It was a winter morning on Bund Garden Road in the late 1970s, with the barometer hovering around 8 deg C…
A couple of Iranians, covered in heavy jackets sat at Cafe Delight, having malai bun and bun maska, warming their hands with the steaming tea.
Opposite them was the Wadia College, its buildings enveloped by haze, huge structures overlooking a ground.
Yes, Pune had a proper winter then, with temperatures plummeting to as low as 4deg.C
As the haze began to lift, the Iranians hurriedly knocked back their tea in a big gulp and rush towards the gates opposite. It was action time at Wadia College.
Back then, Wadia College was a ‘Cool” place to study. Its relaxed atmosphere, rich mix of foreign students and a rather laidback crowd made it a fun place to be in.
However, the academics there were top-class too with all facilities available. The teachers were friendly and they created a nice environment to grow in.
In those days, there were flocks of foreign students studying in Pune, mostly from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Mauritius. There were other foreign nationals too from Africa and the Middle East.
The rather relaxed nature of Wadia College drew them there. Their brightly coloured shirts and branded jeans not only added to the atmosphere but became an envy of many students who wanted to be dressed like them.
Many youngsters yearned for the Wranglers and Levis which were expensive then and not easily available.
With the Osho Ashram just a few km away, the Bund Garden Road area almost looked like it was in some foreign land.
You could feel the difference as soon as you hit the “Wadia College” bridge from near the Residency Club side.
Young guys zoomed up the bridge in modified bikes, showing off their flashy clothes and a new girlfriend clinging on to dear life. There were others, in dirty jeans and freaky shirts or long kurtas, ambling up the bridge, smoking a bidi which keeps going off. They mingled with prim and proper students.
Cafe Delight was a paradise for those studying in Wadia College and the many who frequented the area. The chai and bun maska was the eternal favourite.
Young men, with idealism shining on their faces, spoke about Che Guevera or Marx, religion, Osho or any other cerebral topic. There were the cool ones, torn jeans and a cloth bag, who discussed Jimi Hendrix, sex, drugs and rock n roll.
In between all that, there were loud voices in Persian, French or Arabic with gesticulation galore. By evening, the cafe would be brimming with humanity. Next to it was Mohnish, a nice little place. Some would converge there, having sweet cups of tea and engaging in a lot of conversation.
There were many who were living far from this locality and yet they turned up to have a chat with their friends.
The boys and girls from the Wadia College hostel also came out in the evening. They had restrictions of course. Boys from the college or elsewhere would wait near the compound wall and call out for their girlfriends.
Many signals later, a place of meeting would be established. Those with bikes mostly opted for Main Street to join the evening parade.
Bund Garden Road never slept even on those days. Cars, trucks and buses always passed by due to its central and key location.
And if you happened to peep into Wadia College, you may see two or three Iranian boys trying to have a cigarette surreptitiously, the glow of their cigarettes distinct, the smoke making patterns in the darkness.
Life goes on on Bund Garden Road.