Chapter 1 – Enroute Pune
Covid is the ultimate supervillain. Along with the physical torture it caused to people, it caused mental torture to people it didn’t even infect. This mental annoyance made me take up decisions that are so high up in the “Dumb Meter”, I qualify myself as the scriptwriter for the next Dumb and Dumber movie.
While the virus was going around singing “Time of my life” in Kerala, I was stuck inside a room banging my head against a wall due to boredom. The word “Quarantine” had become my archnemesis.
One time, I left my house to buy a packet of chips. The shopkeeper got the virus sometime later, “Quarantine!”
7 boring days later, I carefully left my house for some fresh air. I was approached by my new neighbour who wanted directions. Few days later she got covid, and for some reason the 10 seconds I spent talking to her was all I needed to go into QUARANTINE!
Another 7 days passed. By now I had memorised how many floor tiles my room had, every single dust particle on my ceiling fan, and made friends with a lizard. There is nothing that I wouldn’t give to be that lizard right now.
Funny thing was, I didn’t have the confidence to step outside my house again. The words “Quarantine, Quarantine, Quarantine” were playing on a loop in my head. I couldn’t handle another 7 days. I also didn’t want to put my family at risk. That’s when the very rusty light bulb inside my head went off, I had a wonderful idea, “Why don’t I just leave Kerala?”
I dashed to my laptop, looked up states in India that had very few covid cases and started my research. Just a few minutes in, I found my paradise… Pune.
Chapter 2 – Covid Who?
Fast forward a few days, I got on a flight headed to Pune. The moment I stepped outside the airport, I was surprised. It was like I had gone back in time, very few people were wearing masks, following guidelines, or even had this “I’m living in a Stephen King movie” look on their faces. Even before I could take in everything, I was approached by an Autowala. I knew he was already set on draining me of all of my life savings. How do these guys sniff out tourists? Guess the “Straight Outta Kerala” T-Shirt I was wearing didn’t help.
The autowala approached me and said, “Sir 500 Rs.”
“What 500 Rs?”
“500 Rs to go there sir”
“Macha I didn’t even tell you where I wanted to go and you’re asking me for 500 Rs”
“Sir, you want to go somewhere, no? There I’ll take you for 500 Rs.”
“What if the place I want to go to is here?”
“Sir, here I’ll take you for 300 Rs. But I’ll take you there for 500 Rs”
I didn’t have any clue what I was talking about and I’m pretty sure nor did he. After almost 10 minutes of useless quarrelling, I ended up walking to my flat. But this was only after the autowala had some very interesting things to say about my family in Hindi for wasting his time. Jokes on him, I don’t know Hindi.
Coming from Kerala, the way people of Pune treated Covid was a shock to me. They didn’t care about the virus. This was what I wanted, but for some reason I was scared. I will give credit where credit is due, Pune had an astonishing percentage of people who had been fully vaccinated. They used this as the reason for their carefree life. I, too, was fully vaccinated and was slowly pulled into this lifestyle.
People who are originally from Pune only contribute to a very small percentage of the population, the rest of it is filled up by people all over from the country making the city a hub of all cultures. The food, the lifestyle, the people, the only term I can classify as Pune is – “jack of all trades”. Pune for me is a mix of the best bits of India.
Around 7 pm, food carts and food trucks set up shop along the streets. Street food is a huge hit in Pune, it’s super affordable, it’s super tasty, and it’s the right amount of unhealthy to give you that “guilty pleasure” feeling. A sort of food alarm goes off at 7 pm because the streets of Pune start to fill up with the aroma of delicious street food. It’s like those scenes in cartoons where the delicious scent of food floats you away from your room. How much I tried to resist the 7 pm food alarm, but I failed every single time.
I would suggest knowing a bit of Hindi or Marathi if you want to take in Pune to the fullest. I did not know both and that did cause some hurdles. I used to watch a lot of Doraemon so I know the show’s entire theme song. If I am ever in a situation where Hindi is absolutely necessary, I start singing the Doraemon song, let’s just say it hasn’t been that useful.
Pune doesn’t just excel when it comes to food, in terms of scenery, a lot of places in Pune look like it came out of a Windows wallpaper. The highways and the scenery surrounding the roads are a traveler’s dream. If you want scenery you got it, if you want sprawling cities and concrete jungles, you got it as well. If you want to go to Starbucks and drink horrible coffee that costs half your monthly salary… just don’t man, just don’t.
Chapter 3 – Pune and Me
The apartment society I was living in Viman Nagar had another surprise up its sleeve, a huge chunk of the people living here love Mixed Martial Arts! This was happy news for me as I am a huge MMA fan. These guys are so fond of MMA that they host practise fights between residents every weekend.
With this newfound common interest, I made myself a ton of friends in this new frontier … which down the line I realized was a huge mistake. Why? I’ll get to that.
I like watching other people fight, but this doesn’t mean that I want to fight or that I know how to fight. Well, the people in my apartment like to do both. In case you don’t know, MMA involves 2 people fighting against each other inside a cage with techniques taken from a ton of other sports.
A series of events took place and my newfound friends somehow convinced me to take part in a practice match. You have to understand, the only fight I ever got into was with my brother over who got the bigger piece of chicken. That fight ended with me crying and going to my mother. If this fight ends up in the same way, there’s no way I’m making it back to my mother who’s back in Kerala.
I could’ve said no to the fight, but I didn’t want to. I’m very new to this place and I don’t want to seem like a coward. I was mistakenly assured by the fact that I have seen a fair share of MMA fights so I should know a fair amount of skills and techniques that can help me win … but man! I was so wrong!
Thankfully they were aware of my very weak physique and set me up with the most novice fighter. I’ll be honest, just the week before that, I was watching this guy fight and was making comments about his skill level not being polished enough. Karma never ceases to amaze me.
I got into the ring, the match started, and the opponent punched me in the face. The next minute and thirty seconds after the punch was a very bizarre set of events. First I felt the pain, it was like I was being hit by 3 trucks at once. After the pain, I saw Jesus. We talked for a few minutes, joked around, and debated politics. He’s a cool guy. Then I remember opening my eyes, I saw that a ton of people were surrounding me. It did take me a moment to figure out if I was in heaven. Then I thought with the things I’ve done, there is no way I’m getting into heaven.
I don’t want to get into why I am banned from heaven, going into detail about that would mean that the FBI will surely come for me.
When I was brought back to speed, I realised that I was knocked out by that punch. It was the fastest loss these guys have ever seen. I was afraid I would seem embarrassed if I didn’t participate, but I ended up embarrassing myself even more by participating.
At the end of the day, Pune is a breath of fresh air, especially with whatever is happening around the world right now. Pune has its downs, but the ups are so much higher. I’ve been so much happier, I’ve felt more alive ever since I came here.
Plus, I got to meet Jesus.