A walk down memory lane

The area encompassing Prabhag 36 – Deccan Gymkhana, is today one of the central points of Pune city. However, not too long ago, it was considered quite out of the way!

Painting by Milind MulickDeccan refers to the area around the Gymkhana by the same name. Till the late 1980s it was a serene, slightly sleepy, neighborhood with stately old bungalows along verdant avenues with plenty of open spaces where children could be seen playing their own version of galli cricket. Like most such neighborhoods in India it was jolted out of its tranquility by the advent of liberalization.  Once, considered the heart of the cultural district, along with old Pune, it now is a bustling locality with numerous institutional and residential buildings, cafes, offices, hospitals, entertainment areas, restaurants, shopping malls and shops.

Important roads like Karve Road, Jangli Maharaj Road and Fergusson College Road originate here, creating a network between many areas.

The Pune municipality was established in 1858 but it was not until 1920 that Erandwane, which is part of our Prabhag, was merged into this. Bhamburda (present day Shivajinagar) followed soon after. The Jungli Maharaj Road was constructed only in the late 1920s/early 1930s and was known for a long time as ’80 feet Road’. This road connected the newly acquired Erandwane and Bhamburda villages into Pune. The Erandwane Gaothan ( the original settlement) is located on the banks of the Mutha River, just off Karve Road and Mhatre Bridge (very near the new Persistent Systems Campus).

The development of Deccan Gymkhana mainly began in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. The growth of this area is linked to the establishment of the Deccan Gymkhana Club.

The Deccan Gymkhana club and society were established on the land owned by the Shirole family who agreed to lease it in 1906 because Lokmanya Tilak had taken the initiative. While leasing the land the family had set a condition that the name — Deccan Gymkhana — would never be changed. And the name was chosen by none other than Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak himself. The Deccan Gymkhana Housing Society was subsequently established around the Deccan Gymkhana in 1926, and earned the distinction of being the first co-operative housing society in Maharashtra.  The residential colony around the club was planned to help develop the club. Around 180 plots were part of the colony which came up in 1920. People were reluctant to move out of the city to this locality and at first it was only the elite who constructed houses here.

With the area offering a post office, a sports club, a tennis court, a vegetable market and civic amenities, it soon became a much sought after residential locality.

Stones for construction of the club were dug out from nearby and the excavation unearthed some natural water springs. The founders decided to make use of these natural springs and converted this into a swimming pool known as “Tilak Tank”. Today the tank houses the Olympic size pool of the Deccan Gymkhana club. The club was the first to organize Olympic trials in the country in 1918, when the colonial countries were allowed to represent the Olympic Games independently.Lakdi pul - just after the flood (1961)

It was the great flood of 1961 when the Panshet dam burst that really led the growth of this locality. The widespread destruction of older structures by flood waters led to new town planning concepts being put in and several new structures came up. The outbreak of plague also led to more people moving out of the city and Deccan Gymkhana grew rapidly in the post flood era.

For Pune and its citizens, Deccan Gymkhana symbolizes numerous changes the city has witnessed, adopted and accepted graciously over the past 40 years

The Blue Plaque scheme of London which commemorates the link between notable figures of the past and the buildings, in which they lived and worked, has been replicated in Pune. Several of the blue plaques can be seen in the Deccan Gymkhana area including those for Cricket legend D B Deodhar, scientist D B Limaye, musician Deenanath Mangeshkar, litterateur Sahitya Samrat Na. Chi. Kelkar and P L Deshpande , vocalist Hirabai Badodekar and economist V M Dandekar,  among others.

Other luminaries who have lived here are ICS KC Bakhle, (among the First batch of Indians to be recruited in the Administrative services), V.G. Kale,  Dhananjayrao  Gadgil, Vishnupant Damale, V Shantaram, Jaykar (first VC of Pune University), Contractor Ranade, Vasantrao Deshpande, S.G Barve and Rear Admiral B.N Lele.

Our locality can still boast of several celebrities including actors like Amol Palekar and Mohan Agashe, entrepreneurs like Anand Deshpande (of Persistent Systems) and danseuses Maneesha Sathe and Rohini Bhate.