It was around 6pm and the afternoon slumber gave way to an energetic evening…
The tea done and the clothes selected, it was time to repeat the daily ritual – a stroll on Mahatma Gandhi (M G) Road or Main Street as it is popularly called.
This was the place to hang out on “This Side” of town. In those days of the 70s and 80s, we had the Camp side which people considered cosmopolitan and “That Side” where the conservative locals lived.
But people took no sides when it came to Main Street. It was for everyone, an all-encompassing venue where you could get anything or do anything.
In the days when the word mall was not even known, it was Main Street which provided the entertainment – the hangout where everything from sport to politics, music, films and Osho were discussed.
For us teenagers, this would be the place to show off our “hep” bell-bottoms or torn jeans, a cigarette dangling from the left lip, and eyes narrowing like Clint Eastwood when a pretty girl passed.
And if she did respond with a sideways glance then the next step would be to follow her, without being too obvious. The done thing would be to count the number of glances while you followed.
If you got more than five then you would be back on Main Street hoping to see her again. If she did then you would praise the Lord and take the next step which is to talk.
Saturdays would be a crowded affair, a must go, as there was always optimism that the dream girl of your life would be found there for sure.
This ritual was followed regularly until teenage moved out to give way to the 20s and other pressures like jobs began to come in the way.
But Saturday remained the Main Street day.
It always had a festive atmosphere with people and traders jostling with each other for walking space. You could buy anything here. From clothes, to perfumes, lamps, sports goods to even pets. Plus you could get anything repaired.
But one had to wait until almost 11.30am for some of the shops to open. They would shut again at 1pm and open again at 4or 5pm. By 8pm everything would go on the sleep mode, reaffirming Pune’s status as a laid back city.
Still, this was Pune’s hub. For us teenagers, the only shops that attracted us were the music stores – Apollo, Empire and others. Apollo had this wonderful person called “Uncle” who helped us to find our music and keep us informed about it.
After the Bata Chowk, there was a restaurant called Diamond, recently gone forever.
It probably sold the best tea and the coldest of chilled beer in the universe. The choice wavered between both depending on the time of the day, mood, thirst and of course money.
The iconic Marz-o-rin was always a major draw but it all depended on the money in one’s pocket. Otherwise Iranian tea joints like Kohinoor, Yazdan, Diamond Queen and Try Luck would do. Sometimes two teas would be split into five. Again it was the money…..
And one of the best places to satiate the hunger would be Cafe Naaz. The samosas there were out of the world.
When you ordered them, the waiter would come with a plateful of it. Eat as much and pay accordingly. It was a good sales tactic and it worked.
The West End theatre was one of the best hangouts for both young and old. Sprawling at the end of Main Street, it had an old world charm which was very attractive.
The “In” crowd always frequented the place because it showed English movies. And on the side of the theatre there was a restaurant which served unique soft drinks from the tap.
Today, the old world shops have given way to modern outlets. But some of the stubborn old shopkeepers have kept their shops as it is amidst them. And the young still go there despite the many malls offering better hangouts.
Time has not been so cruel to Main Street. It may look a lot different but the hustle and bustle remain…
#The use of tobacco and the consumption of alcohol are injurious to health!