Pune – The Oxford of the East

This city lacks nothing. Pune called Poona till 1978, is supposedly the second largest city in Maharashtra but known the world over as the “Oxford of the East,” a title Pune wears till date with a lot of pride. This pride is an integral part of the culture, people, and their attitude.

This city was also called as the pensioners paradise, the only reason being that the life here is very relaxed, you will not see people rushing, they have their own pace and timing and if you want to survive here you need to get used to it. But wait…please do not get it wrong. This city has made its mark globally and was given the name Oxford of the East by our very own first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. His love for Pune has a very interesting story, many of you may be aware but I would like to share it.

There was a massive flood in the year 1961 and when Jawaharlal Nehru visited the city after the flood, he insisted to visit his favourite bookstore which was badly affected due to floods. The International Book Service was established on January 1, 1931 and was possibly one of Nehru’s favourite bookstores. In his letters to his daughter he wrote, “I have sent you names of books, mostly new some are old, which I wanted you to purchase for me. But you could not get them at usual booksellers. You might keep a list of those books with you in case they are now available. In particular, I want you to note down the name of a good bookshop in Poona which often keeps books which cannot be obtained elsewhere – The International Book Depot Deccan Gymkhana, Poona”.

Such was the level of the literature or the readership that was existing in Pune, due to which there are numerous bookstores in this city. Pune has always managed to keep its culture rich due to its historical events but also has been an educational ground for great institutions like Fergusson College, Deccan College to name a few where our great leaders have taken lessons. The city takes pride of the great student community that has made its presence felt not only in the corridors of these great institutes but also in the world that has recognised their work.

Pune is also known as Punyanagari, means City of Virtue. As per the name the city depicts high moral standards with its rich history which goes back to pre-historic times where manuscripts were found on the banks of the rivers Mula Mutha. The first girls’ school of India was started in Pune at Bhide Wada on January 1, 1848. This was a very modern and courageous move made by Savitribai Phule along with her friend Fatima Begum.

In days where women were not even allowed to step out of the house, Savitribai Phule had made this dream come to a reality though it was a very difficult task, and a lot of hardships were faced. As she was the first head mistress of a school on record and while she was dreaming in the day to educate women, she faced a lot of harassment from the people as they would throw stones and dirt at her when she walked to school every day. It was a very progressive school as subjects like Math and Science were also taught along with reading and writing. Today we have our new NEP and we have so many schemes running for the benefit of the underprivileged students but she had thought about it more than 170 years back when she tried to give some stipend to students for the work they did so that she could control the dropout rate of the students, she also provided them with meals in the afternoon. Also taught skills so that students could learn a skill like painting, sculpture stitching etc to earn a living. Conducted parent teacher meetings to spread the awareness of education among parents and how their role was important in educating their child.

Pune University, which was established in 1949, was renamed as Savitribai Phule Pune University in August 2014 to pay tribute to the tremendous efforts taken by this social reformer in the field of education and thinking ahead of time and contributing to put Pune on a global map for education excellence.

Today Pune is a well-known educational Hub, as it has a variety of educational courses to offer from every field, be it science, engineering, medical, art, theatre, film making, astronomy and astrophysics to name a few.

Pune is an attraction for students not only from India but world over due to its perfect blend of modernization and culture. It has a good green coverage with good geographical splendour.

Pune city is a part of our soul, it is difficult to describe the greatness of this city, but I believe to understand it better you need to be a part of it with heart and soul.

About the Author

Dr Rupali Dhamdhere, is the Principal of Trinity International School, Pune. She has also been an education coordinator. She has written in a number of publications on a myriad of issues relating to education.

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