Memories of Pune Camp
My childhood was spent in typical Sadashiv Perth culture of Pune. So for an average city-dwelling person like me, Camp was like a different land of charm and covetment. Fortunately, my mother's uncles were in Army, and had long stays in the cantonment area, hence I had frequent occasions to visit this beautifully idyllic, green, clean, and quiet area and its fairy tale neighbourhood. I had a number of long stays in the pristine area of camp with my mom's uncle on Tarapore Road, Elphinstone Road. Later on, he became my father in law. I spent carefree days of being a favourite nephew to them. Rambling walks across Main Street, cycling through small but clean lanes of Dastur Meher Road, Taboot Street, Booty street, R.S.I road, were some of my early memories, of camp. Smartly dressed Anglo Indians, Parsis, and Muslim ladies in burquas, and men in their skull caps, was my first multi-ethnic exposure to the diversity of this collage of cultures. To give an information-filled tour of the area, would take away all the charm of this beautiful experience, emanating from people, aromas, places and atmosphere. Trinity of Kayani, Budhani, Huseini, and their, special goodies were the gastronomic identity of these places. Pasteur's pastries, Marzorin chicken rolls, Naaz Kheema Samosas Shrewsbury cookies, wine biscuits ( a bit eggy though) of Kayani bakery, crisp broons, and luscious Irani naans of Huseiny bakery. These were not mere names of shops, they were culinary institutions The Biryanis, of Diamond( with almost frozen beer), George, and Diamond Queen had different tastes and cooking styles. Dorabji's Salli Botti, Akuri egg, Caramel custard, Patra fish and Parsi delicacies with signature tastes. And as the luck would have it, they are more or less the same today, the outlets still surviving the onslaught of fast food culture. Even Udupi dishes at Mangal vihar on East street and Coffee House near Dorabjees tasted different. Naaz's kheema samosas have vanished, and the restaurant too(?) Sizzlers were only available at "The Place". Fresh, pork Salami, Bacon, sausages, were available at Sunnydale's And Doabjee's departmental store. It was not the time of cloned, chicken sausages, and Salami. Can we forget our own camp made soda, and lemonade of Framjee, All school parties would have India Ice Cream or Joy Ice cream at their yearly socials. Gracewell wines ( diagonally opposite to R.S.I.)and Dorabjees were main outlets for Alcoholic spirits Main Street, was lined up with, shops like Indo Foreign, Poona cheap Stores, Fazal's, D.Philips Mona food ( first of fast food restaurant ?), Boocha's Needlewoman, Raymond's, Zodiac. There was no fashion Street, but ladies' footwear shopping would not end without visiting Rangers, Regal. Music mart was all in one western music instrument shop on East Street Second hand, but antique furniture was available at Harrison's. It was an awesome place to buy some, typical old period-furniture, Anglo Indian and Parsee style. On East street were some elite eating places like Three Coins, Latiff's, Quality. The shroffs (goldsmiths) of rich and famous were Vittul Shamsett ( Vithal Shamsheth Dahiwadkar) There display showroom donned more of silverware, and only prospective and regular, rich were escorted into Gold and Precious stones department. They were also famous for making Competition shields and Trophies Some Chinese presence was seen in restaurants like Chung Fa, Kamlings, and hairdressing at Hong Kong's on East Street. There was one Chinese shoe shop in front of Cantonment garden, near Castellino's ( Hugh's?) Renowned Jesuit schools, like, Vincent's, St. Anne's ( Convent of Jesus and Mary) had impressive and large campuses, and smartly dressed students, Protestant schools were little away from the main camp area, Their impressive and large and old period buildings of St.Mary's, and Bishops, were-impressive amongst convents. School sisters, and fathers, were seen scurrying through campuses. And convents still had mother superiors in charge of school affairs. Moral science for non-Christians and catechism for Christians was available as a choice between the two. Dastoor's was mainly enrolled with mostly non-Christian student crowd. Theatres were spacious and wide spread, West End ( more popular for its soda fountains in canteen) Capitol on the East Street, and Empire near Nanking Cafe. Synagogue with the tomb of David Sassoon is an impressive structure, and Jewish place of worship; more popularly known as "Lal Deval." For Hindus big Hanuman temple, and Ram Mandir, on the other side of Main Street Parallel to Main Street was revered shrine of Hazrat Baba Jaan. Though actually it was a lady called bibi jaan ( Gul rukh was her name and she came from Persia, as the legend goes). Her direct disciple was Meher Baba (Sheheriyar Irani). He used to stay in one of the typical houses near Taboot Street(?) Parsi agyari out of bounds for non-Parsis was close to Cantonment Garden ( where today's famous Garden vada pav center is bustling) Chat wala near Hanuman mandir was very famous for his pani puris ,Ragada pattice, and Mona Food for its Chole Bhature. Bhav Nagari and Karachi sweets were for excellent quality sweets and savouries like veg. Samosas and Sev. On the other end of Main Street you would have, period architecture building of “Nussserwanji,” and bang opposite was Chandan stores In this area, there were some Muslim cobblers who would make handcrafted shoes. More popular were Chelsea boots, and ankle-length boots with side zippers - More for young Army officers for their R.S.I. Jaunts. There were clothiers for Army - like Makati's and one near George restaurant, whose name I don't recollect ( Lords?). Naidu Men's Tailors was famous for bespoke clothing, especially amongst the younger generation
Between more presentable areas were some areas in Taboot Street and Booti Street, which were cluttered but with clean lanes connecting to Main Street. The architecture is rather typical, but fairly clean area. My unstructured, rambling account of my memories, is turning gradually to more factual, and geographical. Hinterside housed the huge Shivaji market- which had huge meat, poultry, and fish markets within. Vegetables looked fresh and glistening, tomatoes polished, cucumbers speckless.
Today you also get exotic veggies like iceberg lettuce, galangal, thyme, basil, courgettes, etc. On the opposite side was Convent Street with Roman Catholic Jesuit run schools like, St.Vincent’s, St. Anne's. There were some special and honourable mentions like Manny's book Stores, Edward public liabrary opposite Kayani's,
Budhani's sprawling complex of savouries, and crispies. And also small vendor outside Pastures who sells exotic herbs and fruits like, litchis, gooseberries, water chestnuts, anisette pods, etc. You can’t forget to mention Furtado’s shop on Sachapeer street selling Christmas decorations, Santa caps, masks, Christmas Trees, etc. The list is unending. Finally, Camp is an experience to be had, a potpourri of culture, cuisine, aromas, and ambience to be devoured and savoured on. The nostalgia that covers your memory spectrum is far more important than uncovered areas in my ramblings. I am trying to get some stock photos (not shot by me) of these places to make this recounting more connected Since I wasn't the resident of the area, there is a margin for errors. The whole content sheerly comes from my memory and love for camp.