Two years in Pune, at an age when my personality was evolving and I soaked up new experiences like a sponge, have given me a fair idea about the city’s draws and limitations. Tucked away in the resort-like environment of FLAME (Foundation for Liberal and Management Education), I looked forward to weekends with the enthusiasm of a bushy-tailed 21-year-old. Solo or accompanied by a friend, I’d board the bus to the city and look forward to movies, lunches, shopping, pampering and exploration. While I regret not venturing out of Pune, I realise that I’m in a good position to advise you on my favourite neighbourhoods in the city that was once a pivotal part of the Maratha Empire.
The area of Pune best known for Pune University and FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) is also the central part of the city. It is not too far away from Swargate, which is where you’ll end up if you’re reaching Pune by train or bus. I have countless fond memories of tucking into delicious biryani and fried rice at Café Goodluck, downing thick, chocolatey glasses of Cad-B and walking aimlessly only to stumble upon vendors of fresh sponge dosa and gardens perfect for sitting and reading. I felt truly liberated when I once enjoyed a glass of beer on my own at Apache Bar while killing time until my bus for Hyderabad. My girlfriends and I would often schedule parlour and street side shopping sessions at F. C. Road. The neighbouring J.M. Road was also a favourite haunt for shopping. You can get practically anything in the shops of this area; including clothes, accessories, bags, footwear and even hookah pots and coal.
Eat: Irani fare at Café Goodluck, South Indian breakfast at Vaishali Restaurant, sponge dosa with butter, anda pav and momos from roadside vendors
Drink: Beer at Apache, Cad-B at Café Chokolade, chocolate shots at The Chocolate Room
Watch: Movies at E Square
Shop: Gifts at Greetwel
Every city has that sought-after neighbourhood populated by the rich and the famous. For Pune, that area is Koregaon Park. This swanky locale is home to some of the glitziest malls and stores foremost among which is Jewel Square. Here, you will find all the international brands you can think of. While I never had the courage to buy anything there, I frequented Koregaon Park often for Hidden Place, a cool pub with great deals on food and beer and Mad House Grill, a good place for steaks. German Bakery which was briefly shut has reopened in the area and is worth a visit for its excellent breakfast spread. And how can I forget the world-famous Osho Ashram, officially known as Osho International Meditation Resort. Even if you don’t enrol for their programme, you can purchase excellent Osho merchandise in the area. If you want to stay in Koregaon Park, St Laurn Business Hotel and The Westin are great choices. The nearby Kalyani Nagar has spacious apartments for rent, which is a popular option for travellers in Pune.
Kothrud was my entry point into Pune city as Paud Road was closest to my institute in Lavale Village. A quiet locale, I imagined that I would choose to live here if I ever settled in Pune. I miss getting steal deals and discounts in the boutique stores of the area, tucking into ghee-soaked parathas at Amar Paratha & Biryani House, lunching at alfresco restaurants and walking through the quiet by-lanes. A couple of years ago, my best friend and I decided to revisit our memories with a weekend trip to Pune and Kothrud was where we spent a large part of the day.
M.G. Road in the famous Camp area is great for budget shopping and eating. I could spend hours browsing the artistic clothes and accessories at Either Or, a classy store on Sassoon Road. Magarpatta City in Hadapsar village will always be a cherished memory because that’s where I attended the three-day NH7 weekender concert with my friends. I spent the nights at my friend’s house in ABC Farms, a posh locale of Koregaon Park. I revisited Hadapsar on another occasion and was amazed to discover historical treasures like Mastani Talav and an interesting gliding centre.
Writing this post has made me nostalgic and hungry for Pune’s inimitable treats. But I’m glad some things are quite safely ensconced in the halls of my memory. For residents of Mumbai, Pune is an ideal weekend getaway and the entry point on the highway is via Wakad. But even if you don’t reside in Mumbai or Maharashtra, Pune is only a flight away from major cities with even international airlines like Emirates and Lufthansa flying to Pune Airport.