Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Restaurant Review – Deccan Rendezvous

Posted in Hotels & Restaurants, Pune by Amit Paranjape on October 30, 2008

 

[NOTE ADDED ON DECEMBER 22, 2009 — Deccan Rendezvous has a holiday special menu (in addition to their regular menu) starting today through December 31st. This menu features traditional Christmas/Thanksgiving items such as Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Cranberry Sauce. Tried it today. Pretty good! Had tried this same menu during 2008 Christmas as well…]

 

I am passionate about good food and always on the lookout for a great new restaurant. However, I try to maintain a small list of regular restaurants that I like to frequent. Over the years, this list has included a few places in Pune as well as in Dallas (where I spent over 10 years…). Vaishali has been a perennial favorite and Clay-Pit in Dallas is pretty amazing as well. In my view, along with great food these places also demonstrate the following impressive qualities: consistency, service and specialization.

 

Let me elaborate further. I hate change when it comes to my favorite dish! I want it to taste the exact same, month after month, year after year. Take for example, Vaishali’s Idli-Vada Sambar. Some people might call this expectation boring, but for me this is very important. When it comes to service, the usual attentiveness and efficiency are to be expected; however that extra special personalization touch is key. I believe in having a small list of restaurants primarily for this reason. I like to go places where I know the serving staff by name, where I can get to know the manager/chef/owner personally, and where I can provide direct inputs towards continuous improvement. Specialization is also very important. The restaurant should do a perfect job of achieving ‘world class’ in a certain segment of their menu.

 

Ok, now that I have specified the criteria for my ‘all-time favorite list’, I would like to introduce a new addition, that excels in many of the above criteria – ‘Deccan Rendezvous’, located at the corner of Apte Road and Ghole Road in Pune.

 

Even though I am a big fan of good North Indian food, it was my quest for nice Non-Indian food choices that really got me here the first time. Coming to Pune after a long stay in US, I used to miss the eclectic multi-national cuisine. Especially Thai and Italian food. Also, living in the Deccan Gymkhana area, I wanted to find something close by, instead of spending 45-60 min in a traffic jam to head to Koregaon Park. Deccan Rendezvous addressed both these constraints. Its multi-cuisine restaurant ‘Glass Window’ offers North-Indian, Italian, South-East Asian, European and other world cuisines.

 

The appetizer section is interesting with diverse choices ranging from Middle-Eastern to Caribbean selections. Traditional Indian choices are also available. The Jalapeno Cheese Poppers are awesome. ‘Lebanese Maza Platter’ is quite popular, but the Hummus has some room for improvement. The Tomato Mozzarella is an excellent choice amongst the Salads.

 

Deccan Rendezvous has a decent collection of international Cocktails and Spirits. Many of the usual favorites are very good, but the Mojito and the Margarita need some tweaking. The adjoining ‘Soul Purpose’ bar has a subtle ambience and is amongst the better lounge bars I have been to in India. Most of the other lounge bars, I find too loud for my tastes.

 

Chef Anand and his team have done an excellent job as far as the various Pasta dishes are concerned. Penne with Pesto Cream Sauce is my personal favorite. The Thai menu is a little limited, but the Red, Green and Panang curries are really good. The Indonesian Nasi Goreng is nice as well. The European dishes are ok, but definitely not Deccan Rendezvous’ strong point. The English classic, Fried Fish & Chips needs some improvement. The North Indian selection is impressive. The Kababs are great and so are the various gravy dishes. The Nans and Parathas are perfectly done. ‘Chicken Tikka Akbari’ and ‘Dal Gilafi’ are my favorites in this category.

 

The only cuisine that is not up to mark is Mexican. Frankly, I have tried many fancy restaurants in Pune and have still come back disappointed in my quest for good Mexican, Tex-Mex or Cajun food. Many places claim to serve this cuisine, but the taste is no where near (Deccan Rendezvous included) what I have been accustomed to in Texas.

 

No good meal is complete without a dessert and Deccan Rendezvous excels in this area. The selection is extensive and extremely well done. I guess extending the ‘Baker’s Basket’ heritage (Baker’s Basket – the famous bakery store chain in Pune, and Deccan Rendezvous are part of the same parent company), one can see why this is their forte. I am a big fan of Chocolate desserts and ‘Chocolate Mousse’ and ‘Fudge Brownie with Chocolate Sauce’ are my top picks here.

 

The service at Deccan Rendezvous is excellent. The serving staff is courteous and attentive. Though a little stretched for space, the restaurant is very comfortable. The décor is simple and modern. On weekend nights, you will find excellent live music here. I understand that there are plans afoot to expand the seating area. That will be extremely helpful. Reservations are recommended; especially on weekend evenings.

 

To summarize, Deccan Rendezvous offers a great choice if you are looking for a nice multi-cuisine restaurant in the heart of Deccan Gymkhana area. Click here, for the exact location of the hotel (courtesy: www.sadakmap.com).

