Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meeting a World Record Holder On Parvati Hill - In Pune

It has been almost twenty years since I stepped into Pune. Despite going around the city and skirting one of its most famous landmarks and tourist spots, the Parvati Hill, I never actually visited it. It can be seen from almost any place in Pune, this small hill with a temple at its top and everyone in Pune has fond memories of climbing the historic hill when they were young. Finally the other day I proposed  a visit to Milind, who has been one of my major source and guide to many of the places I visited in and around Pine, and he agreed instantly. His only condition - that we set out early at 530 in the morning so we avoid the summer crowds that throng the popular spot.

So at 0530 today we set off in the car, Anjali, Shobha and all, turned towards Nilayam theatre and went past it over a flyover. At the other end was a chowk where we parked the car and one can see the steps going up the Parvati hill. Even at 0600 hours there was a considerable crowd climbing up, coming down, running and jogging up and down the hill. the steps are quite broad and steep as you realise after a few minutes of walking. But there are not too many, 103 steps, and plenty of places to rest. It is quite clearly used by most people there, maybe almost 70% of the early morning population for exercise. One elderly, sprightly gentleman who was coming down the hill homed on Anjali with a loud Jai Shri Ram and after a pat on her head, a handshake and a candy for her, showed Milind a piece of paper. He was Dr. Panse, a Guinness Book of World records holder who had climbed the Parvati 25,000 times! 'Keep coming and get the little one, this is the best tonic for good health,' he said. He should know - he was certainly more healthy than most of the youngsters at th hill.

As in all places outdoors in Pune, there was an amazing number of elderly people walking up and down vigorously. As we went up to the top of the hill we found many young and old exercising, from surya namaskars to warming up exercises, meditating, praying to the rising sun god. We walked up to the new temple that is being built, a fine structure, that is almost done or maybe redone, walked past the Peshwa museum and the Kartika Swany temple where apparently women are allowed only on one day in the year. The Parvati temple was open and it had a lovely mandir with the silver idol of Goddess Parvati and a Shiva linga. We looked at the city below us, enjoyed the panaromic view, the sunrise, the bird calls and returned.
Parvati temple

Anjali was confused a bit after we climbed the hill. 'Where is the hill?,' she asked. 'I want to see the hill'. It took us some convincing that we were already at the top of the hill.
Climbing down the steps with Anjali

One of the most interesting things I noticed today, something I never ever experienced in all my life, was how all the elders came to Anjali almost as if they were seeking her. Most carried some candy, chocolate, sugar to give her. They sought her out, shook her hand, blessed her, joked with her and told her to come and climb the Parvati everyday. Some like Dr. Panse had a few words with her, some called out to her from their perches and blessed her from afar, some followed her as she went hither tither. She was in good form and waved at everyone of them. It appeared that it was probably their way of encouraging young ones to take up climbing the Parvati, a tradition that began God knows when, to carry some sweet and entice the young ones. But it was wonderful to see their warmth and energy for the young, and to one another as they joked and greeted each other. It was so infectious that even we had to smile!         


Rajendra said...

it's indeed funny and good, that lots of old people in Pune walk regularly. Bill Bryson would be pleased.

Harimohan said...

And they seem to be enjoying it unlike in most other places where everyone walks with glum morning faces.