Dhon la Bara hun Saatla Bara – A Rewind in Pune.

In 1983, forty years and a fortnight ago, I arrived in Pune Station from Madras (now Chennai) with a suitcase (a soft luggage from VIP) and a small shoulder bag. My brother in law Venkatesh picked me up from the station and we took a local train to a distant suburb called Begdewadi. We alighted from the local and my BIL went in search of a rickshaw, could not find one. So we began trekking to his place. On a late March day, it was still cold (at least for me who just travelled from Chennai). I was done with college and travelled to Pune to find a job. Little did I realise that Pune would be the city I would live for next twenty years and fall in love with the city so much, I still call Pune, the best city to live in India. 

Begdewadi was not a suburb. For want of better word I said a distant suburb. It just had an army barrack and ordnance depot. The place was frozen in 1940s when the army used the place in WW II. The novelty of the place wore out in couple of days and I began to wonder if I had taken the right decision. My sister Vasanthy and my BIL motivated me to stay back. I got a job in a Paper Mill (Pudumjee Pulp and Paper) which eventually formed my career in Paper and Speciality Paper Chemicals.

Jayakanth had moved to Bombay a year before and soon he joined me in Pune. We lived first couple of years with my sister, got a place in the city and moved out. And thus began the  best part of our bachelorhood.  We moved out of Pune twenty years back after spending twenty years in the city (a third of our lives). 

Over the years we made many trips to Pune , but there were always short trips. One day I called JK and told him let’s visit Pune and revisit all the places we used to hang around. We went there in February of 2023 and Mohan joined us a day later. We borrowed our BIL’s scooter and started the rewind in Begdewadi, where it all began.

RR JK Pune 1984

JK and Yours Truly in 1984. Photo Courtesy – Renuka Photo Archives. 

We drove to Talegaon where our first adventure on a Motor Cycle happened. You can get the story here: A Sunday, A Yezdi and An Adventure (To all those Yezdi lovers). We tasted Vada Pav (a trip to Pune can’t begin without having one) and drove to Begdewadi.

The station looked exactly as it did 40 years ago courtesy Army which has not allowed any development in the area.

Next we tried to locate the place I first moved in and with some difficulty we found the place. The houses are shuttered. An army man informed that they don’t allow any civilians to live in the area now.

The First House

Dhon La Bara – The Title at last:

As we were driving back to the city, JK spotted a banana cart and stopped. He has a story of the first words he listened to when he arrived in Bombay circa 1982. The words are ‘Dhon la Bara’ – दोन ला बारा in Marathi. These words were echoing across the city in every bazaar and in the carts outside all suburban stations in Mumbai. The words meant Twelve bananas for Rupees Two. JK asked the vendor what is the price now and he said satla Bara means 60 Rs for 12 Bananas a thirty fold increase increase in price over forty years.

We just made a back of the hand calculation. In the early eighties average monthly salary when you entered the job market (informal sector) was 500 Rs. This has gone up to 15,000 Rs a month a thirty fold increase, same as the banana price. Not bad.

From Dhon la Bara to Saat la Bara – दोन ला बारा हुन साठ ला बारा

Defence Cinema – First Hindi Lessons

I have mentioned many times over the years that we learnt the Hindi Language only after we landed in Pune. Hindi films accelerated the process of the learning process. There was a small cinema in Dehu Road where JK and I went every other week to see a Hindi movie. Most of the dialogues for the movies we watched were written by Kadar Khan. It was there we learnt those famous dialogues like, “Aaj Mere Pas Property Hai, Bank Balance Hai, Gadi hai, bungalow hai – Tumara Pas Kya Hai?” “Mere Pas Man Hai” Rougly translated – “Today I have Property, Bank Balance, Bungalow and Car. What do you have? This was from a smuggler to his brother who is a Police Officer. And the brother replies, “Mere Pas Maa Hai.” – “I have mother with me.”

Recalling this, we stopped at the Defence Cinema. The cinema has been revamped and looked great. But they have restricted the entry to only Army personnel and their families now.

Once a dilapidated Theatre, it’s renovated and an air cooled cinema today.

A Walk Down the M G Road

The only attraction Pune had in those days was MG Road, if you discount the movie theatres. It had shops and eateries and the most famous Bhudani Wafers where you could buy fresh chips and walk down the street. It’s a place you met your friends. All youngsters hung around MG Road. Mohan informed us before we left for Pune for the nostalgia trip, he would join us for the walk in MG Road.

MG Road was also the place where I landed my first job in Pune. It was a transport company.

