I didn’t only grow up in Aundh, I grew up with Aundh.
As I walk out of my home of over 20 years, I realize that I will probably miss living in Aundh more than living in Flat No 7, M, S, Aundh.
My first memory of this place is from when I was 3. My neighbour and I were swinging on the society gate. That gate has served as a wall between me and the stray dog Tommy that was chasing me. The same Tommy that bit 2 of my neighbours, one for having accidently stepped on his tail during a game of Hide-n-Seek where my friend tried unknowingly to also occupy Tommy’s favourite hide-out. I can’t remember why the other friend was bitten, but in this case too Tommy was probably not to blame – as this friend had also managed to get himself bitten by a fox at the zoo and a squirrel he ‘caught’ in Tommy’s owner’s general store. The trouble is that Tommy, unlike most strays, did not inspire pity in the eyes of his beholders. He was quite big and strong, we surmised this was due to the extraordinary amount of rusk that Uncle fed him. A few years later Uncle shut his store (right opposite above-mentioned gate) and that ushered in the new era of the Kirana Dukaan convenience (and strays whose names I did not know). Now the difference between the 2 is that 99% of the time, you will not return from the Rajasthani-run Kirana without the goods you set out to purchase. While Uncle only managed to stock a very limited variety of bread, eggs, milk and biscuits, Vinayak has ALL your daily, monthly and half-yearly needs. The fat owner at Vinu (affectionately referred to as Motu in my family) and I have a special bond. He gives me what I need, I pay him, and I leave. The only 2 times I have had any extra conversation with him are –
1. P : Aap Tofu kyon nahi rakte?
M: Woh log deliver nahi karte.
(Next week onwards he stocked Tofu)
2. P: Aaj mera Birthday hain, aapko mujhe ye Bandaid free dena chahiye.
(No response, free 5 Star handed to me)
And so it pains me greatly to leave behind my special friend. My parents have been trying to entice him to open a store in Baner, where we are moving to.
My lane in Aundh boasts of a big playground. All the kids from all over Aundh come here to play, or so it seems judging by the number of mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers that crowd up the road in the evenings. Now I am not as intolerant as my brother, who accuses the kids of ‘crawling around like cockroaches’ but I do find it funny that they all come to a class, to play. And so their parents enroll them in a class to be forced to do things that we loved to do ourselves. I suppose we didn’t have fancy options to playing, like.. whatever e-games that kids play these days. We, come to think of it, never played on the ground. The road outside our house sufficed for cricket, the mango tree at Hemant was great target practice, Ambar Arohi was the best for Dabba-ispice, mine for Land-n-Water. Just like each building had its attractions, so each of us had core strengths. And so it was when the boys discovered they were in majority and the focus of the evening’s entertainment switched from games to cricket, I noticed an acute drop in my popularity levels.
This ushered in the new era of Aundh life, hanging out after school, Marathi class and German class, with school friends. Now luckily, these girls all stayed in Aundh too, or maybe we were and still remain friends because we all are Aundh-ites (yes I said that). The whole world was Aundh, only school was outside. This phase in which we ventured outside our societies was the discovery of the attractions of our area. It was also luckily the time when Aundh began to grow. And so we went to “hang-out” at Pulse, eat samosas at Mithas, buy fancy stationary and get chatted up by the weird shopkeeper at Mahalaxmi (not intentionally), we sometimes ventured even as far as Baker’s Basket or Vishis for pastry. Our first collective real life crush was at a bench opposite the ground. We whiled away happy hours waiting for a glimpse of him, and eventually we figured out his gym timings and became more efficient at stalking him.
Another development was the opening of “The Club”. For a few years, this was a chief source of entertainment for both the lucky members and the even luckier friends of members. This club boasts a swimming pool, with a major attraction of a water slide (which I later discovered was the cause of the holes on my swimsuit bums), a basketball court, a Jacuzzi which I have only once seen on, a canteen that serves batata wada and/or medu wada, a park with a small merry-go-round which was a source of great adventure, since we dared each other to jump off while it was spinning and even for a short while a pogo stick and a trampoline. The first rendezvous with boys were also held here, a safe sanctuary that could be entered by one and all by paying Rs.20 as guest fees or by jumping over the wall or conning the guard. My friends regularly practiced these activities while I was left to walk in alone through the main gate as my parents had paid membership. After 15 years, they have now cancelled the membership and I suppose I shall have to finally SAY thanks to the lifeguard who saved my life in that pool one day.
Fast forward to 2013, and I know Aundh had grown with me. I haven’t been to Mithas in years, instead I now hang out a Peter (wifi) donuts, where they claim to provide free wifi but it sure doesn’t feel free when every bite of doughnut costs about 30 bucks. Peter (who is very Korean) is located above our very first petrol pump – Gaikwad petrol pump has a separate line for “Ladies” so I like going there to fuel up. I also now give directions to my house with reference to a very fancy “apartment hotel” where the rooftop Greek restaurant charges a 4 digit figure for measly portion of Mousaka. Luckily, I don’t like Mousaka as much a Polka’s heart-warming lasagna. I’ll also be leaving behind Skips, where my friend rightly said you skip the meal you intended to eat, but get the next one instead. In all fairness that’s because Aunty cooks everything herself, and it’s totally worth the wait. Skips is conveniently located opposite Air and Gold’s Gym, where half of Aundh’s adolescents spend their evenings. There’s so much more for me to go on about, but I think everyone got the gist.
Oh well! When it all becomes too much to bear, I will travel 10 mins from Baner and come back to Aundh.