When I was a child, my grand parents had a group of friends who were proudly known as their "Tekdi Mandal". These were about 4 couples who would religiously climb the Vetal Tekdi each morning, which had it's foothill in the campus of Fergusson college. They were amongst a hundred others who had made this their regular practice over the years. Pune as a city is blessed with centrally located, blissfully green and clean and absolutely safe to climb hills. I remember accompanying my grand parents on weekends for their morning walk to the hill where they would introduce me to an array of different trees, shrubs, and flowers. There would be clearly audible sounds of the various birds and the best way to enjoy those was to maintain silence and keep our eyes closed. Not to forget, colourful insects, reptiles and all things that were the gift of Mother Nature. The highlight of the morning of course would be ringing the bell at the Maruti mandir atop the hill and a treat of steaming idlis at Vaishali or Roopali on the way back home.
Until a decade ago, jogging on open grounds, playing an outdoor sport, climbing up the hills etc were the most preferred forms of work out for punekars. 'Running up the hill' became my regular way of work out too as I grew up and it did wonders to my stamina, fitness and wellness. However as the millennium bug hit the country, the trend of joining a gymnasium started picking up. That sounded more hep and happening. Slowly the fresh air runners turned into treadmill runners and people started lifting weights instead of rackets.
Pune, however didn't completely succumb to this trend. We still see faithfulness in many punekars who worship nature and prefer climbing up the hills to keep themselves fit. It wouldn't be unfair to say that if a Punekar hasn't climbed one of the hills in Pune, he hasn't yet lived Pune completely.
Many a times I feel that school and college students should make it at least a once in a week activity to go up the hills and take a look at our beautiful but rapidly changing city. The sky line has undoubtedly changed and so has the density of greenery but it would be safe to say the view and the breeze will fill one's heart with positivity.
The hills of Parvati and Chatushrungi are often climbed by devotees and are the pride of this city. The faith people have put in them makes it easier to maintain them. The Vetal Tekdi, also known as the Hanuman Tekdi, however is the most popular amongst morning and evening walkers. It can be climbed from the Fergusson College campus or the lane next to ILS Law College Campus and connects to a couple of other small tekdis in the vicinity, giving it the feel of a nature trail. Another half day adventure would be climbing the fort of Sinhagad. It would take a normal fit person an hour and a half to climb as it is quite steep and is a bit of a challenge. There might be thousands who drive up to the fort through the ghat, but the real pleasure is to explore it right from it's foothills.
Such is the versatility of our city. As easily as we punekars adapt to something new, our heart still holds on to our roots and the gift of nature to us, along with our rich heritage.
About the author
This Sonia Gandhi is not the resident of 10, Janpath, but a True Blue Punekar who returned to the city after spending a few years in the UK and South Mumbai. She writes on everything which may include your typical dose of Page Three, too.