During the first three weeks of August, I rarely ventured beyond the neighborhood around RIMYI. In the past week, I’ve gone shopping and sightseeing with Nana, a favored rickshaw driver who became my informal tour guide, insider source, and translator. Going around Pune, I noticed a few things (including this orange billboard featuring Mr Iyengar).
1. Large chain stores come with a price
Large-scale retailers, such as The Bombay Company, are spacious, clean, and luxuriously air conditioned. Bear in mind, however, that you might pay higher prices and you cannot return or exchange purchases. (At Fabindia I was surprised that I couldn’t exchange a stole purchased the day before. Nana, after hearing my story, led us back inside and made a case for me in his gentlemanly way. The manager finally allowed an exchange: same item, different color.)
2. Shop around
In India, makeshift buildings might contain great little shops. In Koregaon Park, we stopped at a trio of hole-in-the-wall shops with a vast selection of silver jewelry (Happy Heart), genuine pashmina shawls (Kashmir Dowry), and handmade silk clothing (I don’t know the name). The pashmina proprietor, Soba, from Kashmir, carries an endless selection of handwoven 100% pashmina shawls and also collectible pieces like kani shawls, which take several months to weave.
As a shopper, I’m picky and indecisive–a vexing combination. I also prefer shopping anonymously, without too much help from salespeople. So the attention given by small-scale proprietors is somewhat stressful. But these three proprietors, at least, were not blatantly high pressure and I ended up buying a few things because I really liked them.
3. Chai is stronger than I thought
On my outings with Nana, he’d stop for chai–not only for himself, but for both of us. I typically take my tea plain (no milk, no sugar), but enjoyed the sweet-spicy-milky-gingery shot. Unfortunately I found out the hard way that drinking it past noon leads to insomnia that night.
4. There’s a Japanese garden in town
Who knew? The Pune Okayama Friendship Garden is a tranquil green space, visited by exercisers and young couples walking hand in hand. In Pune, you can buy peace and quiet at the Marriott spa, but here’s a mini oasis that’s outside and free of charge.
5. RIMYI has a polar opposite, the Osho retreat
In Koregaon Park, we took a spin through the sprawling Osho retreat, which could pass as a high-end resort. Westerners come, buy monkish robes to wear, enjoy tropical gardens and creature comforts. “This is the opposite of the Iyengar institute!” Nana said, and I had to agree.
6. Parvati Hill is great scenic lookout
Going up (and down) Parvati Hill‘s 103 stone steps is worth the effort, with a collection of temples and a fort overlooking the city. My favorite spot is the Peshwa Museum (10 rupees), a quiet space filled with antiquities. (The stray dogs here and everywhere are remarkably well-tempered. This sweet little one guarded the museum entrance.)
7. Festivals can happen any time, any place
One night, I was bombarded with loud music from a neighboring community celebrating Krishna’s birthday. One day, Nana and I had to pause for
a procession in honor of Shiva.
8. The Toyota traffic circle is a familiar landmark
9. Don’t be afraid of color!
I was never bored riding around. I was mesmerized by the freewheeling use of color by women. Sometimes their outfits were perfectly matched; other times, in casual ensembles, they have no qualms about combining colors and prints that should clash, but instead look striking!
Inspired to venture beyond my black and grey palette, I found myself at a loss: what are “my colors”? Maybe I need color analysis before my next trip to India.
10. Make every day a great day
“I try to make every day a great day,” Nana said as he drove. “If every day is great, you’ll have a great week. With many great weeks, you’ll have a great month. And then a great year.”
And then, yes, a great life.