Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Saras Baug Ganesha! Ganpati Bappa Morya!

After we got off at the last stop in Pune, Vini and I took a rickshaw to Saras Baug near Swargate. This is supposedly one km from Deccan. I am not quite sure what this means, but I am sure the information will help someone making a trip to Pune. If you check on Google for Pune sightseeing, Saras Baug is one of the places that come up a lot on the first page.

Various sections of the garden
We arrived at the gates to be greeted by a ‘mela’ atmosphere. I understand that it is a regular thing there. There were mobile merry-go-rounds; a guy making cotton candy; a number of food stalls and of course a couple of shops selling flowers and ‘thalis’ to offer Lord Ganpati who is the centre of attraction in this garden.

Lily Pond with lots of fish
The whole garden is quite big with a lot of trees and stretches of grass – simply beautiful! There is a pond in the form of a moat that surrounds the hillock where the temple is. The sad thing is that the pond is quite dirty while being full of lotuses and lilies. There were a lot of fish – all of them grey or black in colour. I could not help comparing it to the pond that I saw at the aquarium in Langkawi, Malaysia. That was so clean with a number of colourful fish in it. But they probably spent a lot of money to maintain that one while the local pond just managed to survive by itself, I am sure.

The black bird's antics in the water. Don't miss it taking off in the third picture
A small black bird – maybe a duck as it kept swimming inside the water – entertained us with its many antics. It moved stealthily underwater looking for fish. It kept bobbing its head up and looked pretty cute. Suddenly it flew out of the water with a small fish in its beak and managed to swallow it at one go. Awesome show!

The entrance to the temple
A set of staircase goes up to the temple. You are warned to hold your breath tight while climbing these. This is because of the stench caused by bird droppings. I know all about those who want to yell that one should not criticise temples. Well, I am not criticising the God, only the way the place has been maintained.

I believe the temple is very old and is open all seven days of the week – from 5 am to 12.30 pm & later from 4 to 9 pm. The place was quite crowded on the Sunday I visited. The temple looks prosperous, so why doesn’t someone maintain the surroundings? I am sure Lord Ganpati with his long nose must be quite disgusted with the smell.

Inside the temple
In the meanwhile, one of the devotees who was praying hard – I saw his lips moving continuously – and circumambulating the Lord made it a point to stop me – not once, but thrice – from taking pictures. He was very clear about this rule and kept pointing out a notice board to me. I could only see one which showed a picture of a red slash over a mobile phone, nothing about cameras. I waited for him to leave before taking my pictures. The Panditji and two workers near the sanctorum did not have any objections to my using the camera. Our country will make for a better democracy without these moral police, I am sure.

The outer Prakaar
Lord Ganesha in the main sanctorum was made of marble with a golden crown. His trunk is curled to the right same as at the Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai. This is not the most common form, I believe. We had a wonderful darshan despite the crowd and I could go around the sanctorum for three rounds.

I could not get any literature on the temple as the office was closed being a Sunday. The Panditji was helpful enough to give me info on the timings as he told me that it was a very old temple. The outer praakar was quite big and neat and was in an oasis with so many tall trees surrounding the area. It was very peaceful just walking in that area.

Rangoli at the temple
Some people were making a beautiful Rangoli on one side with the forthcoming Independence Day as the central theme.

There is a small room that has been converted into a museum that held a few shelves full of Lord Ganesha’s statuettes. I just had a look from the outside as there did not appear much to see. One is allowed inside for a charge of Rs. 5.

After spending some time in the temple, Vinitha and I went down the staircase to reach the ground where we went in search of a toilet. There was one at the left corner of the garden. While the doors had no handles and there were no lights, the toilets were very clean and there was water. It was worth paying Rs. 3 per person for using it.

It had taken us a little more than an hour to see Saras Baug and visit the temple. We came out and decided to try out the food stalls right at the entrance. These were but shop space with tables and chairs placed on the platform in the front. A plastic awning covered the whole area as it was the rainy season, I presume. It kept drizzling intermittently and the weather was just perfect for a holiday.

