Disclaimer: This is a translation of the Punekar part of the essay, 'Mumbaikar, Punekar and Nagpurkar' by Gaurav Sabnis. This essay was originally written by the celebrated Marathi author Purushottam Laxman Deshpande, popularly known as PuLa.
Here is the link to the original post. Kudos to the author for the translation. I love it!
Ok, so now... do you want to become a Punekar? Go
ahead. We have no objections. But our advice is... think again. Do you
really want to? OK, if you insist then your preparation needs to be
thorough. And once you are fully prepared, then being a Punekar is as
enjoyable an experience as any.
Firstly, do not nurse the notion
that you are inferior to anyone in any aspect of life. You are not. You
are a superior being. Secondly, learn to express dissent on every issue
possible. I mean seriously, stop thinking about minor things like who
you are, how educated or uneducated you are, what your achievements
are..... don't think about any of these things and just express a
contradictory opinion. Whatever the topic under discussion, your opinion
needs to be strongly voiced, and it has to be contrarian. Even if the
topic under discussion is "How to get the American economic machine back
on track", and you are just an employee of the Pune Municipal
Corporation's Rat Extermination Department, don't let it stop you from
At least once every few hours you need to cluck
your tongue, shake your head and say "Pune just isn't the way it used to
be." There are no age-related requirements for saying this. In Pune
doddering geriatrics and school-going striplings say "Pune just isn't
the way it used to be" with matching conviction. So you will get to hear
this statement with comforting regularity in offices, colleges, tekdis,
temples, markets and even kindergartens.
Marathi, or in general
any language, exists in several forms in Pune. Public Speaking Puneri,
Shopkeeper's Puneri, Domestic Puneri.... are all various dialects with
little in common with each other. Let me demonstrate the difference
between the language used in private conversation and the language used
for public speaking, with an example.
Imagine that a Prof.
Bhamburdekar is talking about a Prof. Yelkuntkar with his wife - "What
nonsense! Yelkuntkar is being felicitated? Utter nonsense. Actually he
should be thrashed with his own shoes. What is he being felicitated for?
Translating the rigved? More like transmutating the rigved. But still
he gets government grants, thousands of rupees."
Note- One of the typical ways for a Punekar to vent his anger about someone else is to rant about the money he is making.
"Yes, you fool! Live it up! Embezzle that money! Live the big life! Eat banana pudding and peas curry everyday!"
most superlative form of living the big life for a Punekar stops at
thse humble heights - eating banana pudding and peas curry everyday.
let me show you the transformation of this sample of private Puneri
language into public Puneri language. Imagine, the same Prof.
Bhamburdekar at the felicitation, giving a speech about Prof.
"Felicitating Guruvarya Prof Yelkuntkar is like
felicitating in person the Sun God of Scholarliness. Friends, today's
date will be carved with gold in the annals of Pune's cultural history.
This great teacher of mine.... I mean I have always considered him my
teacher.... I am not sure if he considers me his student..."
point the audience laughs a little. According to Puneri Public Speaking
rules, if you don't make the audience laugh after your third sentence,
it is counted as a foul. So all aspiring Punekars preparing for the
daunting task should keep this in mind.
"Now of course, in a way I am
his student. Because when he was a teacher in the municipality schools,
I was his student in Class 1"
See how cleverly he slipped in the
information that Prof. Yelkuntkar was once just a school teacher in a
rundown municipality school.
"His father was an employee of the nutritional department in the palace of the Sardar Panchapatlikar"
Another masterstroke.... the good professor's father was just a cook!
spent his childhood in extreme poverty, Professor must be feeling great
contentment living in his spacious bungalow in Aranyeshwar Colony"
i.e notice how he's embezzled all this money under the garb of education.
"Prof Yelkuntkar and our Honourable Education Minister have been friends right from their school days"
i.e now you know why he gets all those government grants he doesn't deserve.
you see, unless you are Marc Antony, you will have to prepare a lot
before your public speaking skills can match up to Puneri standards.
when it comes to Puneri language to be used in day to day life, the
standards are pretty stringent too. Let me illustrate with another
example. All over the world, the convention is that when you answer the
phone it should be with a polite "Hello?". Not in Pune.
when you answer the phone, your voice must take on that natural
irritable brusqueness that descends when someone wakes you up from an
afternoon nap, and you must yell "WHO'S THIS??". It helps to pretend
that it costs you money not just to make a call, but also to receive a
Now if the caller responds with "Err...could you please get
Mr. Gokhale to the phone?", then his non-Punekar status will be
blindingly obvious even to a child. A true Punekar will respond testily
"CALL GOKHALE TO THE PHONE".