 

 

Hotel Website:  http://www.deccanrendezvous.com/

Address: Apte Road, Shivajinagar, Pune 411004

Directions (courtesy sadakmap): http://www.sadakmap.com/p/Deccan-Rendezvous/

Contact: 020 2561 2345

Pune History Trivia 2

Posted in Pune by Amit Paranjape on October 24, 2008

 

In this second article in the series on Pune History Trivia, I am continuing with a set of 20 new items related to the past couple of centuries. As always, any feedback and answers to some of the open questions would be extremely helpful. I still continue to be amazed at how difficult it can be to find real basic facts about our recent Pune history! Readers who haven’t reviewed the first article in this series should definitely checkout it out: Pune History Trivia – 1

 

Similar to what I had noted in the first article on this topic… I cannot make any guarantees regarding the exact accuracy of these facts. It is unfortunate that we don’t have 100% accurate versions of our recent history in Pune. If you would like to correct/add to any of the points below, please write a comment and ideally provide a good source. I would be more than happy to edit and update the post. You can also provide more open questions in this area for me or the other readers to research!

 

Over the years, I have browsed numerous books, links, and articles/papers to learn more about Pune history. I do want to highlight two great books that I find very valuable:

 

1)    ‘Pune – Queen of the Deccan’ by Jaymala Diddee & Samita Gupta. Published: 2000

2)   ‘Pune: Krishnadhaval’ (Marathi) by Mandar Lawate. Published: 2008

 

 

1. Mandai

 

Phule Mandai, the major vegetable market in Pune was originally called as Reay Market. It was constructed by the British in 1885, and named after Lord Reay, then governor of Bombay. Prior to the opening of the Reay Market, the city vegetable market used to occupy the open area in front of Shaniwar Wada. When the stall owners were asked to shift to the new market, there was some resentment owing the high rents the British were charging them. Lokmanya Tilak’s Kesari took up the issue in support of the agitating owners. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule started an agitation to take up their cause. For some length of time, this building also served as the head quarters of the Pune Municipality.

 

2. Oldest Running Stores in Pune

 

I don’t have one single answer here. Also there are various criteria that can complicate this issue (name changes, transfer of ownership, change of location, etc.). Instead of identifying one store, I will list a few old stores by area. I would like the readers to contribute to this list.

 

a. There used to be a bakery on a cross road connecting East Street and Main Street in Camp. I don’t remember the name, but as recently as early 1990s, I remember reading the board there that said, “Established 1836”. I am not sure if that Bakery is still around.

 

b. I think the oldest store in the Deccan Gymkhana area is probably International Book House located right next to the post office. It was established in 1931. The D.G. Post building was setup in 1924. (I guess, immediately following the 1921 inclusion of Erandwane into Pune Municipality).

 

c. Poona Drug Store is over 100 years old and is located on East Street in Pune Camp.

 

d. Naro Appaji Godbole Book Store in Appa Balwant Chowk is probably the oldest running store in that area. It was established in 1858.

 

e. Dorabjees was established in 1911 and is amongst the oldest food stores in Pune. It is still extremely popular today. It was prominently featured in one movie scene from Raj Kapoor’s Sangam, in the early 1960s. Given that Sangam was one of the first full length color movies in India, the shot of Dorabjees store exterior and the road alongside it, is probably one of the first color footage of Pune! 

 

3. Parvati

 

Parvati was established in 1750s by Nanasaheb Peshwe. It was built as a complex of temples. A small palace was also built on top of the hill (presently it is the Nanasaheb Peshwe museum). The Parvati Lake at the foothills of Parvati was also created around the same time. According to one story, Nanasaheb Peshwe died on Parvati of shock, soon after hearing the news of the Panipat defeat.

  

4. Oldest college in Pune – Deccan College

 

The Deccan College is the oldest college (amongst colleges of modern era) in Pune and amongst the oldest in India. It was established in 1821. Mount Elphinstone the then governor of Bombay Territory took the lead in establishing this institution. Originally, it was based at the Vishrambag Wada. In 1868 the present grand building was built and the college shifted to the new location.

 

5. How many Peths in Pune?

 

This should be a very straightforward fact, right? I am not so sure! Any comments would be helpful.

 

The ones I am aware of are (the names in brackets denote the original name of the Peth at the time of formation). They are listed in the chronological order of their creation:

 

Kasba Peth, Shaniwar Peth (Murtazabad), Raviwar Peth (Malkapur), Somwar Peth (Shahpur), Mangalwar Peth (Ashtapur), Budhwar Peth (Mohyabad), Shukrawar Peth (Visapur), Guruwar Peth (Vetal), Nagesh-Nyahal Peth (this Peth was setup in 1755, but gradually dwindled and was eventually merged into Somwar Peth), Ganesh Peth, Narayan Peth, Bhavani Peth, Muzzafarganj (Setup in 1768, gradually became extinct by late 19th century), Sadashiv Peth, Ghorpade Peth, Rasta Peth, Nana Peth, Ganj Peth, Navi Peth.

 

As mentioned in the list above, a couple of these Peths: Nagesh-Nyahal and Muzzafarganj are extinct (they got merged into other Peths in the 19th century.

