Rachel in India

Rachel, a 2006 SMU graduate in History and Indian Studies, is working on her PhD in South Asian History at Boston College. This summer she’s returning to Pune, India, through the American Institute for Indian Studies for the second summer of a language intensive in Marathi.

Now We’re Cookin’

After three weeks of Marathi, it was time to step into the kitchen and test my language and culinary skills. The lady who cooks lunch for us every day, Mayatai, let me join her in the kitchen for the afternoon. Not only did I get to learn how to make an Indian dish, Kechari, it was a test of my ability to speak Marathi.

I have found the full submersion language-learning approach very useful, and every day I find that I am able to speak more and more Marathi. And after three weeks, I find myself using Marathi most of the time. Of course it’s sprinkled with Hindi and English, but it’s all part of the language learning process.

So when it was time to eat, I was quite pleased that not only had I cooked Indian food (with a significant amount of help), but that I had really begun to put my Marathi to good use. So, I guess it’s fair to say that “now we’re cookin’!”

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Pune: A Historian’s City

This first weekend in Pune, I spent exploring only three of the many sites of historical and religious significance that Pune has to offer. First we went to Shaniwarwada, built by Peshwa Thorla Bajirao I in 1730. It served as the political center of the eight peshwas who succeeded him. Shaniwar means

View of Pune
View of Ganesh

Saturday in both Marathi and Hindi, and a Wada is a type of house or mansion that is peculiar to Maharashtra, but its most striking feature is the courtyard at the center. Shaniwarwada’s courtyard is a garden filled with fountains. At many tourist spots throughout India there are two prices for admission, one for Indian nationals and the other for foreigner, and my blonde hair quickly gives me away. At Shaniwarwada the price for Indians is 10 Rupees while the foreigner price is 100 rupees. However, after getting more information, we found out that in the evening it is only 25 rupees, there is a light and sound show, and the fountains are running. The logical thing to do then was look at the outside of Shaniwarwada and return at a later date. So you will certainly see pictures in the future of the inside of Shaniwarwada.

Following Shaniwarwada, we went to a Ganesh, or Ganapati as he is frequently called in Maharashtra, temple that is surrounded by a beautiful garden. Ganapati is the god that has an elephant head and is the remover of obstacles amongst other things. The garden surrounding this temple was an oasis of fauna and flora in the midst of one of the most polluted cities in India. It was refreshing to walk along the well-paved sidewalks without the concern of getting hit by a rickshaw or motorbike. The temple is actually a fairly new construction, but it certainly bids a visit.

Finally we made the two-kilometer hike up to the Parvati Mandir (or temple). This temple was built by Nanasaheb Peshwa in 1749 and is a complex of smaller temples, a museum, and a garden. While the walk up the hill in the mid-day heat was daunting, it was well worth the sweat to see the incredible view that it offers of Pune and the Deccan, not to mention the refreshing breeze that flowed throughout the complex. The temple complexes throughout were simple, but the architecture told of an earlier time when Pesh was ruled Maharashtra and built such great monuments to attest to their power and wealth. I’ve come to find that Pune reallyz is a historian’s city, a place where history abounds and the past is intricately woven into the fibers of the present.

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