Ganj peth ‘Puneris’ put their lives on show
The Sudarshan Kala Dalan burst into life on April 21-22 with an exhibition by the residents of Ganj peth, showcasing the life and culture of the area.
How different could the culture of a small part of Pune be from the rest? That is what Madhura Lohokare, an anthropologist, did her thesis on. Despite being bang in the middle of the city, Ganj peth is different from the other peths.
On display here were audio recordings of Marathi as it is spoken by the Ganj peth residents. The different food that is unique to them. Most people from Ganj peth are sweepers employed by the city; or make flower garlands used in temples; or rear pigeons.
“Pune’s peths evolved right in the centre of the city during the Peshwa regime. The upper castes moved to the west of the peths. The eastern side of old Poona centred around the peths and took in the rest of the residents, including Dalits, Muslims and Christians,” says Lohokare who has also done her PhD on how the outside views affect masculinity of young men. Says she, “People from these areas like Ganj Peth have always been thought of as different, as inferior in some ways, sadly. As a result, what ‘Puneri’ has come to stand for has been appropriated by the ‘Western peths’ in terms of food, language and culture.”
For example varan bhaat, ukdiche modak is well known as Puneri cuisine, but how many know of chana-batata or pachada, that are foods that are also Puneri? “The Brahmins because of their social status developed and propagated their language, food, theatre but the people like the Dalits, Mahars, Matangs, who live in the eastern peths, simply languished; culturally at least,” Lohokare says.
People believe that they are petty criminals in the area. Lohokare says, “It’s sad that people hold this view when Mahatma Phule and his wife lived here 200 years ago and opened up the well in their house to Dalits.”
Lohokare asked the residents of Ganj Peth to volunteer for the project. 10 people, young girls and boys volunteered.
Says Roopesh Shinde who is a good dancer and has even participated in a TV competition. “When we speak in the presence of outsiders we are very careful about our language. Say we go to a mall or multiplex we will be sure not to speak the way we do at home.”
Many of them have set up shop in the area where they sell food that is unique to them.
Like bhatti cha chaa where the tea is made not on a kerosene stove or gas but on coal.
The girls took on the task of listing the local home run businesses that flourish at Ganj Peth. Like breeding pigeons. Says Kumari Jadhav, “Pigeons are bred for competitions. Depending on the breed they can sell up to Rs 5,000.”
This exhibition let people know that there are other aspects to being a Puneri