 

The oldest Peth is Kasba Peth. The newest one is Navi Peth.

 

6. Sangam Bridge (Wellesley Bridge)

 

After 1818 as British got complete control over Pune, one of their early tasks was to build an alternate Mutha river crossing to Lakdi Pul. At that time Lakdi Pul and an old causeway that stood near the present Dengle Bridge (opposite Kumbhar Ves) were the only river bridges in Pune.

 

They built a bridge next to their residency in Pune (near today’s Sangam Bridge/COEP) sometime immediately after 1818 (exact year not known). This bridge was strengthened in 1840. It was completely rebuilt in 1876 to its present form and called as ‘Wellesley Bridge’ (presently known as Sangam Bridge). This bridge had some damage in the Panshet floods of 1961 and underwent repairs.

 

Wellesley Bridge and Wellesley Road (presently known as Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Road) were named after Arthur Wellesley, the famous British Official of the East Indian Company in the early 1800s. He was instrumental in defeating Baji Rao II in 1803, and then re-instating him as Peshwa under British control. Incidentally, this is the same ‘Wellesley’ who later on went to defeated Napoleon in the campaign of 1812-1813 and later served as British Prime Minister for two terms.

 

7. Old Railway Bridge

 

The present road bridge that is right next to the railway bridge on Mutha River near Pune station was built in 1857. It was the original railway bridge. Railway operations between Pune and Khandala started in 1858. In 1928, when the Pune-Mumbai railway line was electrified, the present railway bridge was built right next to the old one. Some time later, the old railway bridge was converted to a road bridge.

 

8. Vishrambag Wada

 

Vishrambag Wada was one of the last major Wadas built by the Peshwes. It was built between 1803 and 1809. After the defeat of the Peshwes, it served multiple purposes – including the first college in Pune in 1821 and the first location for the Pune Municipality after it was established in 1858.

 

9. Fergusson College

 

Fergusson College was established in 1885. It moved to its current campus only in 1895. Prior to that, the classes were held in Gadre Wada and a few other city locations. It was named after Sir James Fergusson, the then governor of Bombay Province. The original land for Fergusson college was acquired from the Shiroles (who owned large tracts of land in Bhamburda).

 

Lokmanya Tilak, Chiplunkar, Agarkar were amongst the people who took the lead in setting up the college. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was also actively involved in D.E.S. (Deccan Education Society), the parent society of this college and New English School (setup earlier in 1880).

 

Principal Wordsworth, the grandson of the famous poet, was the master of the ceremonies at the inaugural function of the college. 

 

10. Shivaji Bridge (Nava Pul / Lloyd Bridge)

 

Shivaji Bridge was completed in 1923. Originally, it was known as Lloyd Bridge. Ever since it was built, it has always been more commonly referred to as ‘Nava Pul’. I am not sure how this name came into existence, but can conjecture that this was the first ‘new’ bridge in the old city after the Lakdi Pul. Hence maybe the locals started calling it as the ‘Nava Pul’. (‘Nava’ in Marathi = New)

 

One legend (not confirmed) says that the bridge was purposely built at this height and location, right opposite the Shaniwar Wada, to spoil the imposing view of Shaniwar Wada.

 

11. Senapati Bapat Road

 

The Panshet floods resulted in massive changes in Pune city. The resettlement process of thousands of people who had lost their homes resulted in creation of many new residential areas such as Sahakar Nagar and Gokhale Nagar. As Gokhale Nagar started growing, a need was felt to connect it to the Erandwane side of the city. This was achieved in 1963 by excavating a portion of the Hanuman hill, thereby creating the present ‘Khind’. The original road was a rough and unpaved. The current Senapati Bapat Road was setup sometime in late 1960s.

 

12. Pune Railway Station Building

 

The original building and station setup was in existence through the 1920s. It was a fairly small station building and consisted of 3 platforms. Roughly at the same time of the electrification of the Mumbai-Pune railway line, the station building was also rebuilt into its present form.

 

13. British Clubs in Pune & Empress Garden

 

The Poona Gymkhana (now called as Poona Club) was setup in 1880. The original race course was set up near the river bank (near present day Boat Club Road), and was later moved near the Cantonment Parade Grounds, to its present location. The present building was constructed in 1918. The Boat Club was constructed sometime in the 1870s to take advantage of the backwater created by the bund. Note that the Cantonment Parade Grounds and the Race Course were located adjacent to the Empress Garden. This was amongst the oldest botanical gardens in India and was originally owned by Sardar Purandare. It came under British control in 1838 and changed its name to ‘Empress’ Garden when Queen Victoria was proclaimed as the Empress of India. The British soldiers used to frequently visit this garden, earning it another popular name, ‘Soldiers Garden’.

 

14. Bund Garden

 

Prior to setting up of the Khadakwasala dam, the river was dammed by a bund in 1850 to supply water to the cantonment area. It was made possible by a grant by a Mumbai merchant – Sir Jamshetji Jeejeebhoy Bart. Hence the bund was named after him.

