Pune @72 hours – Part III

Waking up to the sound of airplanes was becoming a habit now! My favorite time in this super short trip was to wake up early and sit in the living room on the mattress and read a book. Total silence and peace.

And this book was keeping me hooked and addicted. For anyone and I mean anyone who loves/worships Eric Clapton’ The God of Guitar’ you would truly know what I mean! It was his autobiography and I was lapping up every bit of it.

It was time for Breakfast and Aanchal took us to a quintessential Irani cafe quite close to her apartment. What can I say about these beautiful cafes? If you have grown up during the Irani cafe culture you would know.

A seemingly obscure cafe with Iranian roots, as in Iranians who migrated from Iran known as Persia previously. There were two kinds of Iranians that migrated. One was of course the Farsees who escaped the religious persecution of their Islam converted country and to protect their Zoroastrian religion migrated to the western shores of Gujarat in India and became ‘Parsis’.

The second were Iranians, the ones that migrated due to trade and education. Why am I saying this? Because there is a good mix of two. And I have seen Parsi and Irani cafes in Bombay and the Iranian ones in Hyderabad. Both have such a unique culture of their own.

Interestingly Secunderabad and Hyderabad – the twin cities had a huge Irani cafe culture until it gave in to Modernization and “ITzation’ and unlike Pune can be found in tiny nooks and corners that only a local (take that as a pre 80’s born generations) can tell you not a tourist.

So imagine my happiness when my girl takes us to this place! I totally believe that whatever conversations, whether it was about life, love, relationships, revolution, rebellions all that started from these kind of places. The vibe is like that. Totally awesome.

The familiarity of such cafes knocks you out. The high ceiling, the big glass windows, the wooden chairs with checkered table cloth, the big glass jars that has all those goodies and biscuits and the simple laminated menu.

Srini and I were feeling bitter sweet about all this. A childhood and college days filled with these and our own baby Truffles Cafe which was meant to carry on what we believed was a tradition to this fast paced life.. Sigh..

We hogged on Bun Maska with Omelette, Kadak Chai and my girl with her Kheema Pav.

I honestly wanted to try everything on the menu but yeah belly doesn’t co-operate sometimes so instead I tried the good old Shikanjee while Aanchal enjoyed Mawa Cake. Haven’t tried it yet? A summer drink made with Lime (Nimbu paani), black salt, Jeera (cumin) powder and in this one, lightly grated ginger with mint, it was refreshing!

It was time for a movie and what we saw was probably one of the most understated films of the year. Victoria & Abdul.

A true story based on Queen Victoria and her close friendship with an Indian servant that irked and irritated the royal family and her ministers so much, they destroyed all evidence of it after her death. An Indian author chanced upon his photo in England few years ago and discovered it to the point of tracing his descendants and sure enough it all came out! Fascinating movie with beautiful performances.

After a beautiful movie we set out to have beer but naturally 🙂 I had already told Aanchal and Srini that we should go for lunch at George, yep the same restaurant I met Atul yesterday. No way could they miss out on the mutton dishes!

So for beer, we went to Irish House in the same mall. This is the thing about malls, almost all look like cut copy paste versions of each other and so do their eating joints but Irish House was different. The moment we walked in, one could feel the vibe of a proper Irish pub. With a lovely seating outside we chugged on beers and skimped and ate only potato fries in order to hog at George.

That moment arrived when we came down to George for lunch. Aanchal and Srini ordered Buna Gosht (Mutton) with Biryani rice(Yes) while I ordered Butter Naan with Egg Masala. Needless to say we all went into complete silence and just concentrated on food. The place was full at 3.30 pm, again the buzz, the vibe of people, young and old. Lunch time was almost over but people were walking in for their Chai and biscuits. We ended it with Falooda and Caramel Custard. Yup belly bursting goodness!

I told Aanchal and Srini that we must have a proper Maharashtrian breakfast and lunch tomorrow. No way was I going away without eating those!

I remember us getting back home in complete bliss and lazing around with a big smile on our faces. How content could one be? It was not just about the food, the city had a vibe, a cosmopolitan yet so local vibe. A city that was in no hurry yet was paced enough.

For the first time I shifted my loyalties, from Bangalore to Pune 🙂 Yep this place had more than enough options to explore in every way. This would be a city I would go back to time and again.

In the evening Aanchal took us to this as she put it ‘Must visit place’ Streetmeat in Koregaon Park. A small and I mean really small and tiny place that had basically 4-5 tables. Aanchal ordered for us. Pulled Pork Tacos and Korean BBQ grilled chicken Tacos.

I gave in to Chicken because it was irresistible and yep lots of veg options too. The perfect example of Street food with no fuss and delicious! I was thinking at that time like where the hell does Hyderabad fit in these kind of standards??

Even a so called great food joint there couldn’t hold a candle to these ones. It really made me wonder what kind of frogs in the well were we in Hyderabad??

And then came her big surprise. High Spirits! Believe me since the day she moved to Pune, all we heard was about that. A happening cool joint with live music, bands, cookouts what not. Even Ashutosh her classmate described it as ‘da place’ to go to. In short a party place for youngsters.

We wanted to see what the fuss was all about but there was something else happening in the meantime. The Harvey Weinstein scandal rocked the world and social media boomed and with that other skeletons came out of the closet.

A Pune blogger tweeted about the owner of High Spirits – Khodu Irani about his alleged sexual harassment on women and her own experience. It led to a chain reaction. More and more women, from former employees to women customers came out with their own stories of harassment. The day we were leaving Ashutosh had whatsapped an article on this to me.

The effect was seen the moment we walked in. Aanchal was shocked to see that not many turned up as before. What I saw? Basically a shack that had a Reggae feel. Well actually an asbestos covering with plastic sheets and covers and a huge space for hanging out.

Truly this was a collegian’s corner, granted there were older people but mostly youngsters who wanted to hangout, hook up or catch up with their mates.

I could see Aanchal’s disappointment in us not being impressed. She told us so many stories on the popularity of this place, what she was seeing now was the down slide, the after effects of those accusations.

It was getting loud, it was getting humid and as she told us, the waiters were usually rude, as it was a pretty popular place so they wouldn’t care shit about customers.One had to get their own beers from the bar! But today, the waiters were hovering over us, waiting to the point of breathing down our necks, the poor chaps were not used to being nice to their collegian customers. One could feel the tension there, it was that obvious.

It was 10.30 pm and Srini and I looked at each other and said look we can’t handle this cheap shit so can we get out of here? Where to?

We went right back to Elephant & Co. No loud noise, just conversations, people actually being nice, staff being courteous and a chilled out factor. We got a place near the bar and chatted over Sangreas which by the way are to DIE FOR. Seriously, just go for it even if you say Wine is not your thing. Just go for it!

And the best part? You can go in your casuals, a T shirt and all and no one bats an eyelid. That’s what I liked best. It is a refreshing change from Hyderabad where women and men  dress up like Christmas trees from movies to cafes flaunting brands and think it’s super cool. And yep no one gives a shit whether you know the owner, whether you can name drop someone, or just rattle on, no one gives a shit.

I remember us chatting nineteen to dozen and Aanchal saying This is really good! Much better than what we just visited! We continued there till 12.30 midnight. That day each one of us learned our own lessons 🙂



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