In the old town of Pune, gray eagles circle the sky like fragments of paper ash floating on the heat over a fire. The traffic is relentless, the endless beeping and crepitating of motorbikes compete with push carts, motorized rickshaws, and city buses, each jostling, wheedling, cajoling for a space, just an inch more of space, and when they get it, they leap forward with a joyful kick of the motor. A pedestrian must put his faith in their drivers, for there are too many moving targets to watch at once, and progress is impossible if you stand petrified at the street’s edge.
Old central Pune is divided into peths, a Marathi word that describes a small neighborhood. One, the Kasba Peth, dates to the 14th century; the rest were established in the 17th to 19th centuries during Maratha and Peshwa rule. Seven are named after Marathi names for days of the week, which named the main market day in each of those peths.
Nowadays, the peths carry on their business every day, much like in many cities of south Asia. In January, it is dry and relatively cool. It’s a good time for doing a lot of walking, looking into courtyards, and gathering impressions. For a break, one can sit down in a food stall and have a small, milky, heavily sugared, spiced tea. At the end of the day, when your shoes are covered with dust, and your nostrils full of motor exhaust, you can hail a rickshaw, and as you sail past the rest of the city, you think, yes, I will certainly come back tomorrow, for there is so much more to see.