 

In 1868-69 a garden was built around the bund. The backwater provided a great opportunity for water sports and the Boat Club (Royal Connaught Boat Club) was setup there around the same time.

 

A bridge was built just below the bund in 1867-68. It was originally known as the Fitzgerald Bridge (known to many in Pune as ‘Sinhacha Pul’… due to the characteristic lion statues on the bridge). This bridge provided a crucial link from the cantonment area to the western Yerawada area and onwards towards Nagar.

 

15. Shivajinagar (Bhamburda) Station

 

The Shivajinagar railway station was setup in 1925. It was originally known as the ‘Bhamburda’ station to reflect the name of the area.

 

The station was built to support the rapid expansion of the Pune city towards the west of the Mutha River.

 

16. Pune Municipality

 

The Pune Municipality was setup in 1858. The process had gradually begun in 1854 and the final acceptance was done by 1857 – however the 1857 Independence Struggle pushed it out by one year. The first elections for the Municipality were held in 1883. The municipality occupied the Vishram Bag Wada for a few years and was then shifted to the Reay Market Building (present Mandai). After independence, in 1950 the Municipality was converted to Municipal Corporation and the present PMC building was constructed, opposite the Nava Pul.

 

17. First Major Vaccination Drive in Pune

 

The first major vaccination drive against smallpox in Pune apparently occurred between 1806 and 1810. British & other European Doctors who were based at the Pune Residency (near Sangam) were offering this service to the local population. In spite of religious and other orthodox beliefs, many locals did take advantage of this service. According to one story, Dr. Coats introduced vaccination to Pune and between the above periods, he and his team vaccinated more than 10,000 people. It was reported at that time that smallpox was nearly eliminated in Pune and the surrounding regions.

 

18. First Cinema in Pune

 

Prior to 1914 traveling cinema was introduced to Pune. In 1914, the first permanent Cinema – Napier Cinema was established in Pune. This was later renamed to Westend Cinema. (Present Aurora Towers). This Cinema used to screen silent films. It was only in 1931 that it became a ‘talkies’.

 

19. Pune Telegraph

 

The first telegraph line between Mumbai and Pune was setup in 1854, thereby inaugurating a fast new way of communications. It is interesting to note that the complete intercontinental Kolkata – London telegraph line was operational by 1870. Siemens of Germany was the contractor in charge of building this vital communication link of the British Empire.

 

20. Parvati Lake, Saras Bag

 

During the reign of Nanasaheb Peshwe, Pune witnessed rapid growth. The old Pune city was concentrated between the Ambil Odha and the Nagzari. The Ambil Odha was a source of regular flooding. To control this flooding, the Odha was controlled by a system of dams and sluices. This altered its course to the present course. The old channel was further excavated and this led to formation of a series of lakes. The major one, being the Parvati Lake. Hira Bag was developed as a retreat garden where lotuses were grown. An island in the island was developed as Saras Bag with a Ganpati temple on it.

 

 

Other random/interesting trivia facts that interested me…

 

I am still trying to find when Kamala Nehru Park was first established. I conjecture (more of a rough guess) that it was sometime in the late 1930s/early 1940s.

 

This guess is based on the two primary people whose names are associated with this park – Kamala Nehru and Dr. S V Ketkar. There is a memorial to Dr. Ketkar in the park. The road that accesses this park is also named after Dr. Ketkar. Kamala Nehru died in 1936 and Dr. Ketkar died in 1937 – hence it is quite possible that a park opened around the same timeframe could be named to honor their memories.

 

[NOTE added June 21, 2010: I found one more validation for the above theory. In one of Acharya Atre’s speeches from the 1960s, he mentions how the Pune Municipality took the lead in setting up Sambhaji and other gardens(incl Kamla Nehru Park) in 1938 – they were completed much later, but its quite likely that they got their names assigned in 1938 – in which case, the above theory is probably correct. ]

 

 

The oldest house in the Deccan Gymkhana society was built in 1922, prior to the official establishment of the society. While many of the old houses in this area have given way to newer buildings, this one is still around. It is located near the Suvarna Smriti Hall.

 

 

 Continue reading more Pune History Trivia: Pune Trivia – 3

Subscribe to Amit Paranjape’s Weblog by Email

Tagged with: , ,

The Illiterate 21st Century Consumer

Posted in Current Affairs, Financial Markets/Economics by Amit Paranjape on October 17, 2008

 

 

In the 20th century, illiteracy was something that was thought to be primarily confined to the developing world. Literacy was very simplistically defined as the ability to read and write. By this definition, nearly 100% of the developed world and an ever growing percentage of the developing world would be termed ‘literate’. In the developing world, it is often repeated over and over that one of the primary root causes of all the social, political and economic problems is lack of literacy. However, now that we are turning ‘literate’, are we really resolving these issues? I would like to argue that merely reading and writing doesn’t constitute true literacy. To be literate, one needs to really understand one’s world that we live in. Today, there are ever increasing tools of knowledge and information. Yet real knowledge is seen to be sorely lacking. This lack of basic knowledge about common things is what I would like to term as the ‘21st century global Illiteracy’. In this continuation in the series of articles on the US Financial Crisis, I explore this phenomenon.

