Today Amey, Kedar, Alok, and Roy took me out to see some of the touristy sights around Pune. Anupam was telling me that India does a pretty poor job of advertising and maintaining its historical attractions, which was reflected in the fact that we only saw maybe 3 other westerners the entire day.
Early in our trip, as we passed through parts of downtown Pune, I saw one of the electronic pollution meters on a street corner, although we were past it before I could take a photograph. I will summarize it for you:
Max. respirable: 50
Max. measured: 210
So if you notice some unfortunate reflections caused by my taking pictures through a closed car window, now you know why. Even the tiny rickshaws sometimes emit huge clouds of grey or black smoke, and on my brief drive to the office during rush hour, the air is choking, dense, and in places somewhat opaque. I’m not talking about the black smoke that some trucks in the US emit from their pipes 15 feet in the air, I’m talking about every vehicle on the road doing it at ground level. I can’t wait for us to start rolling back the Clean Air Act, let me tell you.
We drove to Lonavala, a small city between here and Mumbai, to have a traditional breakfast and to purchase an Indian candy called chikki. Pune is on a plateau, and our travel route was surrounded by the Western Ghat mountains. During the rainy season these would be all green. I’ll have to go back some day to take decent pictures with the sun at my back, but for now we’ll all have to settled for those washed out craps.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Indian trucks have a wide assortment of decoration and signage. Whereas in the West most commercial trucks would have precise, machine-painted lettering or decals, almost all of the trucks that I’ve seen here have been hand-painted. This truck is about average, and it ranges from just a couple of words to somewhat more ornate.
Buses are apparently a major mode of transportation within India, and almost all of them look like they’re about ready to fall apart. Buses and trucks are just as reckless as everyone else, as demonstrated by the fact that we saw one overturned and one completely burned-out husk of a truck by the side of the road just on our drive back from Lonavala.
Safely back in Pune we visited a Shivaji-era temple built on a large hill in the northwest region of the city.. No photographs may be taken inside the temple, but the entire city is visible from up top.
Random photographs: of Newton in the courtyard of Pune University’s physics department. Its status as a major religious symbol in India leads the swastika to be used to market a number of products.
Lookit the donkeys! This brings the animal-sighting list to cows, roosters, donkeys, pigs, buffalo, dogs, chickens, oxen, goats, and camels. Sorry Deb, no monkeys, but there was the annual monkey festival yesterday in a small city in Thailand, where the residents put out thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables for the thousands of local monkeys to feast upon. The news report showed one little monkey drinking from a can of Coke; it was, to be honest, the cutest thing on this entire planet.
From the temple we ventured a fair ways out of the city to a mountaintop fort that is some 400 years old. In a prime example of Indian historical attractions not well preserved, those few walls, a few arches, and this ammunition depot are almost all that remain. A few snack vendors, and the hastily thrown up shacks that shelter them, have cropped up to serve those that do manage to discover the place.
It’s not merely a tourist attraction, however; Pune residents are apparently rather fond of taking their Sundays to hike from the base of the hill to the fort. We drove most of the way, having quite an agenda to cover, and skipped straight to the stone stairway that leads to all I’ve described.
From the top you are rewarded with amazing views, both of the city of Pune as well as the surrounding peaks. The pollution basically ruined the photographs, but the magic of the Gimp brought them back from near uselessness.
On our way back into the city I took notice of a few sights that seem particularly adorable, such as all of the small children waving their little cricket bats around (India lost the final match of the series fairly spectacularly, despite the outpouring of miniature support). Not long thereafter we were waylaid by a herd of buffalo that appeared to have no owner, as they were wandering more or less aimlessly down the middle of the street.