‘I used to live in a Palace!’

'My Palace Building'!
‘My Palace Building’!

’13/359 A Rasta Peth, Pune 411011′

Yes, that was the address of my Palace where I grew up during my schooling and college days. Have attached above the snap of the building itself for you to see. It is an old building as can be seen easily. It was built sometime in the 1920s and being one of the earliest RCC constructed buildings, it was given a royal tribute and nicknamed ‘Palace Building’. I think the name is still in common use and it is a good reference for guiding a person to ‘Rasta Peth’ area in general.

Our family had a long association with the building. It was maternal grandfather who moved in first with his family in the early 30s. My mother was born here in the early 40s. She spent her childhood in the same building. Post her marriage in the 60s she moved away for a while. We finally returned again in the 80s to be with my ailing grandmother. We continued to live there till the late 90s by when post completing my graduation from Fergusson College, I moved on to Mumbai to pursue my PG course in Management.

The building and the area has a very interesting history – in the 60s it was populated by mostly South Indian families as most of the menfolk were working in the CDA office that was barely a km away. So you had a popular South Indian mess, Udupi restaurants, filter coffee and even coffee peabury nuts were easily available as were the South Indian newspapers and magazines. Nearby was a sabji market and many vendors / shop owners spoke easily with you in your native tongue.

I remember some of the routines even now. My neighbours were people I had known practically for all my life and we used to be in and out of one-another’s homes.It just happened that there were not any kids on my age and so I grew up in the company of senior ‘Annas’ and ‘Akkas’. We had a gang of 4-5 members who used to religiously visit all the Temples in the vicinity once a week. Every year we would have the ‘Avani Avittam’ ceremony at the Temple.  Lord Ayyappa puja would also happen every year. My father too was associated with the Pune Sangeetha Sabha and I remember many programs being held in the Nehru Memorial Hall in the Camp area. Our lives revolved around this ecosystem.

There were other fun activities too. There were a couple of second-hand book stores in the area and through them I developed my lifelong love for books. I just used to love to take my books to the rear verandah and read them quietly while enjoying a session under the Sun. The other landmarks included the KEM hospital, MSEB office, Apollo theatre, Kailash lassiwala, International Bhel House, Datta Club (Ganapati festivals used to be a rocking time followed by the Durga Puja), Shahu Garden, Bajana Madam etc.

The Irani restaurant – just downstairs in my building – was ironically called ‘New York’. I still reminisce those cold winter evenings when the four of us, myself, my brother, Deepak and another friend of my brother Arun used to have marathon carom sessions.We used to sit till late hours in the night. And I used to slip out in between to bring some refreshments including the ‘Bun Maska’, hot and fresh. I used to make tea at home and they taste real delicious with it. While playing carom even the friendly bets and wagers, we used to have prizes and the trophy was to treat the winners to ‘Bun Maska’.

I happened to see the area again some time back when I visited India. There was a sea change with a lot of the old buildings having been pulled down. And sadly like many other Irani restaurants in Pune, the ‘New York’ has disappeared now. Yet the Palace still stood its ground with a rather forlorn and deserted look as it seems to be barely occupied now. It is indeed a remnant of the era long gone by since Rasta Peth itself has seen many changes and is no longer the one that was part of my growing years.

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