 

 

Many of you must have seen the ‘Tonight Show with Jay Leno’. A popular segment in this well-known late night comedy talk show is ‘Jay Walking’. Here, Leno interviews regular folks who are walking by on the streets of Los Angeles. Questions are really basic like…”Who is the Vice President of the US”, or “What does ‘UN’ stand for?”, or “What is the currency of Europe?” It’s amazing the kind of answers you will hear! Many folks don’t have the faintest of clues about some extremely basic facts/questions about the world we live in.

 

This segment is really funny to watch and I really enjoy it. Now, I agree that this represents an exaggerated view of the knowledge of a ‘common man’ and I am sure a lot of editing goes into it to capture those ‘dumb’ moments. Often times though, this is not that far from the truth. It is a sad reflection of reality.

 

The modern 21st century consumer is living a dream life with all the benefits of developments in science & technology, social development, democratic governments and cultural freedom. The ongoing information technology revolution that started towards the end of the 20th century has placed any information, literally at their finger-tips. Still many are comfortably oblivious of their surroundings. This utter lack of knowledge of basic information, sciences, politics, history, economics and other disciplines is what I am terming as ‘21st century illiteracy’. No one is expecting the common man to be an expert, a PhD in any of these fields. All that is needed is some basic primary / middle school level grounding in these disciplines. Yet one rarely finds it today in many people.

 

A popular TV show that has run in different variants in many parts of the world, ‘Are you smarter than a 5th grader’ demonstrates this ignorance. Adults routinely stumble on basic primary school level questions. An interesting example that recently came to light in the US was that of the citizenship test on US history and government that is administered as part of the naturalization process for eligible foreign citizens. Apparently, nearly 70% of US adults ‘fail’ this test! Incidentally, when it comes to sports and entertainment, many of these same people excel at statistics and movie trivia.

 

Some would argue why this knowledge is even important. My response would be – Why was so much importance given to reading and writing in the 20th century? It was done so that we could understand the world around us and make informed and better decisions and choices. Are we really doing that?

 

Not just in the 20th century, but throughout the history of human civilization, mankind has progressed due to that constant desire to ask questions, and seek knowledge. “How can I master fire?”; “How can I manage cultivation?”; “What causes the planets and sun to appear to ‘move around’ the earth?”; “What causes diseases? How do we prevent them?” and on and on. Have we simply lost this desire today? Or has the current materialistic world completely taken our focus away? Or are we subscribing to these pronouncements ‘That is not my problem…Or as long as things are fine for me, why do I care!’

 

Unfortunately today, when it comes to financial markets and the global economy, things are not fine. And this is affecting each and every one of us – not just in the US, but in the entire world. How many people really understood the detailed mechanics of adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs)? How many really took time to analyze the potential risks of these instruments based on macro-economic factors? It is easy to now blame Allen Greenspan for keeping rates at historic lows and thereby contributing to very attractive rates on these ARMs at the beginning of this decade. But wasn’t the consumer simply making an assumption (if at all they understood some parts about the ARM…) that these good rates are going to stay on? Was it just wishful thinking? Yes, to some extent – most US consumers are optimistic in nature and prescribe to this ‘good times will continue’ philosophy. But being ignorant about the basics of economics was the primary culprit. There was also a ‘herd mentality’. Since ‘other people’ were taking these mortgages, why not me? How is this herd mentality different from that of illiterate village folks in a third world country?

 

Many people today invest directly or indirectly (through pension plans) in the financial markets. Yet many do not understand basics such as valuations, Price/Earnings, Dividends, etc. Even fewer understand bonds and treasuries. On a similar note, in a completely different knowledge discipline, how many patients really understand the most basic information about the prescription drugs that they are taking? If ‘Health’ and ‘Wealth’ are the most important things to most people, then this ignorance is appalling.

 

Lack of books and other reading material contributed to some illiteracy for deprived people in the 20th century. A bright student in a remote village would find it extremely hard to learn any advanced topics due to the lack of resources. However, today there are no excuses for the 21st century consumer.

 

Even 15 years back in the US, if you wanted to get some basic grounding on some discipline and learn something new, or brush up some old stuff, you probably had to take some time off and head to the local library. There you were mostly reliant on a good librarian to find the right books/journals for you. And then you had to navigate through the big reference books (often times, on library premises) to get to what you were looking for. Compare that with today’s world. How far have we come in such a short period? Almost all of that information is now available at a click of a mouse! And ‘search’ has become so easy! And yet this 21st century illiteracy continues to thrive.

 

I find it extremely hard to understand why the same people who spend hours online on social networking sites can’t find time to learn something new about economics. Or about basics in medical sciences. Ultimately, your financial health and physical health are amongst the most important things in the world we live in…Aren’t they? I think first we need to acknowledge this 21st century illiteracy phenomenon. Then, we need to understand it and start actively addressing it. A big change is needed, first and foremost in our attitudes towards knowledge. This change is one of the primary steps to create smart, intelligent consumers who truly understand the global world they live in, and make informed choices.

