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They are edifices of our continuity. A perspective on our mortality. They are over a hundred years old. While everything around them has changed with the turn of the seasons, for them time has stood still. What better way to chronicle the history of the Peshwa City over the last century, than through the eyes of the oldest shops? `Citadel' takes a walk through time and looks into a world that no longer exists.

Dorabjee & Son's Restaurant
Dastur Mehr Road

Dinshaw Opticians
M.G.Road, Near Aurora Towers.

Milton & Co. Photographers
Abbas Chambers, M.G.Road

In our quest for the past, we passed this quaint little shop, simply called the The Iranian General Store situated at Pulgate, not once, not twice - but thrice! And we were actually looking for it. "I don't blame you," smiles Ferosh Irani, the amiable owner of the tiny place whose beginning lies somewhere in the late 1800's. "This happens to almost everyone who has come here at some time or the other. My great, great grandfather started this place when he first came down to Pune from Iran," he reminisces. "As far as I can remember, though this shop sold provisions, we switched to sweetmeats later," he reveals about the shop that is still well known. What brought on spreading this missive of sweetness? "I don't know," Irani chuckles genially. "You are a year late or you could have asked my father about it. He passed away last year," he informs us sadly. "During the Raj, I remember we would sell sweets to the children of the British officers who would come down for a walk with their ayahs, for an anna. I still remember once, a child bought an entire bottle of hard-boiled sweets for a rupee!" discloses this grinning fifth generation shopkeeper, taking a look in the past. "The ambience of the place is still the same. You cannot really think of making changes here now, can you?" he asks, pointing out to the tiny shop. "But yes, the prices have definitely gone up," he announces with twinkling eyes. "But people around this place know us and also, we still come under the old rules that are applicable for taxes etc. So things are relatively easy. Ever wanted to do things differently, we wonder. "Why mess with a good thing?" he counter questions as he steadfastly holds on to time.

Well, next, we are aiming at Milton & Co. Photographers . Founded by Messers. Z.M. Gonsalves and T.S.Fernandes in the early segment of the 1900s, this pokey l'il place has seen a hazzar photographers - amateurs and professionals - come and go, all in the quest of capturing the perfect moment on camera, forever. And Milton's have been helping them do just that. A favourite with the Raj, today, the place looks a little run-down, yet as one steps into their studio, one cannot help noticing some of the fading remnants of a time gone by. Time hasn't brought any changes, has it? "A little bit," admits the current owner, "But not much, we have given the shop an occasional cosmetic face-lift." But one thing that has been maintained throughout is the quality of work that passes over their counter. "Every ten years, we have a fresh batch of photographers who pass our way." And now with P.R agencies springing up in the city, work is regular. But now the competition is tougher with Photofast centres that we see springing up like proverbial mushrooms around the city.

Speaking of sight, one cannot help mentioning Dinshaw Opticians. This little, unobtrusive shop should have probably been one of the first we should have mentioned. All you have to do is walk down Main Street from Aurora Towers to one of the first heritage testimonies. Founded by Ardeshir Dinshawji, way back in 1833, it would be considered sacreligious not including this little shop that resides besides Milton Photographers and Candy Shoes in Abbas Chambers. Dinshaw Opticians that has helped a lot of Puneites clear their vision, is a fifth generation establishment run by their current owner, the charming Boman Barucha. When the shop was first established it was essentially a jewellery store reveals Boman's mother, the very likable Roshen Barucha who happens to constitute the fourth generation of Dinshawji. "Then later on, we expanded and became a place that sold watches. Later, we included an optician's. Earlier, no one really wore spectacles because it was considered only for old people or for reading," she smiles prettily. "We used to make pince-nez and monocles, for our customers - you know the different types of eyewear that one wore in olden days," she discloses of the establishment that later went on to become exclusively an Optician's and now specialises in contact lenses as well. The place hasn't changed much in all these years. As Roshen Barucha sums up, "Everything is the same because of the government rules and the family, it has just been the case of idhar chuna, udhar polish..."

