Last fortnight, a Chinese national, quarantined in a Pune hospital for possible exposure of novel coronavirus, thanked the brotherly treatment given to him at the Naidu Hospital.
How many of us would say this about Pune?
As a Puneite, you would perhaps scorn at the thought of admitting your near and dear one the Pune Municipal Corporation run Naidu.
Much to the credit of the authorities, an international visitor like the Chinese tourist, not only found the hospital of high standard in hygiene and cleanliness but thanked their hospitality and care that he received.
Surely, this Chinese tourist is sure to speak highly of the people of Pune but does it imply that Pune is courteous to people, whether they are expats, locals, neighbours or housing society members?
The answer is Yes…And No!!
Let’s begin examining this with expats. I remember having interviewed a UK national who was stationed in Pune for several years, as head of a company that manufactured carpets for markets abroad. He told me how delighted and relaxed he felt being in Pune, with his cook who served exciting South Indian breakfast and the ability to visit anyone without the formality of informing them earlier. He also spoke about one of his school-going sons who had taken such fascination for the auto-rickshaw, that he would take joy rides, many a time without informing his parents. So much so, that he had to send him back to the UK as he thought his son’s adventure had a potential risk.
States an Irish lady, Karen, who moved to Pune from the serene Stanford Upon Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace) in 2015 and resided here for three years. In an interview with www.expat.com wherein she was asked as to whether she likes Pune, she candidly stated, “People are so warm, welcoming and caring – when they aren’t trying to cheat you because you are a foreigner!
It is a weird dichotomy – people would do anything for you personally, but professionally they are happy to tell you they will do things and then won’t do them at all.’’’ Now that’s saying without mincing any words for many a foreigner residing in neighbourhoods like Koregaon Park, is taken for a ride by local agents of real estate, scooter hiring agents and so on.
Another expat from France, Meg Harris who is residing in Pune for the past couple of years, rues about the nasty treatment meted out by the builder, when they moved in.
In an open letter that she has written in Pune Mirror, she says that the builder took her complaint about the noisy construction work next to her house, offensively. She rues that despite being an expat, she is paying tax, as her husband is on senior professional employment here, but is asked to go back to her country if she raises her voice against any injustice.
In fact, when Pune was known as a country cousin of Mumbai, it was infamous for being a city that is curt. The standard joke being, visitors would be offered a cup of tea by the host or the hostess only when they were leaving the house, as a social courtesy, fully aware that the offer would be declined.
In fact, shopkeepers in downtown city were known for being reticent about showing their wares/clothes.
They would first ask the customer, his or her budget and then selectively show. The customer was also reprimanded in a subtle way if he tried to see too many pieces, before making a choice. And of course, Pune is known for keeping shops shut between 1pm and 4pm which reveals the nature of a Punekar businessman/trader to conduct business as per his convenient timings.
The expansion of Pune and its mall culture though has changed this conservative attitude, largely. The customer is now the king.
However, when it comes to helping out people on the streets, Puneites are ever ready to do so. The general observation that passer-bys do not help accident victims is not quite true for Pune. They promptly help you out. Last fortnight, a fatal accident took place on a Sunday afternoon on Bund garden Bridge. Unfortunately, a young man in his mid-20s was run over by a PMPML bus while his mother, sitting pillion, was unscathed. Obviously, she was crying out helplessly at this huge tragedy. Many youngsters were holding her hand and pacifying her.
I faced the same cordial situation when my husband suddenly passed away of cardiac arrest on the Parvati Hill. While there so many to help me out, one particular gentleman, stayed over at the hospital too for a good one hour or so after that and then politely left. I have no words to express my gratitude to him.
Puneites are also in the form of activists and are known for citizen alertness.
They will fight for the right causes that would make the citizen’s life, a better place to live in. Be it garbage, traffic congestion, bad roads, illegal encroachments – you have some Puneite or the other fighting a public cause.
In stark contrast, members of a large number of housing societies are almost always at loggerheads with each other.
This dichotomy is strange and tough to explain!
#All views expressed in this article are those of the author and/or individuals quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
That's Vinita Deshmukh, Senior journalist and RTI activist who believes in journalism that reflects the views and needs of the common man.
Get Real And Stay Relevant says Vinita,