Outside the office, where I landed my First Job

The other attraction in those days in MG Road was the dairy ABC Forms. The owner learnt the dairy business in Denmark and setup a small shop in Pune. They served real cheese and the famous drink Lemsi which was basically a lemon flavoured lassi.

True to his words Mohan joined us for the MG Road walk. We bought some wafers at Bhudani the shop has grown many folds now. Walked to ABC forms and lassi.

A selfie at ABC Forms.

MG Road is perhaps one of the only business districts which has not changed over the yers. The popular reason people quote is, “The Parsis who own most of the shops don’t want to sell them to commercial builders though get astronomical offers. True or not, I hope this stays that way.

And so we walked and walked soaking the changes the city has gone through over the years and the things that have not changed one bit during the period. JK and I visited the automobile spares market in Nanapet. JK used to visit this market every day for about six months to get the Yezdi in good repair.

I also had dinner with Mr Lobo and his wife Catherine. Mr Lobo hired me in Pudumjee and was my boss. He was the one who taught us discipline and work ethics. He was so tough, we, the staff in the laboratory would look forward to Christmas every year when he used to take couple of weeks off. We would celebrate his absence as if we had just won the lottery.. Over the years he has become a friend and mentor. He was also the first who taught me the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want‘ and also simple approach to problem solving.

Over the dinner we recalled the good old days in Pune which was traffic free actually it was also traffic lights free city. What would have taken Mr. Lobo half an hour drive to arrive at the restaurant almost took him two hours in traffic. I told him that I still believed Pune is one of the best cities to live in India.

I always maintained that Pune is perhaps the best city in India. My reasons were quite simple. It was a small city which had all the big city infrastructure. An airport (though very small in those days), good engineering and medical schools (COEP and Sassoon Medical College) not to miss our Armed Forces Medical College, dozens of good schools, hospitals, hotels and restaurants. Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu was close second. Both cities had sweet potable water as well, not the million ppm hardens in water you get in most cities in India. Pune has developed massively over the years but if you can get a place in the city, it still is a great city. You can rickshaw to all the places and the drivers are so good they will come by meter whether it is 20 Rs distance or a 200 Rs distance.

For me it was a kind of Ram Rajya. I was amazed to see my house owner’s daughter riding home in her Vespa scooter at mid night when I used to come back from my 2nd shift which ended at 11 PM in the night. When my BIL arrived in Pune in the seventies he would not even lock his bicycle anywhere in the city.

To our surprise we found out most of them still hold good, though people lock their bikes and bicycles. It still has the small city charm even after IT industry has transformed the place.

We also spent some quality time with my sister Vasanthy and BIL Venkatesh. Mohan came up with the idea of recreating siblings Childhood photo and we did this after some efforts (mainly Mohan’s).

Siblings in CIRCA 1973 and 2023.

As I sat to write this blog, I asked JK, ‘If arriving with just a bag in 1983 to driving a bike across South India in 1993, Romancing the RX-100 – A Southern Odyssey -1993. Part -1., is this the decade that earmarked fastest progress in our lives.’

He replied in his typical corporate lingo:

“Never thought of this.

I would think, given the context and the times of those days, that’s a pretty good progress.”

Pune has a very special place in my heart. It was the place Jayakanth my brother became a friend and took part in all the (mis)adventures in life. My sister Vasanthy and BIL Venkatesh became guardians and angels in our lives. I think I need l not look for more reasons.


5 thoughts on “Dhon la Bara hun Saatla Bara – A Rewind in Pune.

Add yours

  1. That is a cool blog Ramesh. Forty years passed just so fast! The first decade, as you have rightly put, gave us the headstart and remains most cherished.
    We were blessed with loving aunts & uncles in Mumbai and a sister and brother-in-law in Pune who helped us start our career and stood by us always.
    Pune, a city that gave us the best learning, experience and some great professional friends, will remain the most loved city for us.
    Thanks for capturing our emotions so very well.
    It’s also the city where we grew and ventured out together and became best friends.
    It’s pertinent to write here that the paanwala (cigerette shop), next to our home in shivaji nagar, believed we were friends. When he got to know after many years that we were brothers, he just couldn’t believe, and I still remember the expression on his face!
    I think that sums up the life we had in in Amchi Pune.


