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Pune is a haven for researchers

I love Pune because of its perfect juxtaposition of trends and traditions. Both live cheek by jowl amicably. And, the fact that the city amenable to changes, says Sumit Paul, a Pune researcher of Semitic languages and literature.

pune Updated: Aug 10, 2017 17:05 IST
Sumit Paul
Sumit Paul feels that the friendliness of the city’s people is really remarkable.
Sumit Paul feels that the friendliness of the city’s people is really remarkable.(HT PHOTO)

Pune is a city one falls in love with at the first blush. I remember when I came to this magnificent city way back in 2000, I’d a definite plan to go back to where I came from. But I stayed back and seventeen beautiful years have elapsed. I’m a well-travelled man, having seen the whole world, yet I love Pune because there’s something in it that defies words and beats the stereotypes. Here, I’ve got everything I longed for. Seventeen years is a long time to get into the bowels of a city and know it in and out. From salubrious climate (though it’s waning fast and furious) to tastiest culinary delights, you get everything in Pune. This laid-back city and once a Pensioners’ Paradise is now a quasi-metro, throbbing with life and zest.

The friendliness of the people is really remarkable. Agreed, its transport system and auto drivers need a revamp, it’s still a relatively safe city. The booming IT industry has lent a youthful image to a traditional city of the 70s and 80s.

Being a lover and connoisseur of ancient books and texts, Pune’s BORI (Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute) and Itihaas Sanshodhan Mandal have been of great help to me.

The best thing about Pune is its perfect juxtaposition of trends and traditions. Both live cheek by jowl amicably. One more striking quality of Pune is that it’s amenable to changes. What’s most admirable about this city is that it’s no longer in the shadow of Mumbai and despite being just 180 km from the financial capital of India, Pune has retained its distinct identity.

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and National Film Archive of India (NFAI) made ‘Poona’ an international name long ago. But, at that time, its image was that of a small and serene city.

I remember the words of Ritwik Ghatak, who spent a considerable time at FTII as its director in the 60s. He said eloquently that Pune gave him the impetus to create and direct movies that could leave indelible imprints on the collective memory of cine-goers.

The interview appeared long ago in the now defunct ‘The Amrita Bazar Patrika’. The sylvan set-up of FTII gladdened the heart and mind of the maverick film-maker, who’s often justifiably compared to Satyajit Ray in cinematic excellence and creative genius.

For one thing, I shall forever remember Pune. Here at the famed Turf Club, I bumped into the legendary thespian Dilip Kumar in 2002. He was watching a cricket match on TV and I didn’t disturb him. During the break, I approached him and asked whether I was really speaking to Dilip Kumar. The fine gentleman that he’s, Dilip Kumar said politely, ‘Ji barkhurdar, aap Yusuf Khan urf Dilip Kumar se hi mukhatib hain’ (Right my dear, you’re speaking to Yusuf Khan alias Dilip Kumar).

I was on cloud 9. He asked me to sit. I never heard the kind of highfalutin Urdu which Dilip Kumar spoke. It was simply exquisite and otherworldly. He regaled me with the anecdotes from his long and distinguished film career. He profusely quoted his favourite poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. His English was also impeccable and the most important quality was his disarming humility.

This city facilitated my unexpected meeting with the legend.

I’m also lucky to have met the great sociologist Meera Kosambi, the granddaughter of Acharya Dharmanand Kosambi, the finest exponent and exegete of Pali and Buddhist religious texts. Contrary to the general tenor that she was a supercilious lady, Meera Kosambi was a very down-to-earth scholar and we discussed Irawati Karve’s path-breaking ‘ Yuganta.’ She was the daughter of polymath Damodar Kosambi, who was a mathematician and statistician of international repute. Pune is known in western intellectual circles as ‘the city of Kosambis’!

Being the headquarters of Southern Command, I got to meet many an army top brass. This city is home to a number of retired Generals and high-ranking army officers. Very few cities, with an exception of Bengaluru of course, have all the facets of modern and vintage lifestyle like those of Pune.

Osho Rajneesh’s long and chequered association with Pune gives it a spiritual halo and aura, which’s palpable if one visits Osho Ashram at Koregaon Park. Rajneesh was a man, no one could ignore.

That’s why, years ago the perceptive Khushwant Singh predicted that Pune would one day become a really top-notch city. That was in 1969. His prophetic words have come true. He should have been alive to see Pune’s exponential growth in every sphere. I’m sure, he had the idea of this city growing by leaps and bounds because he died just a couple of years ago and his editor son Rahul Singh used to visit Pune.

Every city has its plus and minus aspects. Pune is no exception. But in the case and context of totality, pluses outnumber minuses. In a nutshell, it’s a splendid city and I call it my home.