"DAMN IT, THERE ARE 10 GOKHALES HERE. WHICH ONE DO YOU WANT?"
"GET THE GOKHALE THAT LIC PAYS TO SLEEP ON HIS JOB"
be a true Punekar, you have to have a burning pride for something. Not
just normal pride. Normal pride can be felt by anyone. It has to be
fierce burning pride. It is not necessary to feel this pride just about
major things like the life of Shivaji or Tilak. It could be something as
flippant as the rank of your lane's Ganpati statue during the Ganpati
immersion procession or even peanuts from the rural regions of Pune
district. But no matter how flippant the issue is, the pride must be
fierce and burning.
This burning pride is very helpful when you
have to make dissenting arguments. So then, on the day of Tilak's Death
Anniversary, you could tap into burning pride for Gopal Ganesh Agarkar.
On the day of a cricket test match, you could tap into burning pride for
Expressing your dissent merely in private
conversations is not enough to get you the Punekar tag. You need to
frequently write in your dissenting opinion to the 'Letters to the
editor' column. It does not even have to make sense. For instance, this
letter appeared in one of Pune's leading newspapers a few years back -
year the monsoons have been particularly fierce. The roads are in a
horrid condition and crops have been washed out. May I ask the good
people at the Meterological Department, who draw their fat salaries from
our taxes, what they are doing to stop this deluge?"
Dissent is of primary importance. Logic is secondary.
another art you need to perfect, and that too in a specialised Puneri
way, is driving a bike. Just sitting on a bike and going all around town
on it does not qualify you as a bike rider in Pune. The verb "driving"
when it comes to bikes in Pune, is used in the same sense as "driving an
axe into a block of wood" or "driving hordes towards revolution".
bike in Pune is viewed, not as a means of transport, but something to
sit on when you meet for chit-chat with a group of friends in the middle
of the road. It really helps in training new traffic policemen. It also
helps in making access to any building virtually impossible for pesky
salesmen. Managing to cluster bikes together to construct such a
barricade is as crucial as being able to extricate your own bike from
the cluster without toppling others.
Bikes should not be driven
alone in Pune. There should be at keast 3 bikes together going parallel
to each other in the middle of the road, at a leisurely speed while
talking to each other. Your eyes should not be on the road, but on the
walking-and-talking attractive scenery on the road. Having unnecessary
accoutrements like horns, mirrors, lights, indicators is a sign of
cowardice on the streets of Pune.
In this way, as you are
crossing various levels in the game "How to be a Punekar", you should
also parallely keep up efforts to beome an office bearer in some social
or cultural organisation or a Rotary Club. Holding a hollow post in a
useless organisation is central to the completeness of the Punekar's
It is also necessary to attend as many lectures,
talks and seminars as possible on topics as diverse and vacuous as
"Bajirao the Second's Handwriting" or "The Fungus on Bajra crop". And
after the lecture, it is imperative to catch hold of the speaker, and in
full view of at least half a dozen people say to him with an earnest
expression on your face "I would like to discuss this topic in more
depth with you some time."
All this preparation should be enough
to make you a normal Punekar. But if you want to operate a shop in Pune,
you need more lessons. You especially need lessons on language. Only
then will you be able to heap maximum insults on your customer in
minimum possible words. Because in Pune, the verb "operating" a shop is
used in the same sense as "operating a bull dozer" or "operating a
machine gun". The most negligible entity in a shop in Pune, is the
A shop operated in this way can realistically make
money only for 7-8 years until all the customers desert it. Once that
happens, you can sell your shop to a Sindhi or a Marwari. The price of
land must have appreciated enough to get you a hefty bank balance to
last you for the remainder of your life. And you are free to conduct
seminars and panel discussions on the topic "Why are Maharashtrians
unsuccessful in business?" in the Tilak Smarak Mandir.
up, to become a Punekar, every action of yours should be aimed at
ensuring a felicitation ceremony for you some years down the line.