As we drove to our next destination, Rashid gave me some background to the city of Pune. MANY years ago, the “Peshwa” rulers had the idea to divide the city into 18 administrative districts (called Peths). These districts were set up based mostly on the labors which were performed there.
The very first district was called Kasba and that was where we were heading today. This area was known for it’s Tailors, Bangle Makers, Coppersmiths and Potters….how could it get any better for me!!!
Rashid told me that he has spent many years developing relationships with the people of Kasba and that I could feel comfortable taking photos or asking questions during our walk. He only asked that I send him copies of the photos with individuals in them. He then prints the photos and gives them to the residents on his next visit.
When we alit from the Rickshaw, we walked a very short distance and met Khan Gaffoor, the last tailor in Kasba…..
Khan has worked thru many iterations of his craft, once making clothing, then motorcycle seat covers and now tote bags of different sizes and shapes. I enjoyed seeing his face light up as he talked to Rashid and, of course, I had to buy something from him!!!
A few more steps down the street and we surveyed this scene…..
Rashid asked if I knew what they were and I, amazingly, guessed correctly that they were Tandoor ovens. The heat for a Tandoor was traditionally generated by a wood or charcoal fire burning within the oven, exposing the food to live fire.
I asked if these big Tandoors would be in houses but he said that this size would probably be for institutional cooking. Interestingly the next day we had lunch in a restaurant that had one of these in the kitchen!!
and said that they were the “poor man’s” Tandoor. They take recycled storage drums, line them with rocks to help retain the heat and then add a coating of clay to finish the oven. These were done in many different sizes, using smaller and larger drums for the base.
A few steps further down the street and we came across this display…..
These are decorative “bowls” that are used during the Diwali Festival, also known as the “Festival of Lights”. Diwali is the biggest and the brightest Hindu festival in India, spiritually signifying the victory of light over darkness. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in their best outfit, light up “diyas” (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home and participate in family puja (prayers).
These “bowls” are the diya which are filled with oil and then lit to add light to the festival. The symbolism of the oil lamp is that the oil represents the negative emotions, the wick is the ego and the fire is knowledge. Thus, the light of knowledge burns up the ego, taking the negative emotions along with it.
Even though I had assured Rashid that I really wasn’t there to shop, I had to have some of these to bring home. He warned me that they would probably be pretty expensive. I enquired how much and he said at least 3 Rupees each (4.5 cents). When he asked the shop vendor, she said that they were actually 12 for 30 Rupees, so naturally I couldn’t resist a bargain and walked out with 12 of them. Well, actually Rashid walked out with them as he put them into his backpack so I wouldn’t have to carry them!!!
As we turned the corner into a much, much smaller street, Rashid told me about the Kumbhar class in India which is the oldest community and is a community of potters. We came across the vendor of water jugs and he had a LARGE stock on hand. I loved the various shapes and colors that the pots took on and would have loved to bring two or three home with me, but alas, the suitcase would never stand for it.…….
The Kasba community is unusual in that is a mixture of Hindu (about 2/3rds) and Muslim (remaining 1/3). They all get along well and share their lives with each other. Rashid said that he had asked one of the Hindu residents about how he felt about having Muslim neighbors and his answer was “if they weren’t here, who would buy my bread”!! We had a lengthy discussion about how much better the world would be if we all could develop that philosophy.
This phone is one of the few 1 Rupee pay phones still around and it actually works….
I am not even sure what a 1 Rupee coin looks like!!!
We next walked into a small building that housed a special kind of printing press that only prints lines. The pages that are printed here are used to make notebooks, notepads and anything else that requires lined paper. And, this gentleman is the keeper of the lines…..
…and then ran some additional sheets to let me see it work. You can check out the video here…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLDFp3GZ9tg
It looks like fairly monotonous work but I can imagine that it could also be a time that you could turn your brain off and let your imagination soar.
We came upon two young men standing outside their apartment and Rashid started talking with them. They asked where I was from and then invited me into their home to see their Ganesha shrine. How could I refuse!!! Many photos ensued…..
I slowly became more comfortable asking people if I could take their photo. Some would shyly smile and say no, but most would agree, although all of the women had to “fix themselves up” first!!
I found that I would get so engrossed in the culture on the ground level that I would forget to look up and see what was above me…..
It is a wonder that some of these buildings are still standing, much less inhabited.
As we walked, Rashid told me stories of the people in the area. One family has two sons who have now gone to University and are working in well-paying jobs but they have chosen to continue living in this district. Another older woman’s only daughter lives in London but the woman doesn’t want to move there because she doesn’t want to leave her neighbors. He summed it up nicely saying that the “magic” of this Peth is in the community itself!!!
We passed this contraption which reminded me of the Turkish outdoor tea pots…..
….although this one is used to boil water for baths and washing. The water is poured into the hole with the hinged cover and coals are placed in a pan directly underneath the pot (see the handle coming off to the right). The heat from the coals rises thru the “smoke stack” in the center of the pot and heats the water.
