I struggled to find the words to describe what Pune has done to me. I was so focused on Hema and looking at the city through her eyes, that I didn’t realize how Pune effected me personally.

One of the first things I said to Hema was that Pune reminded me of Portugal. The problem with that statement is how profound it actually was. I spent the days in Pune walking the streets. I saw new buildings and old, I observed crowds of people walking, who were old and young. I noticed how green Pune was. The trees towered over the street with their massive leafs. Trees that grew out of the sidewalks like sentries. Their roots trying to break free from the clay tiles that patterned the sidewalk. I remember telling Hema,

“The way the sidewalks are done here reminds me of Portugal.”

Again, I’m having an issue with this statement because on the surface Pune has no resemblance to Portugal. The streets are different and the houses and commercial buildings are different. So, how can this green city remind me of Portugal? Portuguese sidewalks are tiled with small cubed rocks and some have blue rocks which form a pattern. For and example, see my very first post on my blog.

Then, on the second last day it hit me like a wave at the beach you never saw coming. It nearly knocked me over.

The people. (SMASH)

The people of Pune remind me of Portugal. Their smiles, their walking style. Their demeanour, it has this air of, it’s my life and I will shape it how I want. When you go to a café and sit ans watch people, you can see that they are engaged with each other. Sure, you have people on their devices, it’s still 2019 after all, but the majority of the time, people are talking to each other. That, reminds me of having an espresso at a café in downtown Algés (suburb of Lisboa) with my family.

The other moment that hit me over the head was when Hema and I went to an older part of Pune, Tulsi baug. There were alleyways within the main streets that had dozens of shops. They are no bigger then your average closet. You can find almost anything, except mini cricket bats!!

Hema just started laughing, it’s an inside joke, ask her about it.

The thing about these alleyways is that Portugal has them too but not filled with shops. Portugal does have street fairs. They are usually setup by Gypsies trying to make an honest living. I bought one of my favourite watches at a portuguese fair.

Walking through the alleyways, a small but very emotional memory that defines part of my childhood made its way to my consciousness.

My grandmother. Vozita. My mother’s mother. My second mother. She raised me whenever I was in Portugal, which was almost every summer from the age of 8 to my teens. There is a place in Portugal called Figueira da Foz, (google it). The sidewalks are all tiled with the cubed rocks. Some streets still have the old cobblestones. It has trees towering over the roads, like a green canopy shielding you from the sun’s heat. My grandmother would take me, and me alone, into Figueira for the afternoon. We would catch the bis from our small town Paiao and be in Figueira with 30 minutes.

(Still better than the TTC)

As a child, I played alone. Other kids my age didn’t find me appealing. I was introduced to small plastic figurines at my grandparents house and I became obsessed. I wanted more! I asked my Vozita if I could buy more and she supported me all the way. Now I know where my mother gets her undying support for her children.

So we get off the bus in Figueira and we walk through the streets and I am glancing into each shop for any sign of plastic figurines. Cowboy figurines to be exact. The anticipation is killing me. I had absolutely no patience as a child. And then, we reached our destination.

The toy shop is small. On each wall there are shelves with glass doors, locked to prevent eager small children from just grabbing whatever they wanted. Each shelf was laid out with rows of plastic figurines. There were so many different varieties. You had medieval figures, colonial soldiers, modern soldiers, figures that represented farmers and construction workers. But there on the second highest shelf, there were the best ones. The cowboys! Some on horses, some standing casually, others standing ready to draw their pistols.

“Oh my god, which one should I pick? Vozita, can I choose 2?” I asked excited, looking at her.

“Ok, this time you can, but next time only 1.” She said with a smile. Gees, I miss that smile.

This is what Pune did to me. Simply put, it made me young again. I was reminded of my childhood not from the landscape or food, but the people. People of Pune have a youthful feeling to them. They are energetic, intelligent and positive. They are my kind of people. I am their kind of person. I can be young there. Thank you people of Pune for reminding me of how young I am. Thank you for reminding me of my grandmother. I will miss you like I miss her.

Until we see each other again, hopefully sooner than later.