  2. சகோதரர்களின் ஊர் சுற்றும் பழக்கம் வியக்க வைக்கிறது, 20 வருடம் நீங்கள் வாழ்ந்த நகரம் அதிகம் மாறாமல் இருப்பது அதிசயமா தான் இருக்கிறது

    சிறுவயதில் எடுத்த போட்டியில் ஐவர் உள்ளீர்களே,அந்த இன்னொருவர் யார் ரமேஷ்

    1992 ல் என் திருமணத்திற்கு துணி எடுக்க குமரன் சில்க்ஸ் சென்றிருந்த போது என் புல்லட்டை பூட்டாதது மட்டுமல்ல சாவியையும் பைக்கிலயே வைத்து விட்டு வந்து விட்டது திரும்ப எடுக்கும் போது தான் தெரிந்தது(என் வண்டிக்கு அப்போது பூட்டு்ம் இல்லை)😁

    பொதுவாக அப்போது திருட்டு பயம் இல்லாமல் தான் இருத்துள்ளது

    மீண்டும் அந்த புனே ஞாபகங்களை விவரித்திரு்தது நன்றாக உள்ளது ரமேஷ் 👏👏👏


    1. 1. எனது அப்பாவுடன் பணிபுரிந்த திரு நாரயணனின் மகன் கார்த்திக்

      2. இது நீண்ட நாளாய் செய்ய நினைத்த பயணம். வேறு எந்த வேலையயும் கம்பெய்ன் செய்யவில்லய்

      3. திருட்டு பயம் எல்லா இடத்திலும் குறைவாக இருந்தது. பூனேவுக்கு கொஞ்சம் ஜாஸ்தி மார்க். Bur I’m not sure if young girls coming home from work late at night driving a scooter in chennai in the eighties.

      4. என்னுடய கணிப்பு – இன்றும் பூனேதான் இந்தியாவின் சிறந்த நகரம் – நான் பார்த்த அளவில்

      5. எனது சகோதரர்கள் எனது ப்ளாக்கை விட உன்னுடைய கமெண்ட்டைத்தான் ஆவலுடன் எதிர்பார்க்கிறார்கள்

      மிக்க நன்றி நாகா


  3. Ramesh, great job writing this blog- though I haven’t lived in Pune , Gita(my wife) was born and bought up in Pimpri Pune and I have experienced Pune through her childhood memories and her love with the city has been accurately described in your wonderful writing- especially her descriptions MG Road matches with your blog and I can see literally through her words and your writing the beauty of that city. I have visited few times and every time I felt Pune was great city., something in the air.
    In fact we sometimes discuss on going back to India and settling in Pune after retirement. My other choice is Hyderabad !!!!


  4. Thank you Ramesh a great recap down memory lane and your journey to Pune. I could not resist to share my experience with Pune as well. Interestingly, I was one of those luckiest persons as well, to travel to Pune back in 1983 for my first job. That was on a cold November morning I took the Bombay mail from Chennai to Pune arriving around 2 AM at Pune station. The company overseas communication services, now “Tata Communications Service” had a bus waiting for us, along with two other people in the same train. One came from Hyderabad. The other came from Bangalore. It has always been one of the pleasant memories for me with the first job.
    The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of my journey to Pune is the water. Coming from a city of scanty water supply the water in Pune was the tastiest and a blessing I would say. The source of water to our place at Dighigaon was from the river Mula and Mutha, the sweetest I tasted ever since I left Chennai. The bus journey from Pune station to Dighi would across the river Mula Mutha, from where the sweet drinking water was supplied to the surrounding villages. Mula Mutha is the confluence of Mula and Mutha. The water was crystal clear and so tasty that I just enjoyed drinking water in lieu of any sodas. The river is all polluted now. There was a cook Narkhade who cooked chapatis and dhall for us, chapatis would be hand pressed, steaming hot off the charcoal stove. The dhall was always accompanied by chopped fresh onions, green chilies and cucumbers. Every Friday there was a bus that will take us to Deccan, so we can spend the time there shopping and having a wonderful lunch or dinner at Annapurna. Annapurna was our favorite restaurant right in the middle of Deccan. I also remember the time when two of my favorite films that I watched during my time in Pune. One was Betaab and the second movie was hero. And the third one Mawali.
    Another Pune favorite item that I cherish, is the fresh sugarcane juice that was available near Pimpri, right outside a sugarcane farm for 50 Paisa, a big jug of almost a liter. There used to be a biscuit factory called Sathe biscuit factory at Vishrantwadi, I think it’s still there. They made one of the tastiest and crunchiest biscuits ever, that I’ve tasted. It was our mandatory pit stop to grab enough for a week before we take the next bus to Dighi. Dighi is where we had our training for wireless, undersea cable and satellite communications systems engineering and operations. We had the base station at Arvi about a few hours’ drive from Dighi, a nice field trip for our hands-on experience. Thank you for writing this blog that really took me down memory lane as well, and I do agree that Pune is one of the best cities for us to begin our carriers with I would hands down go live there any day.
    Keep it coming brother.


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