We spent some time talking with this woman….
…..who makes a living crafting and painting small ceramic figures that are used in various religious festivals (more about that later)!!
As we walked out of one of the residential areas, I got a photo of their communal laundry room…..
The one that they are standing in front of is a special one that they have been working on for a long time. They are adding singular touches to it, including “fins” and beautiful curved wheel-well covers. I asked if Rashid could send a photo to me when it was finished and they were pleased that I had taken an interest in their project!!
We now moved into a small warehouse where they were making ceramic images. They had been working on Ganeshas but have now turned their talents to making statuary for the next holiday. As you can see, the religious industry provides many jobs and money for the people of India!!
This gentleman was placing straw into plaster and then sticking it around a mold. When dried, the mold will be removed and plaster will be spread around the inside walls of the mold, making a hollow piece….
The initial outer covering is broken off leaving the statue itself. Here is one that is being removed from a plastic mold….
These particular molds are being made into stands that are used to display the god and other small statues of people, animals and things that are important to the worshipper. This is what the woman ceramic worker that I showed earlier was making.
The warehouse part still contained a few Ganeshs but many of the shelves were empty, awaiting the next round of production.
Rashid asked if I could find one thing that was on every Ganesh statue. After I had looked unsuccessfully at several statues, he suggested that it might be more expeditious if he just showed me!!! It seems that every statue has a small mouse or rat on it (look at the bottom right of the statue)…..
One of the explanations that I have found is this…..Lord Ganesha is known as the Conqueror of Obstacles. In ancient times, when agriculture was the primary mode of sustenance, rodents were one of the biggest obstacles to prosperity. Rodents would destroy standing crops, eat up stored grains and thereby result in severe losses for the common man. Lord Ganesha, in having a mouse/rat as his vehicle, is symbolically shown to have conquered this pest. (thanks again to Wikipedia!!!)
Like most of the women I photographed, they smiled and laughed while they were getting ready for the photo, but would not crack a smile when the camera was pointed at them!!!
In keeping with my propensity for finding geometric patterns, I took a photo of these tiles stacked in neat lines…..
Only after I had taken the photo did Rashid point out that there is a Ficus tree growing out of a crack between the stacks. Obviously a bird performed his ablutions here one morning!
…..and she happily showed off her wares. I questioned where the fish came from and was informed that they were shipped in from nearby Mumbai, in refrigerated cars, and then allowed to sit out in the sun until someone buys them!!
There were some fascinating fish that I had never seen before, including these with VERY large, lopsided jaws….
As you can imagine, I was extremely excited when I came upon this pile of disks with mostly geometric designs…..
These are actually stencils that are used in making some of the detailed Rangoli designs!! I started picking up a few to purchase but realized that they were laid out to dry and that some of the paint was still wet. Rashid said that we could buy some at a shop further down but I got too engrossed in what I was seeing and FORGOT to get them…I am still kicking myself!!!!
I am not exactly sure what the process is for preparing these but here are some of the smaller ones with the design stamp sitting on top of the screen.
This gentleman is the local dried fish vendor. He was sitting back, slouched against the wall and with his legs crossed in front of him when I asked for a photo. He immediately sat up and put his feet on the ground in a more formal pose….
I love the scale on the right!!
This little fish vendor DEFINITELY wanted his photo taken…..
We turned the corner to see this thrilling sight….
I LOVE street markets and this one was everything that I could have hoped for. First of all, it lived up to its name as it was actually in the middle of the street. Once the market closes up for the day, the vehicles are again allowed in.
….the freshness of the fruits…..
…..and the diversity seen in the legumes…..
But still no smile for the camera!!!
Often when we travel, there is one moment that defines the trip for you and this was it for me….I asked if I could take a photo of a woman and young girl. They agreed and I got this wonderful shot.
I had noticed that the girl had Henna tattoos on her arms and asked if she would show them to me. She extended her arms and I leaned down to take the photo, focusing mostly on the designs on her arms. As I looked past the camera I realized that she was looking up at me with the most soulful eyes and beautiful smile. I backed the camera up further and was able to get this heart stopping image…..
Her countenance will stay with me for a long time!!!
Rashid now turned to me and asked if I was feeling queasy in the heat or was I squeamish. I am sure that I looked quizzical as I answered no, but I understood when he asked if I wanted to see a meat market. The answer was a resounding YES!!!
This market is once again unusual because it is used by both Hindus and Muslims…..each works at a different end of the abattoir.
You might notice the sheep/goat head on the right step or the “Organic Waste Disposal System” (ie the cat) on the left!!!
The final photos in the market came from a group of Muslim girls. I first asked two young women and one said no but the other one seemed interested. Since I didn’t want to push, I turned and started walking away. The second young girl touched my arm and point to her group of friends, indicating that they did indeed want a photo taken……
I will leave you with their sweet smiles and continue this in a future post!!