I would like to thank all the readers for the excellent feedback and new inputs on the first article in this series. Please click here, to check it out if you haven’t already read it. This second part is a continuation of the previous list. My special thanks to the readers who provided detailed comments, new data points and corrections on the first article. Looks like old and new Punekars alike are passionate about this topic. I am continuing here with 50 more ways in which Pune has changed in the past 15 years. Hope you find this list as interesting and nostalgic as the first one.
In the introduction article I mentioned about how different folks (people who lived in Pune through these 15 years; people like me who came back to the scene after a long gap; and today’s teenagers who were too young to remember how things were back then) would perceive this list. I could probably add a fourth constituent to this list – people who recently moved into Pune. For them, these articles hopefully will provide an insight into how fast this city has changed (probably faster than any other city in India) and yet how it continues to maintain its underlying dinstinctive character!
1. ‘Laughter Clubs’ were unknown to Punekars in the early nineties. At that time, if someone saw a group of middle-aged and older people laughing and screaming in a crazy manner in the middle of a park, early morning – they would have been extremely perplexed and confounded (to put it mildly!).
On a side note, I wonder what these people would think if someone were to raise an objection about their ‘noise pollution’? I happen to live near a park where such a club assembles every morning. I for one do not fancy being woken up by these weird cacophony of sounds before 7am in the morning. –J
2. There were hardly any night clubs/lounge bars/pubs in Pune during the early nineties. I remember how Punekars young and old looked at the opening of ‘10 Downing Street’, amongst Pune’s first night-clubs, with apprehension and excitement (young with excitement; old with apprehension).
3. Venkys near present day Dorabjees in Camp was a popular fast-food joint. Its format was very similar to modern day McDonald and it served a variety of Chicken Sandwiches, Veg Burgers and Other Side Dishes. It also had a separate Beer Bar.
4. It was not very surprising to see a mongoose and other ‘wild’ creatures emerge from the dense vegetation near the old Deccan Gymkhana area bungalows. As a saying goes, ‘where there is a mongoose, there is a snake’! True to this saying, on some rare occasions, these slithering reptiles also made their presence known (experts tell me that they were of the non-poisonous variety).
Chirping Sparrows were extremely common – one really wonders where they disappeared!
5. April pre-seasonal rains (‘Valvacha Paus’) were quite common. One wonders where they have disappeared in the recent years. Note to the reader – Debating whether this is due to long term cyclic climate pattern changes or global warming is beyond scope of this article –J
6. Pune was very focused on competitive exams. However, there were only a few coaching classes in this area. Majority of the classes at the time concentrated on the conventional SSC and HSC exams. Probably the most well-known ones for competitive exams were:
Sujata Khanna, Dilip Oak (GRE, GMAT, CAT)
Rahalkar (IIT JEE)
Col Diwan, Jnana Prabodhini (NTS – National Talent Search Exam)
7. There were very few cars seen in the by-lanes of Deccan Area. It seemed inconceivable at that time to imagine that there will be P1/P2 parking restrictions there. Similarly, these by-lanes were great venues for ‘Galli cricket’. The increase in traffic and parked vehicles meant that this great by-product of the modern cricket game seems to be heading towards extinction in these areas!
8. Many teenagers today would be completely unaware of this drink, but back in the 1980s and early 1990s, a milk based flavored drink ‘Energee’ marketed by Aray Dairy was quite popular. This drink was sold in bottles through various corner stores (wooden shacks) spread over many strategic locations of the city. It was a great favorite, especially amongst students on hot sunny days!
9. Tilak Tank was always very popular, but there was one big difference. Instead of the nice transparent blue waters that you see today, you would have seen a dark green opaque pool of water! Thinking about it, one wonders what kind of unique disease resistance properties those brave swimmers of the yesteryears had!
10. There were no bookstore chains (e.g. Crosswords) around at that time. Amongst the well-known book stores (for general books) were Manneys in Camp, Popular Book House and International Book Service in Deccan Gymkhana. Appa Balwant Chowk area in Pune City was the hub for all education related and Marathi books.
11. In the early nineties, Deccan Gymkhana and PYC were not referred to as ‘Clubs’. They were simply grounds with facilities for cricket, tennis and few other sports. There were no fancy ‘club-house’ buildings. Extremely basic canteens (including the legendary ‘Appa’ Canteen at Deccan Gymkhana Ground) provided basic snacks.