As you can see, all the stalls are named Kalpana - serving chaat, pav-bhaji, juices, etc
We had a bhel puri and a cheese pav-bhaji between the two of us washed down by Musambi juice. I finished it off with an ice-cream while Vini had a mango milkshake. Not too bad for a road-side stall and the bill was quite reasonable at Rs. 275 with a few extra pavs thrown in.

We saw another customer with a Labrador pup and could not help petting the little one. I believe Bozo was just one month old and he was so sleepy. Not that it stopped us from cuddling him. He was so cute!

With Bozo
As it started to rain heavily, a rickshaw cruised along to where we were sitting and the driver agreed to take us to Koregaon Park, that too with the meter on. Not a bad deal, I thought!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The Volvo that brought us home from Pune
Vinitha and I had been planning a day trip to Pune since three months and were just looking for the right time to go. I had done a bit of research on the net as to the places to see in Pune and both of us also consulted a couple of friends who are familiar with the city.

Last Sunday worked out for both of us and we left in the morning by Neeta Volvo. Luckily for us, we just had to cross the highway to the other side to catch the bus. I believe Neeta Travels has a bus leaving for Pune every hour. We missed the 7.15 am bus by five minutes and they let us take the next bus which arrived at 8 am. A one-way ticket to Pune by this limousine costed Rs. 300.

Entrance to Saras Baug, Pune
The journey lasted for about three and a half hours with one stop at Lonavla for breakfast. The route is pretty scenic and as the weather was simply gorgeous with mild rains, we had a beautiful onward journey. Of course, the two of us spent a large part of it sleeping was another matter altogether.

I was wide awake about an hour before we reached Pune and was quite thrilled to see the greenery and some waterfalls – there weren’t many as the rains have not been grea so far this year.

Temple of Lord Ganesha at Saras Baug, Pune
We reached Pune a little after 11 am and got off at the last stop. The bus driver told us it was the closest point to Swargate. We took a rickshaw from there to Saras Baug. The rickshawala refused to switch the meter on as it was Sunday – that’s what he claimed – and charged us Rs. 100 for the ride. All the rickshawalas in the area then – must have been half a dozen – appeared to be in cahoots. We did not want to hang around bargaining and left by one of them. Considering the distance travelled, I guess it must cost 40-50 rupees under normal circumstances.

Lane 1, Koregaon Park, Pune
We had a super day beginning with a darshan of Lord Ganpati at Saras Baug, a walk around the garden itself, lunch at the café outside, a ride through Pune Cantonment – an amazingly beautiful and peaceful area – by rickshaw and a visit to Koregaon Park.

At Koregaon Park, we spent some time shopping for shawls and costume jewellery. Then we went to the CCD there to escape the rains and spent some time there. Vinitha was quite upset that the German Bakery that had closed down after the bombings has never opened its doors again. We enquired about the meditation retreats at Osho Ashram, walked through the peaceful lane adjacent to it (Lane 1 of Koregaon Park) and checked out Hotel Sunderban for a future stay.

Hotel Sunderban, Koregaon Park, Pune
Vini remembered having stayed at a low key hotel around the corner and we went in search of it. We found South Court, a lovely old mansion tucked away in the left corner of the same lane. It was under renovation and had a lovely olde worlde feel about it. We could not check out the rooms as they were all occupied.

We returned to Hotel Sunderban and visited the spa there for a foot massage. Finally, we had a yummy dinner at Dario’s Restaurant and Bar – the Italian restaurant at the same hotel before leaving to catch the return bus from near Pune station.

South Court, Koregaon Park, Pune
A rickshaw dropped us at the Neeta Travels outlet and we had once again missed the 7.30 pm bus that we were booked on. Both of us were not too worried as the travel agent in Mumbai had told us very clearly that we could always catch the next one as there were many buses going to and from Pune. I believe the number of services on a Sunday were more than the other six days of the week.

Dinner at Dario's Restaurant & Bar, Hotel Sunderban, Pune
We had to wait for almost an hour while we were carted to another point at BC Coco RTO petrol pump to catch the bus. Our Volvo finally left at 8.55 pm and after a stop at Lonavla, we reached Sion at 12 midnight. We were lucky to be dropped right outside our lane and got home in barely three minutes.

What a super day!