A previous coworker and friend of mine, Neeraj, is from India and when he heard we were traveling there he invited us to stay with his Family in Pune (pronounced poonay or poona). Indians have a saying “guests are god” and we sure felt like this was true when we stayed with Neeraj’s parents, Preeti and Pramod.
Before I get into our experience in Pune, I want to share our first experience on a sleeper bus. Because we couldn’t find a train out of Hampi, we decided to take a sleeper bus. We were familiar with partially reclining chairs from South America and Thailand, which they called semi-sleepers here. The sleeper buses have actual beds. We ended up with an upper bed in the middle of the bus. There was a lot of rolling and bumping from the turns and various potholes or speed bumps in the road, which makes it hard to sleep. It was an experience that we didn’t want to repeat if we could avoid it. The trains are by far the better option-they are both cheaper and more comfortable.
Ok, back to Pune. When we arrived, they had family staying with them so they offered us our own apartment-Pramod’s sisters apartment who lives in Scotland but needs the apartment when she stays in India for a month or so every year. It surprised us how much we missed having additional space to go to. It actually felt like home having a living room to hang out in. They also had a washing machine, which we jumped at the opportunity to use, it’s one of the things we greatly miss from home.
But, the best part of Pune was hanging out with Preeti, Pramod and their extended family. They were so welcoming, they made us feel like we were part of the family. We were able to meet Neeraj’s Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and even his grandmother who told us “learn Hindi” so she could talk with us. We’ll have to learn next time we visit India. We had many interesting and insightful conversations with Preeti, Pramod, and their family. Preeti cooked some very tasty Indian food, a lot we haven’t tried before, and Pramod was excited to share with us all the different types of Indian sweets they had.
They took us to some very fun and interesting restaurants-one was called Grill Nation, where you grill chicken, fruit, paneer (Indian cheese), and various seafood over hot coals right at the table. It was definitely a first for us.
The second restaurant was an hour drive outside of Pune into the nearby mountains. It was an old fort that was converted into a hotel and restaurant called Fort Jadhav Gadh. The location was great and so quiet. The food was really tasty as well and we got to enjoy gulab jamun with ice cream. Which Dave and I both agree is the best dessert combination we’ve had in India. We plan to share this experience with everyone back home if we can find gulab jamun somewhere.
Pune also has some interesting places to visit. One was the Ghandi National Memorial, which is also the Aga Khan Palace where Ghandi, his wife, his secretary, and other prominent nationalist leaders were interned by the British. They were held there for two years.
We also visited the Shaniwar wada, which includes the ruins of the fortresslike palace build in 1732 and burned down in 1828. This place is huge sitting in the middle of the busy city.
We also got to meet up with another ex-coworker of mine, Ameya. He moved back to Pune India a few months ago. He took us to a “daba” which he described to us as a truck stop. The food was really good and the atmosphere was cool. The seats they have there are really wide as the truck drivers would typically take a nap after eating.
We had a really great time hanging out with Preeti and Pramod. We can only hope that they visit Neeraj again in Massachusetts and we can show the same hospitality to them that they showed us. It really was one of the best experiences we had in India. Thank you again Neeraj, Preeti, and Pramod!