12. Minimum Rickshaw fare was Rs. 4. A ride from Deccan Gymkhana to Pune Station used to cost around Rs 15. An ASIAD Pune-Mumbai bus ticket cost Rs 50. 2nd class railway fare for the same route was around Rs 40. For the privileged few (remember, Punekars were not very ‘affluent’ back then…) the 1st class railway fare was around Rs 150.
13. There were no Baristas/Café Coffee Day chains and the term ‘Espresso’ was foreign! The common places to have tea/coffee were college canteens, popular restaurants like Vaishali/Roopali and corner tea stands. In fact, the first time these ‘espresso bars’ showed up in Pune, many seniors nearly got heart-attacks after looking at their price lists J
14. Back in the early 1990s, Laxmi Road was still a one-way street. The only difference; its traffic direction was directed the other way. Last year, I got completely disoriented when I first encountered this change!
15. Similar to the present sad state of affairs, Pune didn’t have a good cricket stadium. The extremely rare international games were played at the Nehru Stadium and the Ranji matches were often hosted at the Poona Club.
16. In the early 1990s, there was no computerized reservation for railways. One had to stand in painfully long and slow lines to get reservations from the predetermined quotas. And does anyone remember those 19th century like antique cardboard tickets?!
17. During the early 1990s, telecom was modernizing quite fast and for the first time, long distance direct dialing was within the reach of the common man. Given the large student population, literally overnight countless yellow & black STD/ISD/PCO booths popped up out of nowhere! With the mobile phone revolution, these booths have almost become extinct now.
18. On the topic of telecom, Pune was in the process of upgrading many of its phone numbers from 5 digits to 6 digits…how easy it was back then to remember the number! And Pune’s area code used to be: (212) – something it shared in common with New York City.
19. Fergusson College Road, Jangli Maharaj Road, Senapati Bapat Road, Appa Balwant Chowk, Kamala Nehru Park were all referred to by their full names…unlike their ubiquitous acronyms today!
20. Maybe it is just my impression, but it felt that in the early 1990s, the percentage of young adults and college students who smoked was a little lower…especially amongst teenage girls and women. [Before I draw any flak for this statement, here’s a disclaimer – the previous statement is not backed by any systematic data analysis…but just an ‘observation’ –J ]. For ‘old’ folks, who might come back to Pune after a long gap, seeing a group of young women smoke in coffee shops (that too, not in Camp or Koregaon Park, but in Deccan Gymkhana) would be quite shocking –J.
21. Pune had no FM radio channels. Listening to good music (note – In no way I am alluding to any assertion that today’s FM channels air good music –J ) entailed buying audio cassettes. Early 1990s was an interesting transition period that was seeing the demise of the Gramophone Records, and the rise of the Audio Compact Cassette. Even though the western world had already transitioned to CDs, they were virtually unheard of in Pune. The well-known places to buy these cassettes back then were, ‘Alurkar Music House’, ‘Pankaj Records’ and few other stores in Camp.
22. For the Marathi theater connoisseurs, there was no theater in the Kothrud area. Yashwantrao Chavan Nattyagriha came much later. Some of the popular comedy plays during that time were, ‘Moruchi Mavshi’ starring Vijay Chavan, ‘Shantecha Karta Chalu Ahe’ starring Laxmikant Berde and Sudhir Joshi, ‘Jave Premachya Gavi’, ‘Tour Tour’.
23. On the topic of Marathi Theater, video cassettes of old Marathi plays were quite uncommon. At that time, if you missed a famous play during its season, you had to wait for a long long time to catch it again! In the early 1990s probably one of the all time best Marathi Theater classics, ‘Ghashiram Kotwal’ made a reappearance under a new cast. Abhyankar was quite good in his anchor role of Nana, but to many Punekars, there was only one Nana (even today…) – Mohan Agashe! On a slightly unrelated topic, it is worth mentioning that Punekars of all ages like to reminisce about ‘How things were, during their times!’ Such a statement could be commonly heard from a 60 year old as well as a 10 year old –J. Pu La Deshpande has captured this classic Puneri quality extremely well in his writings!
