Pune’s pleasant winter months are a time for the outdoors and the best time to hold melas, festivals, both cultural and the other variety. What a time it’s been this year, with several additions to the regulars. The additions have been welcomed, a sure sign that the city is changing and the changes have been loved.
The season starts off in early December, with the prestigious Sawai Gandharv utsav (festival), where established as well as upcoming artistes, vocalists and instrumentalists as well as classical dancers, perform. This decades-old festival has a faithful fan following, including non resident Indians whose annual pilgrimage to India is dictated by the dates of this fest. The festival has been the launch pad for many noteworthy artistes even after its timings and location have changed, in keeping with noise pollution control norms, which the organisers adopted without anyone pushing them.
Then, mid-December, there’s the Pune Wine Festival, now six years old and developing something of a fan following both among the visitors and the participants.
Pune’s festivals are eclectic: there’s something for everyone and no one should feel left out. So, there’s the Bhimthadi jatra, a folksy kind of fair where village or rural fare is on display. Begun by the Agricultural Development Trust, Baramati, a brainchild of Rajendra Pawar, its chairman and his wife Sunanda Pawar, it has been holding the fair regularly in Pune, the closest major urban centre, since 2006. Its aim is to take women’ self help groups beyond the usual papad-pickle products (an overcrowded market) and provide a market for such innovative products.
This year, the jatra (village fair) attracted its highest ever numbers, with over 18,000 visitors indicating that there is a market for rural artefacts, Rajendra Pawar, chairman of the Trust, said.
“There is a great demand for traditional household products, not handicrafts but the edible stuff. Regional tastes are catered to by these homemade products. We found women want to participate on their own and they have begun to share stalls, to keep costs down,” Pawar said.
That’s as far as the demand for things rural goes. There was also an Urban Mela, which says it all. Only this was a one-off event, part of the celebrations of 60 years of Indo-German diplomatic relations. This five-city event, which did the Mumbai-Bangalore-Delhi-Chennai circuit, wound up its celebrations in Pune, a city which has the most German companies. It was also the city which attracted the maximum number of visitors, 150,000 over the 10 day fair. The Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, which was the local organising partner, was clear that this was not about business.
There were stalls by German companies and stalls for education, which in Pune drew significant numbers but as visitor Chetan Anil noted, “The best thing about the fair was the bus service laid on from the parking lot to the venue! These were electric buses which ferried people from the parking lot to the fair ground and ran with, well, German efficiency!”
Next on the city’s calendar is an unusual fair. The Pune Municipal Corporation, recognising the potential of Valentine’s Day (14 February), is holding a fair, coinciding with its Foundation Day. The city will celebrate Valentine’s Day, its circular says, as “My City My Valentine”, the idea being that despite citizen’s anger and complaints, it is still a city they live in, and hopefully love. So, what better way than to celebrate that day, Susan Raj, a citizen activist says.
So, there will be a rally, on 14 February, followed by environment-related events over the next two-three days. These programmes will be held the next weekend, to show ways to convert “waste into wealth: plastic to diesel, biomas to biofuel, bio mass to fertiliser and rebirth of various other items... God’s entire creation is recyclable, we are made in God’s image, thus we must copy God when we also create anything in our factories,” Susan Raj noted.
Winter is a time for celebrating and festivals help no end! When winter is mild, as it is in Pune, then festivals and celebrations are mandatory.