Owning Shaniwaarwada

I never did like the exercises we had to do in Physical Training at school, and I thought that I was finished with them when I started college. Imagine my dismay when I learned that physical exercises were mandatory during the first year of college.

I don’t know if this was also the case in other cities, but I went to college in Poona (as it was called then), and Poona was, well, different from other cities. Mandatory meant mandatory and there was no getting out of it.

But I found out that it was possible to avoid Physical Education if we took part in the NSS- National Service Scheme activities. So a couple of my friends and I signed up for that.

For the first project we were given the job of cleaning up Shaniwaarwada. Every Sunday morning for a couple of months we had to report at the Shaniwaarwada main gate, and for the next four hours help to clean the grounds and gateway areas.

The first Sunday we started work there. We were a group of thirty/thirty-five students and we attacked the grounds with enthusiasm. We wielded brooms and cleaned the driveways. We picked up every piece of paper and the stray plastic bag ( plastic bags were not so commonly used then) that tourists had thrown on the lawns. We even washed out some graffiti that youngsters had written on the buttresses. And we left, feeling very proud of ourselves.

Next Sunday morning we reported there again. Entering the Shaniwaarwada grounds, we got a shock. There was no sign of the work we had done a week earlier. There were papers strewn on the lawns. And the stones we had lined on the side of the pavement had been kicked to the middle of the pathway.

But we were no quitters, and once again we went to work. In four hours, everything was tidy again.

This happened every Sunday for two months. After that we were told to start on another project. By that time we had all become attached to the historical Shaniwaarwada and were sad to have to move on. There were, of course Municipal employees whose job was to keep Shaniwaarwada clean. But we were convinced that no one could do it as well as we could!

I learnt a couple of lessons from that experience.

One was that garbage is perpetual! Cleaning is a process that goes on forever.

The other- If you really care for something and try to maintain it, you obtain a proprietary right to it. Maybe not a legal right, but definitely a moral one!

Even today if I a catch a glimpse of the Shaniwaarwada in a historical movie or a documentary film, I always think to myself- That’s MY Shaniwaarwada!

[Shaniwaarwada Grounds photo courtesy- Wikipedia]



  1. Manju, it looks so clean. You have got a very good memory power. I had been to Pune, not Poona (!), a couple of years back. Wherever we went, bridges were being built and so the roads were full of dust. But I know people who love that city.Yes,it is true. You did your work sincerely and so the possessiveness is natural. Interesting post, Manju.


  2. Greetings from one Punyachi “mulgi” to another . ( I can see an upright mufflerwale ajoba, shaking his head in disapproval saying this to another slightly deaf ajoba, both going to Parvati at 6 am…”Evdya ghodya zalya tari swatahla Mulgi mhantaat :-)”….)Manju I went to college in Pune too (as my folks had a transferable job), and we also had PT , but we never had the NSS option. There was only NCC. And while I enjoyed the 5:30 am freezing cycle handles, riding to the college, I do wish we had the option that you guys had, just for the community feeling it created….By the way , which college ?


  3. Sraboney- I have not been to Shaniwaarwada in many years, though I do frequently go to Pune. The grounds were beautiful when I used to go there, from what I’ve heard they are still maintained well.Sandhya- I, too, am one of those people who love Pune! As you say there has been a lot of new construction. But in the ‘old’ areas of Pune there are centuries old ‘Wadas’ which are quaint and lovely.Smitha- Yes, remembering it after so many years, I realize that it was really a unique experience.ugich konitari- I attended SP College on Tilak Road- and stayed in the Hostel on campus. And you?BTW- We enjoyed going to Parvati at dawn- if we woke up early. Definitely not in the winter!


  4. Fergusson. But my maher is very close to SP college. Vijaynagar Colony…. except when i went to college my folks didnt stay there due to the job posting, and I stayed in the Fergusson Hostel. ….Me thinks we might end up knowing lots of folks in common.


  5. you remind me of a pink building ( think gate way of india 3 times over but the height could be doubled or tripled) in bharatpur –it was standing in local market arena– i gazed it as if i have never seen something like that before –while people in countries like US take care of 100 year old structure — we have tooo much to take care of –take care of those diamonds.i like when u bring maharastra or for that matter any part of india close to my eyes .nice…nice..


  6. I can’t believe that I have lived in Pune and not seen Shanirwaarwada or even heard of it! It looks lovely.I think we all have taken to doing something to avoid doing something else at some point of time!


  7. ugich konitari- We must compare notes sometime…:)Anrosh- If we walk around in the old parts of cities like Pune it is like reviewing history. We are an old country! :)Vinodji- My aversion to doing exercises certainly worked in my favour- I had some interesting experiences while participating in NSS projects.


  8. Poona always struck me as being a tad bit cleaner and well..fresher than Bbay (my comparison). The air even felt better, or maybe it had to do with the fact that the temperature were normally lower than what I was used to. Isnt it weird how you have to claim ownership to a place even if it is a public place because you worked at it and saw it in a light that not many other visitors did. I used to feel it about my college space since I spent late hours there practicing for shows etc. and it almost becomes your second home so that when the students (visitors) come in the next morning, you almost feel like they are guests in YOUR home. I wish there was a way to educate the PEOPLE to make less of a mess, than always having a follow up (your group cleaning up). I think this mindset takes time, but having people take responsibility for what is not necessarily ‘their property’ is something that is well on its way, even if it means that it happens through strong enforcement.


  9. ssquo,if i recall correctly i had read that japanese schools have a system of asking the children to clean their classroomm etc etc — when one puts in sweat they will not litter. when do not feel civic sence of the road, bus, or train –there is a case of littering . Otherwise put fines –like they have it in the US. – in ny city they even have fines if they have not put recyclable items in the correct bag or put the garbage in the wrong place when they come to collect.big cities in india should start doing something like this – if one cannot own up civic sense, let the pocket pay.


  10. Just thought I’d let folks know that there is a sound and light show that happens at prescribed times, in English amd Marathi, at the Shaniwar wada. And its nice and interesting….You sit in the middle of it all and experience it..


  11. now I know why I like you so much 😀 coz I also dont like physical exercises and stuff :DI always dragged my feet when it came to them :Dthe compound does look really beautiful :))I will def visit it whenever I do go to Pune :)and once again I have to say great going for that work !I mean this is yet another beautiful side of you:))I too participatedin NSS :))


  12. L.V.S.- Do you mean those round gadgets that slide around the room vacuuming the floor? Would they work outside on lawns/ pathways?SSQuo- “it almost becomes your second home so that when the students (visitors) come in the next morning, you almost feel like they are guests in YOUR home.” Lol! That’s exactly how we felt!Anrosh- From what I read, the Japanese have great civic sense. I read that each home has four different garbage cans for segregating four types of garbage!


  13. ugich konitari- Thanks for the info- I’ll try to see the show next time I go to Pune.Indyeah- Nice to know that you’re a fellow ‘NSSer’.:) The funny thing is that I never minded the hard work we did there!


  14. Sounds like a super place ! This place of YOURs ! And i was in the NCC ! And i have done similar stuff too. To clean up an old palace or a monument is something of pride !


  15. Kavi- We didn’t realize it at the time, but these activities helped to instill national pride in our minds. I am sure it was similar in the NCC!


Do share your views here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s