24. Before the Expressway, the old Bombay-Pune Highway had some star attractions for the foodies along the highway, especially at Lonavala/Khandala and Khopoli. Kamat, El Taj and Diamond were quite popular on the Khandala side….And how can anyone forget the ‘Batate Wada’ of Ramakant!
25. Pune didn’t have any private banks at that time…no HDFC…no ICICI. The only banking option was nationalized and cooperative banks. There were no ATMs anywhere in Pune. HDFC loan applicants had to often head to Mumbai!
26. There were no Visa Processing Centers in Pune. To apply for any Visa to a foreign country, one had to head to the respective Mumbai consulates.
27. Bicycles were everywhere…students and industrial workers, the young and the old, men and women were all seen riding bicycles. Today many of these riders have graduated to motorized 2-Wheelers. To serve these bicycles, the ‘Cycle-Repair-Wala’ was omnipresent. Literally every corner, under every large tree you could find one. Whether it was simply refilling the air in the tires, or getting rid of a tire puncture – a visit to this place was quite common.
28. In the early 1990s, the nice residential neighborhood of Prabhat Road was significantly better. The number of apartments was significantly lower as many bungalows still dotted the scene. And what’s more you could buy a nice apartment for between Rs 800 to Rs 1000 per sq feet!
29. Distances in Pune were quite short. Most places were within ‘walking distance’ and people routinely walked around. Of course, in those days, the pollution levels were substantially lower and the risk of being run over by a vehicle was quite remote as well!
30. On the topic of pedestrians, I have good memories of traffic signals at the Good Luck Chowk and Nataraj Chowk in the Deccan Gymkhana Area. Vehicles used to stop before the pedestrian crossings (even when no police were around!) and crossing the road was an easy task. Back then, the left turn signal opposite Popular Book House was respected! Unlike today, when all vehicles conveniently assume it as a ‘flashing yellow’ – virtually making it impossible for anyone to cross that road. Same was the case at the Nataraj Chowk (opposite the Bata Showroom).
31. The most popular 2-Wheeler was still the ‘Bajaj Scooter’. Motor-cycles were on the rise, but in much smaller numbers. Mopeds like the ‘Luna’ and ‘TVS 50’ were quite common, and so were those weird looking two wheelers that cannot be classified into any category – M50 and M80 J
The scooter had it’s unique characteristics – kick-starter, peculiar lift-up stand, that irritating horn, rear spare wheel and last but not the least that unique ‘reserve petrol system’. Along with the reserve tank valve this lead to certain unique workarounds. For example, do you remember, how a Scooter driver would ‘tilt’ it at an angle when it was running low on fuel and wouldn’t start?!
32. In the early 1990s, international consumer electronics goods from various world-leaders (such as Sony, Panasonic, etc.) were not available in regular stores. The only way to get those were bringing them with you on international flights or visiting some of the few ‘Custom Clearance Stores’. These stores sold consumer electronics goods that were impounded by customs. One such popular store back then was ‘Gharonda’ in a by-lane of Laxmi Road.
33. Video Cassettes Libraries were there everywhere! While few of them have been converted to DVD/VCD libraries now, many of them have gone extinct – the same way as those STD/ISD booths! Lack of any cable TV until 1991 meant that the Video Cassette was an extremely popular form of entertainment. VCRs were quite expensive and in those days, it was a common practice for many to not only rent cassettes, but the VCR as well.
34. Some how in those days in Pune, it felt like people didn’t have many joint replacement surgeries or cosmetic surgeries. Either these procedures were not available back then, or maybe most of the people were physically well-off and very beautiful –J
35. Unlike today where the Jewelers have set shops in all the Pune areas, at that time, the primary place to buy Jewellery and Indian Wedding Apparel was Laxmi Road.
36. Bata was the primary place for shoes store in Pune with branches in Deccan Gymkhana, Camp and Kothrud. No foreign brand sports or formal shoes were easily available and Bata ‘Power’ was probably the most popular sports shoes. Well, to be absolutely accurate, quite a few Adidas, Reebok and Nike imitations were in fact commonly available in small stores.
