Saturday, September 11, 2010

PUNE Queen of the Deccan - An Attractive and Informative Book on Pune

An Attractive and Informative Book on Pune 

Title: PUNE Queen of the Deccan
Authors: Jaymala Diddee & Samita Gupta
Published 2000, Reprinted 2003 by Elephant Design Pvt Ltd Pune
ISBN 81-87693-00-2
Book Review by Vikram Karve

Pune is my hometown. I’ve lived in the heart of Pune, for most of my life, with intermittent breaks, on and off, ever since I was a small boy. I’ve read many books on Pune, and its history, in Marathi and in English, but this book is the first definitive reference book on Pune I came across, and so, I’ve decided to tell you a little about it.
“PUNE Queen of the Deccan is a superb book, very appealing at first sight, owing to its excellent get up and superior production values. The generous support given by Pune’s corporate sector is evident in the impressive quality of the book which at first glance attracts you to pick it up, enchants you as you browse and impels you to read it thoroughly.  The authors say in the preface that writing this book was a journey of discovery for them; reading it was a journey of discovery for me too, and so will it be for readers, especially for true blue Punekars, and also for the recent entrants to this glorious city, for whom this is must-reading in order to familiarize themselves with glorious history, culture and traditions of their new home.
This is no coffee table book, but a well-researched treatise, a significant piece of academic work, adorned with rare photographs, embellished with explanatory maps and informative sketches, written in easy readable style. While delving way back briefly into the hoary past, the authors comprehensively record the growth of Pune [earlier known as Poona ] over the last three and a half centuries.
Starting from ancient days, the authors chronologically trace the salient periods and cardinal events in the history of Pune. In engrossing storytelling style, the book enlightens the reader about the changing faces and fortunes, the ups and downs, the shifting geographical, spatial, architectural, military, economical, industrial, organizational, governmental, academic, cultural and demographical transformations of Pune, from a medieval town of indigenous origin to the chaotic metropolis of today.
The rare photographs and vivid maps enhance the value and joy of the fascinating journey through time. The quintessence of Pune, the “Peths”, their genesis and development, are covered in great detail, with which all Punekars identify even today. Read the book, acquaint yourself with Pune’s military legacy and history, its battles and trials and tribulations, like the plundering and ravaging by conquerors, the terrible pestilent plague epidemic, the devastating floods of 1961 when the Panshet dam burst, the modernization and development through the ages, study the maps, have a look at the photographs, observe the architecture of the wadas, the temples, and take a walk through the heart of Pune, and see for yourself how his enhances your understanding of Pune’s rich heritage and legacy. 
The advent of the British led to the establishment of Poona Camp, the cantonment. This resulted in a geographical and cultural divide, and someone wrote: “…There are Poonas almost as far removed from each other as the North and South poles”. This divide was evident till recently, certainly in the nineteen sixties (1960s), when I was a small boy living in Sadashiv Peth; but now everything has changed, and barring a few remnants of the glorious past, when Pune had such sobriquets like “Pensioners’ Paradise”, “Oxford of the East”, “Queen of the Deccan”, today the entire Pune is one huge unplanned overcrowded polluted urban conglomeration and concrete jungle, with chaotic traffic, getting worse day by day, its infrastructure unable to keep pace with the rapid expansion. Have a look at the photographs of Main Street, East Street and Poona Camp [pp 156 – 165], Poona Railway Station [pp 177- 178], Mandai [p 188], Ganeshkhind Avenue[p203], the Peths[208] and the maps on p64, p172, p176, p258 and p262 and you’ll see what I mean.
I wish the authors had also written a chapter on the culinary history of Pune, telling us a bit about the traditional foods that evolved in the Maharashtrian city; the advent, and symbiosis and nurturing of Mughlai, Deccani, Irani, Parsi and other delightful cuisines, and about the famous landmark eateries in Pune City and Camp, many of which are disappearing day by day, unable to withstand the onslaught of “liberalisation”. I do feel that the evolution of cuisine is a very important aspect of the history and culture of a city and Pune certainly has a delicious repertoire of a variety of unique and exciting foods.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this engrossing and educative book. The first-rate design, attention to detail, attractive illustrations and engaging writing style ensure a compelling and delightful reading experience. At times, it is unputdownable.   
I earnestly commend this book. I am glad I read it. The authors, photographer, collators, designers, editors, and all those who contributed to, and were involved in, the production of this masterpiece deserve congratulations for their creativity and praiseworthy efforts.
“PUNE Queen of the Deccan ” is must-reading for all true blue Punekars, students of humanities and architecture, and new entrants to Pune, especially the students and IT professionals, who wish to learn of the rich heritage of their new home, and I feel that this book will be a worthy addition to your bookcase and reference shelves of all libraries.

© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.
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