 [You might want to read these related posts; ‘US Financial Crisis – Who Is To Be Blamed’ and ‘The Clueless Global Leadership’ ]

 

Subscribe to Amit Paranjape’s Weblog by Email

 

Pune History Trivia – 1

Posted in Pune by Amit Paranjape on October 14, 2008

This article has 20 Pune related trivia/historical facts that I found interesting…watch this blog for further articles in the same series. The present article is primarily focused on the period conisisting of the 18th century, 19th century and early 20th century.

Note – I cannot make any guarantees regarding the complete accuracy of these facts. It is unfortunate that we don’t have 100% accurate versions of our recent history in Pune. If you would like to correct/add to any of the points below, please write a comment and ideally provide a good source. I would be more than happy to edit and update the post. In fact, on an ongoing basis, I would like to post some of these Pune history trivia articles in ‘Questions Format’ and invite readers to comment with answers. That way, we can start a collaborative process to answer some fairly basic history related questions from our neighborhood such as – ‘When and why was Lakdi Pul built’?

1. Tilak Tank

Tilak tank was an old stone quarry with some natural springs. This was converted to a swimming pool sometime in the 1910s, as part of the Deccan Gymkhana Sports Club complex. One story suggests that the extra stone excavated during the construction of the pool was used for construction of some of the stone bungalows in the original Deccan Gymkhana society (Prabhat Road Lanes 1, 2, 3). For many years, Tilak tank was considered to be one of the largest swimming pools in Asia.

2. Pune University Campus Location

The modern Pune University campus was part of the battle field where the 3rd battle between the Peshwes and the British was fought on Nov 5th 1817. Probably it’s not a coincidence that the British picked that same spot for the subsequent construction of the Governer Mansion (present day university main building).

3. Lakdi Pul

Lakdi Pul (Sambhaji Bridge) was constructed by Nana Saheb Peshwe in the 1750s. One story suggests that the bridge was hastily constructed so that Nana Saheb could return to the city discretely after the monumental loss at the battle of Panipat. Another story suggests that the bridge was simply built to support the city expansion.

The original bridge was built out of wood – hence the name Lakdi Pul. Since its original construction, it has been rebuilt 4 times (the latest one being after the Panshet flood of 1961).

The oldest bridge in Pune was probably a small stone bridge near the present day ‘Dengle’ Bridge near the Pune Municipal Corporation. No idea when that was first built, but for many years, that was the only river crossing in Pune. It is interesting to note that the present day Dengle Bridge is probably the shortest in length amongst all the Pune bridges, thereby indicating that it represents the narrowest part of the Mutha River in Pune. No wonder, that spot would have been selected for the bridge.

4. Badminton

The modern game of Badminton was originally called as ‘Poona’. It was invented by a group of British soldiers stationed at Pune…hence the original name. Apparently, a senior British official named ‘Badminton’ provided space to these soldiers in his estate to play this game, and hence the name was changed to ‘Badminton’ in his honor.

5. Deccan Gymkhana Club

The Deccan Gymkhana sports club was established in 1906. Lokmanya Tilak and Vishweshwaraya (who was an alumnus of COEP) took the lead in establishing a sports Gymkhana for the local people of Pune. At that time, all the existing sports clubs in Pune were accessible only to the British. The Deccan Gymkhana housing society was established a few years later in 1926, around the sports club.

6. College of Engineering Pune (COEP)

COEP is the 2nd oldest college on the Indian sub-continent, established in 1854. Only Roorkee was setup before that. The present COEP location was setup in 1860s. I think it is ironic that unlike most old college campuses, COEP doesn’t have a single joint campus! A railway line and a busy national highway run through it! I doubt if this was envisaged at the time, the present site was selected.

7. Pune population in the 19th century

Pune population in 1818 (when the ‘Peshwe’ era came to an end) was over 100,000. Over the course of the 18th century and early part of 19th century, Pune had become a bustling capital town and attracted large scale immigration from neighboring areas, as well as from distant parts. After 1818, the economy was affected really badly and it is believed that the population decreased to fewer than 40,000 by the middle of the century. It took another 100 years after the end of Peshwe era for the Pune population to climb back to where it was in 1818.

8. British perspective of Pune and Punekars after the Peshwes were defeated in 1818

A lot has been written about this period by British historians, but I found these two statements very interesting and revealing. They talk about the British take of the local population, and their attempt to placate them. Here is the source and statements:

“Deccan Commissioner’s Records, 1818, Volume 89, Poona 8th April 1818, To Elphinstone by Robertson.
(Collector).”

‘…when the town was taken possession of public opinion was strong against us. The
people had been prepared during a considerable period before the War whence all the
feelings… recited against our Government, and surprised at the boast of the Mahratta
Indians that we should be driven into the sea.’

‘The Policy of pleasing the People of Poona is in my opinion unquestionable- This city has for many years given the tone to the feeling of the Mahratta Empire. It is
looked upon with a respect that is quite surprising, and it has been considered by the
lower classes…that he who rules Poona governs the world.’

