“If it were anywhere else in the world, this would have been marketed as a great tourist attraction”
This was the oft repeated refrain almost from my cousin from America as we wandered through the environs of the Pune Municipal Market or MANDAI (as we knew it) , situated in the heart of the city. While growing up, holidays meant spending time with family and almost every holiday was with either the grandparents or one of the uncles and aunts in different parts of the country.
More often than not our holidays were spent in Pune especially when my father was posted there and the family came to visit us! Most of the time we spent hanging out, playing make believe grown up games, eating tonnes of Alphonso mangoes and as we grew older cycling around and swimming at the pool. Those were the days before malls and phones so the highlight of our holidays would be the pilgrimage almost to a quaint little bazaar called Tulshibag.
In my little girl world, this was a huge,cavernous shop which was filled with exciting little pots and pans in stainless steel, gleaming brass and wood – replicas of kitchen ware just the way it was in my granny’s kitchen. How I loved to take home a pot or two to add to my growing collection of kitchen toys. There’d be beads and bangles and bells and all kinds of things that seemed magical and exotic.
So when I was visiting Pune last week and my mother asked me to run an errand for her in this area, I readily agreed. My cousin and a nephew agreed to come and we hopped into a rickshaw that puttered down to Vishrambagwada and the Chitale outlet at BajiRao Road.
Chitales of Pune are legendary – and no visit to Pune is complete without picking up at least 1/4 kg of their famous mango barfi. But there are other delicacies too like anarse, bakarwadi, puran poli, ladoo and of course the peda for which I had to make the trip. Originally a small little shop, Chitale has now spread to California and I’ve heard to Singapore as well so that people can partake of their shrikhand and other goodies far away from Indian shores. This shop is also known for its extreme salesmanship : upon entering each person is given a flat token which has to be shown to every counter that you make a purchase from as every item is sold in different counters. This is to avoid overloading one salesman with multiple orders. So once you give your order to the salesman, he weighs the product and then punches in everything in the computer and scans it on your token. Thus , much like monopoly, you pass through every counter and when you reach the cashier, hand in your token and voila- your order comes up on his screen, you pay the money and exit with a pleased look on your face. Chitale’s is known for its dour salesmen who absolutely refuse to open the shop a minute before opening time and likewise down the shutters at the appointed time. Unmindful of their almost boorish behaviour, they don’t offer even the hint of a smile, even when you compliment them on their wonderful products. Incidentally the same cousin told me of his last visit to the shop when he asked for bakarwadi at 11.15, just 15 minutes after opening time. He was told to look at the time which translated as “It’s too late – the stocks are over!”
So you would be well advised to be there well before the shop opens for business.
Pune – 411030.
Tel: +91-20-24473208 / 24475043
759/54, Deccan Gymkhana,
Pune – 411004.
We set off at around half past three while the rest of the city was still enjoying their afternoon siesta hoping to reach there before the roads got jammed. But surprisingly at the end of Sacahpir street and towards the beginning of Laxmi Road, we ran into an impromptu fish market and couldn’t avoid the crowds.
However, Chitale’s had kept our order ready and within minutes we were out. Across the road we bought some Puja related stuff before we walked down towards TulshiBag.
I must say I was surprised to find that this was not the Tulshibag of my imagination. It actually turned out to be a regular homestead accessed by a traditional doorway – with a high threshold and stout wooden doors with brass handles. This 300 year old home of the Tulshibagwale Sardar (noblemen bestowed this title along with a parcel of land by a grateful Peshwa) is home to three temples – the main one being the Ram Mandir with the other two dedicated to Ganpati ( the favourite of the Peshwa) and Hanuman. Over the years the temples have fallen into a sad state of neglect but luckily theyare now being restored to their former glory. We could see glimpses of their grandeur in the fine grained in teak pillars with typical carvings and a painted ceiling. Equally fascinating was compound walls with paintings from the Ramayan and the huge drum that peeped out from behind the frescoed walls of the nagarkhana .
The shops are with their tiny brass pots now share shelf space with plastic and modern toys but the magic still remains. Outside the market you can find bangles and beads and fine examples of traditional jewelry in mock gold. You will find balloons that squeak, masalas, pagdis and stitched saris – in short everything for a costume party that will equip you to join the Peshwas at a traditional do!
This neighbourhood is worth a walk through but a word of warning – be prepared to walk as cars cannot stop or park. Also remember to hire the rickshaw for the entire trip as rickshaws are hard to come by and you may well find drivers flatly refusing to take you anywhere you want to go be it a mile away or just round the corner!
The shops are open all day long save for the afternoon siesta time and you may just find everything there too kitschy but I would recommend this short trip for a hint of Peshwa history.