ‘late for school’ notes to prove the fact! Frustratingly no teacher ever buys the excuse of horses blocking the roads!
However, on race days, you get to see all the fancy cars with the fancy entourage travelling in them, to attend the races! A thing of dreams!!!! There’s also a botanical garden named ‘Empress Garden’ where there’s an annual flower show and a function during Spring, sponsored by the Bengali community in Pune.
I really like the suburbs of Koregaon Park, Kalyani Nagar and Viman Nagar. These three areas are adjacent to each other so together, there’s a lot to offer: malls, restaurants, disco clubs, yoga classes, a cult place which has a garden over a drainage stream, shops selling party stuff, dessert parlours, movie theatres and even my skating rink!
There’s a hotel name ‘Westin’ which is built over the river and in the evening, it looks like a ship, as its built in the shape, Titanic of sorts! I come here on a regular basis, for skating and for ballet so the place is like home!
Besides, the Koregaon Park area is home to many of the city’s elite, and their mansions are really fun to look at because all of them are built in dense, dark lanes, surrounded by banyan trees! Many DJ events are held here, like the Sunburn festival and all the hotels in the area have their own culinary festivals, with cuisines from all over the world. Traffic is rather insane in this part but it is the liveliest area in Pune.
There’s a huge fair ground in this area which always has an amusement festival or an art exhibition, every other month! Its really crowded as people really throng the fairs. This area also has many art exhibitions taking place, all around the year!
Pune celebrates the Ganpati festival as its prime festival. It is a ten- day festival, dedicated to the Hindu God, Ganpati. The entire city just comes alive during this festival and every area of the city has a tent where idols are placed with amazing light and sound, apart from the morning and evening prayers!
Some tents have actors performing plays, live and with multiple shows in a day! This festival happens in late August- early September, depending on the lunar calendar. During the festival, there are many stalls surrounding the idol-tent, selling a variety of toys, street food and items of worship! The entire city is like one huge fair!
The last day of the festival is the day of idol immersion where all the idols are immersed in a water body, accompanied by a huge procession. Its a farewell to Ganpati, until His return next year!
Not long after the Ganpati festival, the Bengali community in Pune celebrates Durga Puja which is a nine day festival in late September dedicated to the Goddess Durga. Like the Ganpati festival, there are many areas which erect idols of the Goddess and her children, but the best part about this festival is the food!
In any idol-tent, there will be food from the Bengali cuisine, available in the stalls outside! I feel that this is the best cuisine in the world!
The Pune International Literary Festival is another highlight! This also takes place in August- September, and authors from all over the world attend this festival! I was a part of this festival, four years ago, when the Writers’ Club of which I was a part, published an anthology of poems and short stories, and there was a combined book reading! It was a really good experience!
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