Over dumplings, delicacies and much reminiscing, four Pune women bring SONAM SAVLANI up to speed on the evolving face of their city
Faster than you could say , Pune has gone from a sleepy town to a buzzing city. One sunny afternoon, over lunch at Ista hotelEast – Asian restaurant Baan Tao, four women whoVe watched it transform tell us what has changed and what never will.
It wasnalways like this. Just 11 years ago, when Michelle Poonawalla of Poonawalla Group moved here, the pace was fairly languid. were just two hotels and one [designer! store,”she explains. we would travel quite a bit, go to Bombay often. So it wasnsuch a shock.”
That was also the year fashion buyer Rasika Wakalkar launched Punefirst multi designer boutique, Rudraksh. advised me against it,”Wakalkar recalls, as the Vietnamese spring rolls are served. actually wanted to do it about 10 years before I finally did, and in that time Kimaya and Aza opened in Bombay. I thought, canwe have something like this in Pune if so many people are willing to travel to Bombay to shop?”’
As a steaming batch of crystal chive dumplings and har gau is brought in, Aparna Firodia, wife of industrialist Ajinkya Firodia and a long-time Pune resident, explains what makes her confident about the new face of her city. "Earlier, there were more senior citizens and students. Now youseeing younger people with spending power.”International luxury brands have moved in and stores no longer shut every afternoon.
A second helping of Baan Taodim sum fuels the conversation. Gauri Naiknavare, a director at real estate giant Naiknavare Developers, observes that the fast - growing city is commanding the worldattention: seeing developers and architects from other cities and even overseas taking a keen interest in Pune projects.”Poonawalla concurs. at Philippe Starck and Donald Trump,”she says, referring to new luxury constructions.
But over the main course —pork spare ribs, wok - fried chicken and other Eastern favourites —the ladies point out that not everything has changed. Pune is still far from a hurried metropolis. think I like being here because it allows me to travel [to busier cities],”Wakalkar reflects. Firodia completes her thought: you can still come back to your pace here.”
As happy as the women are with their city s rapid rise, they still appreciate the many charms that Pune hasnlost. Marathi theatre scene is definitely vibrant,”says Firodia. long walks and weekend treks are woven neatly into our lifestyle —moonlit treks in particular are beautiful,”she adds.
By the time dessert is served —green tea creme brulee —one thing becomes obvious: Pune, a city that dates back 700 years, is looking very confidently into the future.
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