9. Prabhat Studio

Prabhat Studio – Prabhat Studio was originally established in 1928 in Kolhapur and was shifted to Pune in 1933 (at the location of the present day Films & Television Institute). At that time, it was considered the most sophisticated cinema studio in all of Asia. Courtesy Prabhat Studio, the 1930s saw Pune as the leading film production destination in India.

10. Shaniwar Wada

Shaniwar Wada was built by Peshwe Baji Rao I and was completed in1732. The total cost at that time was estimated to be around Rs 16,000. There is a popular legend that one of the buildings in Shaniwar Wada was 7 storeys high. I am sure that most Punekars have heard of this legend – though not a single conclusive proof seems to be available to corroborate this legend? I vaguely remember the year (1985?) when the ‘Devi Heights’ building was constructed near Bal Gandharva Bridge. This was Pune’s first building to exceed 7 storeys. I remember thinking about this back then – how it took over 200 years for Pune to get back to having a 7 storey building!

11. Mumbai-Pune rail link

The first railway in India ran in 1853 between Mumbai and Thane. Soon thereafter, the focus was to connect Pune with Mumbai. The Pune – Khandala line was completed in 1858. However the Bhor Ghat proved to be a great challenge. It was finally completed in 1863. Thus interestingly, between 1858 and 1863, the passengers traveling from Mumbai to Pune had to disembark at Karjat and then use a bullock-cart/horse-cart/or travel on foot to Khandala, where they boarded a different train towards Pune!

12. Bhor Ghat Railway Line

It took a total of 10 years to build the Ghat with tens of thousands of laborers working night and day on the project (One estimate puts it at 30,000). It is believed that the casualty rate amongst the laborers was near 50% – the primary cause of death being malaria that used to spread rapidly in the mosquito infested camps. The other cause was faulty explosives that were used for blasting the tunnels. Just think of these people, next time you train crosses the Bhor Ghat!

13. Deccan Queen

Deccan Queen was inaugurated in 1928 after the completion of electrification of the Mumbai-Pune route. This was the first electrified line in India and Deccan Queen was considered amongst the fastest train in Asia at that time, traveling the distance between Mumbai and Pune in 2 hrs 45 min. It was originally intended to be a weekend train to ferry the Horse Racing British crowd between the capital Mumbai and the winter capital Pune, during the Pune racing reason. Later on, it was converted to a daily train.

14. Malet Residency

Charles Malet was the first permanent British resident with the Peshwes. He was given a piece of land well outside Pune near the Mula-Mutha ‘Sangam’ to build his establishment or ‘residency’. The primary house was constructed in 1787. This housing complex consisted of 5 houses, outhouses for troops. This residency was completely destroyed during the 3rd battle between the Peshwes and the British in 1817. It was rebuilt again later. It stands today at the beginning of Sangam Bridge and is used as the Judge Bungalow.

15. Pune Water Supply

The first systematic water supply plan for Pune was instituted by the Peshwes in the 18th century. This involved building a bund to create the Katraj Lake and the laying down of aqueducts to bring the water to the city. The water was made available in various ‘Houds’ (public water outlets) in the city. The water was also directly supplied to Shaniwar Wada. The water distribution system was extended by Nana Phadnavis towards the end of the 18th century.

The British built the Khadakwasala dam in 1867 to supply the growing water requirements of the Pune Municipality and the Cantonment. Two separate canals were built to supply water to the city – a dedicated one was built for the Governor’s estate on Ganeshkhind Road. This canal, though not operational for many years, was visible until a few years back before a road was built on top of it.

In the 20th century, the Panshet dam was built in 1961, which was followed by the Varasgaon dam was completed in 1993.

Incidentally, the first modern underground sewage system for the city was established in 1919.

16. Pune Power Generation

Pune city got it its electric supply in the 1910s. (Prior to that, selected British Government installations such as the Governor’s estate had dedicated power generators). The first local power plant was commissioned at Rasta Peth. Even today, we refer to that neighborhood in Rasta Peth as ‘Rasta Peth Power House’ area. This power plant ran for a few years and was replaced by a direct power line from the Tata hydro-electric power project.

17. Simla Office

The present day “Simla Office” of the Indian Meteorological Survey was inaugurated in 1928. The earlier weather office was located in Simla (the then summer capital of British India), from where it was shifted to Pune in the 1920s.

18. Pune…The Capital of India?

I have heard this story from a few different people, but cannot really find a good link/source to corroborate it. Back in the 1860s the British think tank had started thinking about shifting the capital from Kolkata to some place more central in the Indian sub-continent. After extensive research, they finally had short listed 2 cities – Delhi and Pune. Delhi had its advantages of being the capital of the Mughal dynasty. Primary Pune advantages were a) Proximity to Mumbai and b) Pune being the capital of the Peshwes, the last major power in India.

Apparently, Pune lost out to Delhi in a close race…One only wonders how different Pune would have been, if it were to be selected! The capital was finally shifted to Delhi at the beginning of the 20th century.