37. Super-Markets concept was quite alien to most people in Pune; however one store on FC Road was trying to be a path-breaker. In 1990 a store called ‘Super Shoppe’ opened on FC Road (right opposite Roopali, near the present Subway restaurant…). It was probably Pune’s first modern self-service super-market. I was a big fan of that place, and was sad to see it go away in a few years. Maybe it was too far ahead of it’s time. Note – In the early 1980s a supermarket like store ‘Parijat’ was opened on Tilak Road (near Tilak Smarak Mandir). Have vague memories of it…no idea what happened to it.
38. The only software technology park was a small facility in Bhosari (Pimpri Chinchwad Area). Many Pune based IT icons made a humble beginning in less than 1000 sq feet offices at this park. (E.g. Persistent Systems)
39. Even back then, Pune was an extremely popular destination for international students. One catalyst in this process was the Symbiosis International Hostel. In the early nineties, the original Symbiosis building (the one with the flags painted on it…) was the only one around in that campus.
40. Not sure about today, but back then who could forget a Sunday morning without the hot and fresh Veg Patties! Hindustan Bakery and Santosh Bakery were amongst the popular ones making this delicacy.
41. Pune was a big manufacturing hub in the early 1990s as well. ISO 9000 and Total Quality Management were the latest management fads in vogue. Management Consultants in Pune were making a fast buck ‘helping’ companies in these areas.
42. The annual Pune International Marathon was quite popular; the only difference between the one today – It was not as commercial as it is today. On the same lines, another India first that started in Pune was the annual ‘Motocross’ event. It started around late 1980s/early 1990s and quite popular back then. Its detractors blame this event for the destruction of any cricketing future that was there in the Nehru Stadium.
43. Italian/Thai/Mexican and other world cuisine were ‘Greek’ to most of the people! [I guess so was Greek cuisine]. In those days, many fancy restaurants’ continental menus were highly limited and revolved around Vegetable Augratin, Russian Salad and Fried Fish & Chips.
44. Senapati Bapat Road had only one traffic signal! Ganeshkind Road had a few more giant old banyan trees, than present. Pune didn’t have any concrete roads. The railway over-bridge near Sancheti Hospital though was as congested as present –J. Somehow this is one traffic bottleneck that refuses to be addressed. And while talking about traffic density, can you imagine finding a comfortable parking spot on M.G. Road today?! It was fairly easy at that time.
45. The popular venue for Circus and other similar events was the open ground (Sanas Ground) right next to Saras Bag. The bridge and the surrounding area behind the PMPML Bus Stand at Deccan Gymkhana were not built at that time.
46. An old, small Causeway stood where the S.M. Joshi bridge is today (right by Abasaheb Garware College). This Causeway was popular place for Ganesh idol immersion ceremony during the Ganpati Festival.
47. These popular snacks restaurants in the early 1990s are not that quite well known today. Ask a teenager or a college student today, and see if they know any of these places below. [Note – I am not including places like ‘Vaishali’ in this list, since they continue to be as popular today. I am sure there are more restaurants in this category. Readers are welcome to add to the list.]
Deccan Gymkhana: Koo-Cuch-Ka-Cu (this crazy name was that of a small joint near Nataraj theater, famous for it’s chicken), Appa’s Canteen, Darshan
Camp/Dhole-Patil Road: Marz-o-rin, Jaws Burger, Mona Foods
City: Sweet Home, Janaseva, Jayashree Pav Bhaji
48. Similar to Prabhat Road/Bhandarkar Road areas, back in the early 1990s, there were many grand bungalows, with huge yards on Apte Road. Many of them were constructed in between 1930s – 1950s. Today many of them have given way to commercial buildings, hotels and banks. Jangli Maharaj was not that crowded and as a result no one used Apte Road as a diversion to beat traffic. And in the Deccan/Jangli Maharaj Road Area there were at least two more famous Iranian Restaurants – Lucky and Café Sunrise.
49. The shores of the Khadakwasala backwater had yet to be converted into a ‘Chowpati’. Panshet backwaters were pristine and there were plans in place to start ‘water sports’ activity there. Heading on Sinhagad Road, past Vithalwadi, it felt like you had left the city limits!
50. Sugarcane Juice was lot more popular back then, than it is today. And I can bet that there were more juice centers in Pune serving a much smaller population. One extremely popular sugarcane juice center was the college-run store, in the Agricultural College campus (right by the main-gate). This was the best sugarcane juice I have had! Wonder if this place is still around today.
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