India Diaries: A Heritage Building in Pune

You can’t miss the ‘Palace Building’ in Rasta Peth, Pune – it has the unique legacy of being one of the early RCC buildings when it came up in 1928.

The building stands till today though most of the occupants are gone now. I am told that it has been included in a Heritage Building list but not many know what it implies for the building’s future.

The Palace Building
The Palace Building

My maternal family has a long association with the building that came to an abrupt end when we finally moved on in 1998. That meant an end to a relationship that started more than 60 years ago when my grandfather became one of the early tenants in the building. My mother was born here and spend most of her life at the place. It gave her a wrench to finally leave but by then the Palace was past its prime and life had moved on.

It had many redeeming features as a tenement – a central location in the heart of the city with amenities like schools, hospitals, temples, gardens, markets, bus and train stations at a walkable distance. It was an ecosystem in itself as most families had spent decades and generation at the place. It was ‘home’ like no other place.

And yet I was not quite happy when we relocated to the place in 1984 when I was about 6 years old and studying IInd standard at school. Coming from an Army Cantonment where there was ample space and many old friends, this was a transition to the urban concrete jungle if one wanted to put it like that. Unfortunately there were not even many kids of my age group and the change threw my life totally out of gear. Eventually I coped by turning into a bookworm and got used to the place.

It also provided a vantage view to observe the city and its activities. I remember standing for hours in the rather spacious balcony watching the Ganapati and Durga festivities. On other occasions we used to manage a tame game of cricket in its corridors. The corridors were useful in so many ways – I had got into the habit of walking to-and-fro while preparing for my exams. Am sure I have walked hours deciphering the mysteries of Organic Chemistry and Geology as I pursued my B.Sc. degree.

I make it a point to have a look at the Palace whenever I visit Pune. On this visit I learnt about the development though it might not even be a new one at that. More importantly I found most houses locked and that meant that the old tenants were no longer there. Its surroundings have undergone a sea-change – a mix of road widening activity and redevelopment. The older landmarks of KEM Hospital and Saraswati Vidyalaya are still there to give one bearings of the place.

I spent a few minutes at one of the older Udupi restaurants sipping a cup of Tea and wondering about the new changes that were to come in the neighbourhood. The Palace is still standing but for how long and with what future is quite a question?


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