And as we cut across to East Street, we are greeted by Wittul Shamsett & Sons. A name that is synonymous with reliability and integrity. School trophies, medals and intricate jewellery... they have it all. This place, over the last century has made its mark on the consciousness of the Punekars. Started by Wittul Shamsett, a postman turned goldsmith, way back in 1865. Dattatray Balwant Shamsett, one of the grandsons of the late Wittul Shamsett, opens up the doors of his memory, "Basically, we were dependent on the British for our livelihood because in the Camp area, the clientele consisted of foreigners and the affluent and the war helped us a lot," he admits candidly. "But in '47 when they left, there was a slump once again because most of the articles that we made were exclusively for the English. Since they were big-made, the rings and the other articles were made to suit their sizes. We Indians are small built and moreover, we hardly wore watches and if we did, it used to be small-faced dial watches - more like a lady's watch. It is the British who used to wear big-faced dial ones. Secondly, most of them, before they bought any articles from us, would ask one question : `How much will I be able to sell it for?' Since they knew that in England they wouldn't get the same price. For instance if they bought a gold piece, they wanted to get it appraised. They knew that in this country at least they would get a good percentage of their original price back. We also made trophies, medals and shields for the military for their sports events. Today, hardly any schools or colleges come to us to make the same for them," Mr.Dahivadkar shrugs matter-of-factly. His son, Arun Dahivadkar, adds that they were an agency for Collegian Watches that were imported from England. "But once the government stopped the importing of these watches, we slowly turned to other avenues," Arun Dahivadkar informs us. Even though we are fascinated by the duo's narration about their illustrious past, nothing can compare to the real thing. Stepping into their quaint shop on East Street is like being enveloped by the old world charm that is reflected strongly in Mr. Dattatray Dahivadkar. As he regales us with anecdotes from yore, we can't help feeling that if ever we were in dire need of H.G.Well's time machine, the time would have been now! From the very propah gora sahibs browsing around in their place to present day Pune, it's all there to see in his light-coloured eyes. "Though the appearance has remained the same, the functioning has changed to suit the times," admits Arun.

Our minds still full of the stories of the past, we skip across to Main Street and stroll into another shop that is dipped in history. The Poona Drug Store . Though this place isn't exactly a hundred years old, it fits our prescription of being one of the oldest shops in Pune because the Poona Drug Store was founded in the early part of the 1900s by John Michael Braganza. Whilst researching for this piece, we found out that since the late gentleman didn't have any male heirs to carry on his enterprise, the children of his daughters took on the responsibility. Today, Raymond Soares, his grandson and Raymond's cousin Viren Fernandes are the force to be reckoned with. The drugstore believes in following the traditions of the typical Punekar. They follow their time schedule to the `T'. They open at 9:00 a.m. and wrap up business on the dot of 8:30 p.m. Raymond's betterhalf adds, "In fact by the time it is 8:25 p.m., the peons are already waiting with one hand on the shutter and another eye on the clock!" Agreeing, Raymond adds that they have faced quite a lot of flak from others since the Poona Drug Store is the only shop that closes on the dot of 8:30 p.m. whilst the others are open till at least 10:00 in the evening. "But we need to devote time to our families as well or we would be in big trouble!" he quips. As we look around we realise, we've entered a different time zone. Looking rather pleased with our observations, Raymond- our designated chronicler tells us that they have hardly changed much over the years. "Except earlier, during the Raj, we also sold expensive cosmetics to the English ladies, as well as dispense medicines that were prescribed by the practitioners for the British officers and their families. Now of course, we sell other drugs like antibiotics as well, but we also dispense medicated creams and ointments for skin ailments," informs the banker turned pharmacist. He discloses that even today they have prescriptions of some of their oldest customers, including an old prescription of the Governor of Poona at their shop! The shop that rests firmly on the foundation of a reputation of never selling spurious drugs still maintains some of the traditions set by Raymond's grandfather. "Even now we deliver the medicines to the homes of the people who are our very old customers or are too sick to make a trip to the shop. We still remember our old customers by their names. Earlier, they would come to the shop and spend some time chatting with us, but now everything has grown so much and everybody is always in a hurry that the moment they step in, the first thing they say as they give us the prescription is that their rickshaw is standing outside with it's meter running!" smiles a rueful Raymond Soares, "So there is no time to be hospitable!"

Hospitable reminds us of one of the oldest establishments of the hospitality industry, in the city - Dorabjee & Sons Restaurant . A name mentioned in the same breath as Lagan nu Bhonu as it is with the most mouth-watering Mutton Biryani. As a matter of fact, city limits and the bridges are of no context when people come from far and wide, just to partake of sali boti and lagan nu custard, to this really old place that hasn't changed a whit since 1888. It was started a hundred and eleven years ago, by Dorabjee Sorabjee. And it is now run by the fourth generation descendants of Sorabjee. Darius Dorabjee, one of his progenies, proudly declares that they still have a menu where practically everything on it is for less than a rupee. Coming back to the quaint place, the family is now exclusively involved only with the daily nitty- gritties of managing their legacy. What makes the place a recipe for success is their divine mutton biryani that is a bite over the rest and is still going strong over a century, courtesy it's reasonable pricing apart from the unique flavour that comes to the Dorabjee's tradition of preparing the food over charcoal and adding volumes to its unbeatable taste. But one cannot help pondering over the run-down condition of the place, especially as they can well afford to spruce up the place with the kind of success and fan-following they have. Unfortunately, this isn't possible because the family is involved in a long drawn court case informs Darius sadly. "No structural changes have been made and the place has retained its old world ambience, except for a lick of paint now and then and of course, change of furniture," discloses Darius Dorabjee, before he goes back to managing the heirloom bequeathed to him.

Heirlooms, heritage. This city has it. They have been a part of Pune through better and worse, in sickness and health... All mute witnesses of a time gone by, who have silently watched Poona become Pune, a throbbing metropolis.


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