Monday Musings: As nation turns 75; places, personalities, and brands that define Pune

Aug 14, 2022 11:51 PM IST

In one of his speeches delivered at Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) premises sometime during the 1970s, prominent Marathi author Pu La Deshpande said, the city offered India its foundation for democracy

In one of his speeches delivered at Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) premises sometime during the 1970s, prominent Marathi author Pu La Deshpande said, the city offered India its foundation for democracy. “If someone asks me what Pune has offered to India, I would say it’s the foundation for democracy, which is all about expressing opinion. In Pune, everyone has an opinion and an urgency to put it across.” Pu La was speaking about Pune and how its culture has been shaped over the years.

Tata Motors at Pimpri-Chinchwad. (HT PHOTO)
Tata Motors at Pimpri-Chinchwad. (HT PHOTO)

As India celebrates 75 years of freedom from British rule, the role of Pune in this country’s evolution as a democracy needs to be retold. In Pune’s case, its early industrialisation put city way ahead of others.

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If country’s real growth story began with its independence, Pune was one of the beneficiaries as many industries set up their units here. However, the city was not new to industrialisation, companies began to mushroom in Pune even before 1947, when India got independence.

It was in 1869, when Ammunition Factory came up at Khadki as a small arms manufacturing unit of the British Government while Dorabjee Pudumjee started Deccan paper mills in 1885. As Pune did not have benefit of sea as most transport was through sea route, there were limitations for further expansion of businesses here.

It was in mid-1940s, when Kirloskar Group was the first to bring industry in Pune by setting up Kirlosakar Oil Engines Ltd in 1945 at Kirkee, that paved way for rapid industrialisation in and around Pune.

Stalwart business houses like the Tata’s and Bajaj’s set up their manufacturing units near Pune, providing the much-needed impetus the city needed. But what added “Puneriness” to the city were emergence of Chitale Bandhu Mithaliwale (and their Bakarwadis), Dorabjees, Shrewsbury biscuits from Kayani bakery on East street or Laxmi Narayan chivda – all of them a brand in their own. They are as much part of Pune’s culture as Vaishali, Wadeshwar or Naaz are.

One of the important points to remember has been that these industries brought with them people with different skill-sets, necessitated by the nature of the industry.

In 1990s, IT revolution brought tectonic change that Pune has seen in the last seven and a half decades post- independence. The city has around 800 IT companies which provide employment to around 3-4 lakh people. The majority of companies in Pune deal in the services sector, with banking and financial technology reigning supreme.

The IT along with manufacturing, real estate, healthcare and education, food processing and retail are today the real economic drivers of the Pune which district has eight MIDCs and a significant quantity of land banks available, along with water and electricity.

But no city is complete without its people and places. Pune produced stalwarts that offered leadership in different fields. Many of them began various movements here and gave a new thought to the rest of the world.

Like Pu La Deshpande, Bhimsen Joshi, a doyen of Indian classical music, decided to settle in Pune to make the city rich with his contribution. Narendra Dabholkar, a rationalist, started crusade against Anti-superstition in Pune where Lokmanya Tilak first gave a call of ‘Swarajya’, Vadudev Balwant Phadke came to be known as father of Indian armed rebellion.

From the industries, Rahul Bajaj, Cyrus Poonawalla or Baba Kalyani helped Pune to catapult into leadership position.

At the same time, Osho commune, started by an Indian godman, mystic, and founder of the religious movement, came to be known as part of Pune’s culture. Koregaon Park, where it is located, is today one of the most upmarket localities, often frequented by foreigners. The Parvati hill on the western part, or Sinhagad road on southern end have been famous destinations for Punekars.


    Yogesh Joshi is Assistant Editor at Hindustan Times. He covers politics, security, development and human rights from Western Maharashtra.

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