April AtoZ Reflections

April has passed by and so has the AtoZ blogging challenge and its time to relax a bit. This was my third attempt and as I said earlier, I was in two minds about signing up this year. My theme this year was “Gardens in Pune”. However  I am glad I did as I could see parts of my city (Pune, India) that I had never gone to before.

During the period that I surveyed the gardens, the city was amid a garbage crisis and the machinery to collect and dispose waste was under severe strain. Yet, I found that the gardens were spotlessly clean, the lawns properly mowed, the hedges perfectly trimmed, no garbage in the gardens and a stark contrast to the city outside. Why or How  this happened is still a mystery… Almost all gardens had a healthy number of visitors of all age groups. Some were exercising, some meditating, some reading or studying or some just enjoying the beauty. Thankfully not much PDA. 

Another thing that was strongly evident was that every park had something unique to offer in addition to the usual garden ‘elements’ (lawns, trees, kids play area etc). These included animal statues, equipment for cardio exercises, miniatures of the 7 wonders of the world, musical fountain, memorials of war, a sensory garden… I came across a garden that was not a garden and a garden that was a forest! There was a a lake in the gardens as also a stream… Wow! Some gardens were very small and some sprawled over several acres. Some very young and some of a heritage status. Yes, Pune is proud to have these gardens. I hope the authorities and people strive to maintain them in full glory. 

You can go on an e-visit to all my AtoZ parks to read more!

Considering it was my third attempt at the AtoZ, I think I was better organised in terms of scheduling my posts and preparing for them. However, as before, fatigue with respect to commenting does set in especially in the third week. 

And yes, there is some survivor gear too! Have you got your memento? I rather like the T shirts but will they ship to India?

I tried visiting as many blogs as I could and I plan to catch up over the next few weeks. Besides the usual fiction, writing, travel and word/picture prompt-themed posts, I came across some really unique themes for this AtoZ: 

Gardening with a botanical focus: My Green Nook
Haikus: Pooh’s Den
Yoga: Destiny’s Child
Postcards: Around the World in Stamps and Postcards
Epics from AtoZ: The Multicolored Diary
Inventions by Women: Shells Tales and Sails
Addicted to Beads: Curling Stones for Lego People
A blog for the care giver/carer: Reflex Reactions
A blog about sketches: lynnelives
A blog dedicated to helping the homeless: Bridge and Beyond
The Choose Your Poison (Stories about poisons): Flash Fiction

Overall, its been a great stint of local tourism and I did spot and correctly identify (Yay!!) some trees that I had not seen before. (That would be the H and A posts)

I may not blog daily but I hope to keep posting regularly especially with my Wordless Wednesdays. Do visit this blog again my dear friends and new readers, I appreciate your visits and comments from the bottom of my heart.  

Take care and Good Luck!

The Maps

The month of April 2015 was pretty hectic as I had to write posts daily and visit different gardens to gather information for these posts! That is when I realised that I had not mapped the gardens I have blogged about. So here are the garden locations!

This is the map put up by the Pune Municipal Corporation that actually sparked this theme.

As you can see I have covered almost all directions of Pune. This was only possible due to unstinted support from my husband and daughter – for bearing with delayed meals, restaurant take-aways, accompanying me to some parks and even chauffeuring me to some! Thank you! 

Its now time to relax and catch up with other fantastic blogs

Z is for Zoo

We are on the last day of the AtoZ Blogging challenge and the month seems to have flown by. I have tried to visit and comment on many blogs but would have liked to have done more. I think I can catch up in the upcoming weeks. I am writing about gardens in Pune

Getting back to the last letter, Z, I had only one place that I could write about—- the Zoo in Pune. Earlier it was located at the Peshwe Park but the animals have now been moved to the outskirts of the city, near the Katraj Lake. The new establishment is called the Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park and Wildlife Research Centre. This zoo is commonly called the Snake Park as it is home to a large number and variety of snakes. The most important aspect of this Zoo is that it has a rescue centre for orphaned and rescued animals. 

The Zoo is spread over a vast area that has a lake within its premises. It has enclosures for some wild animals, birds and of course- snakes! The facility offers rides on battery operated vehicles (a ticketed activity) but others will simply have to walk a large distance to see the animals. This is not very tiring due to the thick tree cover in the area. The lake itself is very pretty and attracts a large number of birds particularly in winters- obviously a heaven for birders! 

Zoo, pune
Thick tree cover 
Birds, birding, pune
Katraj Lake
Katraj zoo
Vehicles to go around the Zoo

I had been to the old Zoo several times and my visit to the current Zoo was thanks to the AtoZ challenge. However I went there on a Sunday evening just as the school holidays had begun- a bad choice to say the least as I had to face long queues at almost every place… There is a security check at the entrance and it is forbidden to use or litter the place with plastics. Despite the crowd and heat, I returned impressed and plan another visit once the rains begin and schools reopen!

Timing: 10AM to 6PM (timing may vary at peak season)
Entry:  INR 15 for adults
Drinking Water: Available
Rest Rooms: Available
Location Map here

That’s it folks. Enjoyed sharing a glimpse of my city with you. Take care!

Y is for Yashwantrao Chavan Udyan

We are almost at the end of the April 2015 AtoZ blogging challenge and its been quite an eyeopener for me– I have realised that each of the public gardens in Pune has something unique and different to offer in terms of the special features like landscaping or games for kids or infotainment! The garden I am writing about today is often referred to as the 7 Wonders Park… As you can guess, the park has miniature statues of the seven wonders of the world. They may not be to the exact scale but they do give a good idea of these magnificent monuments and will surely inspire many to travel to see them. All of them have information boards that have site information in Marathi – a good move in my opinion as it ensures that everyone coming to the park can read about the Eiffel Tower or Pyramids or The Statue of Liberty or The Colosseum… 

Information in Marathi

If this is not enough, the park also has a 4D show which runs at specific times in the evenings… The themes should be interesting for kids and it seemed quite popular with garden visitors.There are some statues of popular kids’ ‘stars’ like Superman, Tarzan etc.

4D show

Though the garden is not very big, it does have two huge Dillenia indica trees – their splendid green foliage is a sight for sore eyes… The trees were fruiting when I went there and I wish I had gone a bit earlier to see those lovely blossoms. The garden also has several Terminalia mantaly trees. The Saraca asoca and Petrea volubilis at the entrance of a mock cave add colour to the landscape .

Dillenia indica

A mock cave guarded by the Saraca asoca

All in all, an excellent infotainment destination for kids holidaying in Pune!

Entry: INR 20 (includes the show)
Parking: Available on the road outside
Drinking Water: Available
Rest Rooms: Available

X is for eXtreme, eXcellent, eXtraordinary

We are almost at the end of the April 2015 AtoZ Blogging Challenge and the letter X is almost always eXtra challenging!! I am writing about gardens in Pune and I think the tedkis (hills) of Pune some of which have reserve forests on the top are truly unique to this city. 
These tekdis offer all of the adjectives in the title of this post: 

eXtraordinary: Pune is blessed with two rivers and importantly also has many hills located right inside the city limits. They can justly be called as the lungs of the city! We have the Vetal Tekdi (which is the highest), Hanuman Tekdi (which has the Gokhale Smarak Stambh), Parvati temple which is atop the Parvati hill, the Parvati Pachgaon forest area, the Tukai Tekdi and Durga Tekdi. The changing landscape over the seasons is a visual treat!


eXcellent: the hills are excellent places to exercise – for a walk, jog or even train for long treks in the Himalayas. In fact, March and April are months when one commonly sees many walking up and down the hills with huge backpacks, as they gear up for their outings in June or July… The tekdis are also home to some indigenous tree species that are either uncommon or are simply not seen in the city. Some of the trees are Ganer (Cochlospermum religiosum ), Bartondi (Morinda pubescens), Salai (Boswellia serrata), many species of the Capparis Genus. Regular walkers very commonly sight Peacocks on their morning walks on the Vetal tekdi as also a variety of birds…  What bliss… 

Acacia sp

Alangium salvifolium
Gardenia turgida
Dichrostachys cinerea
Dolichondrone falcata
Evolvulus alsinoides
Flower of Watakaka volubilis

eXtreme: They are an example of extremes of human intervention. Some hillocks have been almost flattened as they have been razed to make way for buildings and concrete jungles all under the name of development. Simultaneously, other hills have been ‘saved’ by peoples movements and resistance to the same ‘development’.  There are umpteen examples of organisations who have taken up ‘greening’ of the hills or who spend their Sunday mornings cleaning up the waste or folks who daily take up some water to water new plantations! 

Pune, hills, plantations
 Morning walkers fill up such bottles and carry them up to water saplings to help them survive the harsh summer heat

The most surprising part of these tekdis is that despite their obvious presence, a large number of people are simply unaware of this wonderful natural beauty. I know of people who have lived over five decades in Pune and still have not gone to any of the our tekdis… 

The tekdis should be a must-visit place in the itinerary of every nature lover visiting Pune. 

PS: Location Map here

W is for War Memorial

Surprisingly I had choices of two ‘W’ gardens in Pune in this April AtoZ blogging challenge but its no surprise that I have opted for the War Memorial. Located in the Pune Cantonment, The National War Memorial is a citizen-led initiative to honour and remember the contributions of men in uniform in times of war and national calamity. Their names are inscribed on marble panels installed on one side of the park. 

This is not a touristy place but a sombre one that recognsies that someone is paying the price for our safety. In the park are installed a Mig 23 aircraft, a tank and a replica of an Indian Navy warship which signifies the tri-services contributions to the nation. 

Here is a link that has more info about the displayed aircraft. And the location Map is here

Jai Hind!

V is for Vartak Udyan

We are the end of another week and almost at the end of the April 2015 AtoZ blogging challenge. I am writing about gardens in my city and I have been pleasantly surprised. Each one has something unique and the gardens seemed quite popular with families and health enthusiasts. Just proves the point of open spaces in an urban environment. 

The Late Dr VD Vartak Udyan in Shaniwar Peth, Pune is located on the banks of the River Mutha. Dr Vartak was an eminent botanist whose vast body of work in the field of plant taxonomy has inspired hundreds of students. Two plant species have been named after in him, an honour which ensures we always remember his contribution. A plaque at the park entrance lists Dr Vartak’s achievements in the botanical world!

Pune, botanists, garden
Late Dr V D Vartak Udyan

The park itself has a surprising layout and just as one thinks it is a small patch of land, a track opens up and runs along the river for some distance. Its an interesting space to enjoy the evenings. The garden has a small open air amphi theatre with a small stage and seating that overlooks the river and the Sambhaji Park on the opposite bank. This would be wonderful sight for botanical discussions or a musical program… The duranta and money plant were used to create interesting shades of green.

Duranta and money plant carpet

The park has a small waterfall and like the Saras Baug, this garden too had piped music! 

Dr VD Vartak, PMC gardens
Piped music for the plants

I spotted a Neer Phanas, Bauhinia, Peepal (Ficus religiosa) and Silver Oak (Grevillea robusta) among others. Some exercise equipment has been installed here and some youth were making the most of this free opportunity to get a cardio workout! 

An excellent space by the river!

Entry: Free
Timing: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM
Drinking Water: Available
Location Map here

U is for Udan

The Udan Biodiversity Park and Sensory Garden is a one of its kind garden in the city, one that I have already written about earlier. As the name suggests, Udan is both a sensory garden and focuses on biodiversity as well. Do read about its excellent sensory elements here.

The site of this park used to be an abandoned and overgrown plot with a nullah at one end. Naturally it became a dumping ground of sorts, an eyesore and generally a unhealthy place. As part of its CSR initiatives, the Zensar Foundation (Zensar is an IT company that is located close by) partnered the PMC to develop this plot into a biodiversity plot. They recruited experts who reused a lot of rocks and soil from the area to create something unique. Specially chosen plants helped attract butterflies – these provided them food and also a place to lay eggs.In fact the garden layout itself is in the shape of a butterfly! 

The rocks have been artistically placed to create a wonderful fountain and a waterfall. Medicinal, aromatic and flowering and indigenous species have been planted and some are specifically to encourage kids to explore their sense of smell, touch, sight and taste.

The high point is the small but thriving shrub of Frerea indica – a species that has been brought back from brink of extinction. 

A stark reminder of the damage to the environment is in the form of a ‘graveyard’ with placards for species that have become extinct. 

In fact, there is a small nursery where the gardeners are happy to give visitors saplings of plants in their garden. For free. I came away with Marjorum and Basil saplings that are happily growing in my balcony. 

A park that every Punekar should be proud of!

Entry: Free
Time: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM
Parking: On the road
Location Map here

T is for Tathavade Udyan

My first visit to this part was as part of a tree walk and the striking feature here was its plethora of Brownea coccinea trees. Trees were the sole focus of that visit and, I came away knowing a lot about the species growing there there but totally ignored the story of Late Major Tathavade Kirti Chakra who made the highest sacrifice in Poonch area in the year 2000. I regretted my ignorance and made another visit just to read about this brave soldier in whose memory the park has been named. There is a statue of the Late Major Tathavade at the entrance and I paused for a while there to pay my respects to his valour. 

Spread over 3 acres, the park has one more nationalistic attraction which is a Pakistani tank from the 1971 India-Pakistan war. 

Obviously this park should be a huge silent inspiration for youngsters and should remind that peace comes at a cost and we should not take contributions of our soldiers for granted. 

The garden is rich in terms of trees as well with a magnificent Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Kadamba (Neolamarckia kadamba), the Fern Leaf tree (Filicium decipiens), pretty Tamhan (Lagerstromia sp) and ofcourse several varieties of Ficus. Most trees have been labelled. The landscaped lawns and gazebos added to the beauty and serene atmosphere. There was a small kids play area too.

Brownea buds

Brownea in full bloom

New Brownea leaf looks is brown like a horse tail
The leaf grows to look like this

A garden that is popular due to its tiled walking track and location in the heart of a residential area. A garden that would be a delight for tree lovers, health enthusiasts and an inspiration for all.

Placards bearing plant names and plant info



Entry: INR 1
Timing: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM
Parking: On the road adjoining the garden
Drinking Water: Available 
Rest rooms: Available
Location Map here

S is for Saras Baug and Sambhaji Park

This post is part of April 2015 AtoZ blogging challenge and I am writing about parks in Pune. My theme offered several options for some alphabets and very few for some. ‘S’ was among those where I could actually choose from the garden I want to write about!

S is for Saras Baug, a major landmark in the city. In the eighteenth century, Nanasaheb Peshwa built a small lake in this area which is at the base of the Parvati hill and a Ganesha Temple was constructed in the centre of this lake. To this day, the temple is much  revered among the Punekars. He also developed a garden which has undergone several makeovers thereafter. Here is a link to the Shree Deveshwar Sansthan website that has more information about the temple.

The garden is open all day long unlike most other parks in the city. The lawns are well maintained and seem healthy and green as they are kept off limits for visitors (this possibly protects them from footfalls of hundreds of visitors daily). A unique feature is the piped music played on specially installed speakers along the tiled walkway. There is a thriving street food market outside the park plus several activities for kids like horse rides, merry-go-rounds, carousels and so on…. The atmosphere outside is colourful, happy and highly energetic – one that never fails to cheer me up. People from all walks of life, all faiths and all ages are simply enjoying!

Udyan, Pune, Bajirao Road
Pink Canna to border the lawns


Pune gardens, Sarasbag
Pond with water lilies

Street food, Pune, Saras bag

Getting back to the garden, it has some wonderfully old trees and some not so old ones too! The Lagerstromia speciosa here are spectacular. This flower locally called Jarul or Tamhan is the state flower of Maharashtra.


Entry: Free
Timing: All Day

I cannot complete this post without a mention of the Sambhaji Park – yet another landmark garden in the city. I do not know its ‘age’ but suffice to say it has been around for four decades at least – the time that I have been visiting Pune…. The PMC Garden Department has its offices in a section of this garden and an annual fruit and vegetable show is held every year sometime in February. It has competitions for gardeners and home gardens and the displays using fruits/flowers/vegetables are absolutely stunning each year.  The creativity never ceases to impress me…. The Sambhaji Park is also home to a humble Aquarium and the Mutha River flows right alongside the garden.  This means, in case of heavy monsoon rains, when the river is in spate, the lower parts of the garden get inundated .. 

For tree lovers, the garden has the Bauhinia vahlii creeper, Kailashpati, Bottle Palms and an interesting coconut tree that has a Ficus growing on it… a classic example of avian propagation of seeds. 

Ficus growing on a Coconut tree
An Armoured Corps Vehicle On Display- an inspiration for the younger generation
A glimpse of the garden during the annual fruit and vegetable show

Entry: Free Aquarium entry ticket is INR 2 for adults and people over 4’4″. Kids INR1
Timing: Garden is 6AM to 11AM and 4PM to 8PM
Aquarium Timing: 8030AM to 11AM and 4.30PM to 8PM
Location Map here