[Note (added June 21, 2010) – According to Acharya Atre — in 1862 the British were seriously exploring the possibility of Pune as the future capital of India. The advantage of central location was important. The land near present day University of Pune was considered as the potential Viceroy House (later, the same site was used to build the house for the Governer of  Bombay) ]

19. Erandwane & Bhamburda

Erandwane (Greater Deccan Gymkhana Area) was included into the Pune Municipality only in 1920! Bhamburda (Present day Shivajinagar) followed soon after. The key Jangli Maharaj Road was constructed only in the late 1920s/early 1930s and was known for a long time as ’80 feet Road’. The road connected the newly acquired Erandwane and Bhamburda villages into Pune

20. Laxmi Road / Tilak Road

These two major arterial roads were opened around 1917. Laxmi Road was originally only 28 feet wide and was subsequently widened to its present width in 1952. As a result, a part of a large number of old ‘Wadas’ had to be demolished and rebuilt.

 

For more Pune History Trivia, continue reading at:  Pune History Trivia 2

Some questions for the readers that I have been wondering about… (Looking forward to your answers!)

  • What year were the following roads built – Prabhat Road (I understand that in the 1930s, this was an unpaved road ‘Kachha Rasta’), Bhandarkar Road, Karve Road.
  • What year was Kamala Nehru Park built?
  • Are there any old constructions (temples/other dwellings built during the Peshwe period) in the Deccan Gymkhana area that were built prior to 1906 (year when the club was built), and are still around today?

Subscribe to Amit Paranjape’s Weblog by Email

Tagged with: , , ,

The Clueless Global Financial Leadership?

Posted in Current Affairs, Financial Markets/Economics by Amit Paranjape on October 10, 2008

  

 

 Rarely has one seen the entire global leadership of the financial world, so utterly clueless. The leadership comprising of the elected officials, finance/treasury heads, central banking heads, regulatory heads, Company Board of Directors and CEOs – all seem completely lost!

 

They say one thing, do another…talk about being globally coordinated, then do things in isolation…swear by ‘free market’ principles, only to violate them the next day, they agree to vote on a plan…and then reject it, only to approve it later…,bailout one bank, but not the other. In the mean time, the markets keep tumbling…trillions of dollars worth of market cap is just vanishing in thin air!

 

Everyday, there are parallels being drawn to the ‘Great Depression’. Everyone, including the leadership is in denial…This was not supposed to happen! Over the past seven decades, we have seen a World War, a Cold War, Oil Shocks, 9-11, and on and on. Over this period mankind has survived one great crisis after another, including the possibility of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction – that doomsday scenario so commonly speculated; especially at the height of the Cold War). Even during these darkest of dark times, it felt that someone had some control. We may have not liked the direction of that control, but at least someone was affecting it.

 

This current financial mess was not supposed to happen! But it did…The modern world was supposed to have a robust system of monitoring, checks and balances. There were safety factors, reserve ratios, rate cut options, liquidity injections, and an array of other weapons in the armory of the leadership to combat such problem. The CEOs having precipitated this crisis, by amongst other things their ‘greed’ and ‘aggressive business practices’, had many options to limit the damage…but either they were embroiled in their own stubbornness, or just totally oblivious?!

 

One thing is for sure – right now ‘we the global population’ are losing this battle; and losing it badly! We had lessons learnt from the ‘Great Depression’, the 1980s crash, the Asian crisis of the 1990s, the dotcom crash and the WorldCom/Enron saga. And yet we got completely blind sighted. We have probably the most qualified US Treasury Secretary and yet he seems as lost as everyone else! Just recently we had a comprehensive Sarbanes-Oxley regulation that was supposed to force ‘companies’ to disclose their risks & exposures in a proactive fashion. European banks (which haven’t been immune to this problem) had spent years coming with BASEL II regulations to do a better job of ‘risk management’ and yet we end up with this? Has the ‘system’ failed so miserably? Or the companies creating this mess were so terrific at ‘hiding’ their actions? Or the ‘system’ was so utterly totally incompetent?

 

The current scenario is more like a global pandemic – the kind of massive epidemics that use to ravage cities prior to the 20th century. So called ‘experts’ and doctors use to try various things, but to little avail. Often times, their ad hoc methods (in those days, detailed causes of many of these problems were not known…) creating more damage.

  

How did this happen? That is going to be a multi-trillion dollar question! But who knows where the ‘Dollar’ will be after all this is over? And where will be the Euro and the Yen be? It might be safe idea to now refer to everything in gm/kg of Gold (Ounces/Pounds for those who prefer not to use the metric system). ‘Experts’ and ‘Pundits’ of the modern capitalist system have discussed ad nauseam the current problem and the only thing I can gather is that they are as confused as the leadership and everyone else.

 

Maybe some day, we will know what happened! Clearly that day is nowhere near! Till that day, all we can do is wait and wonder…what exactly happened? And why?

 

[You might want to read these related posts, ‘The Illiterate 21st Century Consumer’ and ‘US Financial Crisis – Who Is To Be Blamed’ ]

Subscribe to Amit Paranjape’s Weblog by Email

%d bloggers like this: