Once little more than an army outpost, Pune is a city that epitomizes ‘New India’, with its baffling mix of capitalism, spiritualism, ancient and modern. Whether on a business trip or visiting relatives, here are a few things you should not miss while here.
PLACES TO SEE
Aga Khan Palace: Set amid a wooded 6.5-hectare plot across the Mula River in Yerwada, the grand Aga Khan Palace (housing the Gandhi National Memorial) is easily Pune’s biggest crowd-puller. Built in 1892 by Sultan Aga Khan III, this lofty building was where the Mahatma and other prominent nationalist leaders were interned by the British for about two years following Gandhi’s Quit India resolution in 1942. Both Kasturba Gandhi, the Mahatma’s wife, and Mahadeobhai Desai, his secretary for 35 years, died here in confinement. You’ll find their shrines (containing their ashes) in a quiet garden to the rear.
Within the main palace, you can peek into the room where Gandhi used to stay. Photos and paintings exhibit moments in his extraordinary career.
Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum: This peculiar museum is one of Pune’s true delights, housing only a fraction of the 20,000-odd objects of Indian daily life painstakingly collected by Dinkar Kelkar (who died in 1990). The quirky pan-Indian collection includes hundreds of hookah pipes, writing instruments, lamps, textiles, toys, entire doors and windows, kitchen utensils, furniture, puppets, jewellery, betelnut cutters and an amazing gallery of musical instruments.
Bajirao Rd, 1377-1378 Natu Baug
Osho International Meditation Resort: You’ll either like it or hate it. A splurge of an institution, this ashram, located in a leafy, upscale northern suburb, has been drawing thousands of sanyasins (seekers), many of them Westerners, ever since the death of Osho in 1990. With its placid swimming pool, sauna, ‘zennis’ and basketball courts, massage and beauty parlour, bookshop and a luxury boutique guesthouse, it is, to some, the ultimate place to indulge in stress-busting meditation.
17 Koregaon Park
PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
German Bakery: Pune’s melting pot and once compulsory halt on the Koregaon Park backpacker trail, this long-running cafe has reopened after the fatal terrorist attack in 2010. It is known for its light, healthy snacks and a good range of cakes and puddings.
North Main Rd
Kayani Bakery: A Raj-era institution that seems to be stuck in a time warp, where those in the know queue (in the loose sense of the word) for Shrewsbury biscuits, bread and Madeira cake.
6 East St
Malaka Spice: This upscale alfresco restaurant serves mouth-watering Southeast Asian fare that is given a creative tweak or two by its star chefs. There are plenty of seafood dishes, such as the grilled kingfish in banana leaves, or the burnt garlic and shrimp rice, plus vegetarian, chicken, duck and mutton offerings. The air-con section doubles as an art gallery, while outdoor diners are kept cool with an occasional spurt from the mist machine.
North Main Rd, Lane 5, Koregaon Park
1000 Oaks: This one is an old favourite among Pune’s tipplers, featuring a cosy pub-style bar, a compact dance floor and a charming, foliaged and moodily lit sit-out area for those who prefer it quieter. There’s live music on Sundays, to go with your favourite poison.
2417 East St
PLACES TO SHOP
Bombay Store: The best spot for quality souvenirs and contemporary furnishings.
322 MG Rd
Either Or: Modern designer Indian garments and accessories are available at this popular boutique.
24/25 Sohrab Hall, 21 Sassoon Rd
Fabindia: For Indian saris, silks and cottons, as well as diverse accessories and handmade products.
Sassoon Rd, Sakar 10
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