Christmas in Pune and Other Indian Tales

Christmas in Pune

Christmas in Pune

India may continue to change but some memories remain forever. The good old boxy Ambassador car which has carted so many of us to so many places; the dhobi or washerman who, rain or shine, miraculously delivered clean sheets, clothes and towels; the milkman who early morning delivered fresh milk on his bicycle. Now Vikram Nandwani, a Pune-based artist, is capturing all these sights which may soon fade away in a fast changing India.

An engineer and an MBA in marketing with almost ten years of experience in business consulting and business process re-engineering, Nandwani was drawn to sketching as a kid, copying Disney cartoons. He says, “I really got into cartoons by accident when I was trying to do a portrait of Karl Marx and it went bad, like all my earlier attempts. And I realized if I warped it a little further, it would turn out to be a decent caricature.”

He has done many caricatures to support the Save the Tiger Fund and has now embarked on Verry India, a caricature series based on daily life in India, an attempt to capture fast disappearing rustic images of a country that is urbanizing rapidly. These digital caricatures can be purchased online, from the size of a business card to a billboard, and also as merchandise <arel=”no follow” href=””>here.

Nandwani who lives in Pune says, “Once people used to prefer to settle down in Pune after they retired but now it is developing fast as a major IT hub on the lines of Bangalore and Hyderabad. This inspired the nostalgic Verry India theme. I guess I am inspired by the images of India, the chaos and the way things still manage to work inspite of the chaos. There is a word for these workarounds in Hindi – Jugaad.”

The Ambassador

The Ambassador

The bustling city is a constant source of inspiration, a constant parade of people and vehicles, animals and vendors and wares.  “Most of what I draw is through memory but it is through what I have soaked in subconsciously – I don’t take notes. A day on the streets gives me enormous material to sketch,” he says.

His thoughts on  the Village Jeep taxi : “Mahindra Jeeps ply illegally between small towns and villages stuffed to the brim with passengers, their luggage and their livestock. If you see one of these, get out of their way immediately. The only thing riskier than being inside, is being in front of one of these extreme machines.”

The dhobi gets this sly commentary: Extremely outspoken, extremely slow dhobis (manual laundromats), extremely capable of misplacing or burning an extremely huge hole in your favorite jacket. They do pick and drop your clothes, but only after you have made twenty trips to their road-side stall fortified by huge bundles to remind them and another twenty to help them find your rags.

Dhondu dhobi, India's manual laundromat

Dhondu dhobi, India’s manual laundromat

Asked about Christmas in Pune, he says, what is special about the festival where he lives is that people from all faiths join in on the celebrations, giving it a very local twist. “All Parsi Biryani joints go full house on Christmas Eve, People make Karanjis – a favorite Maharashtrian sweet made during Diwali – at home, and everyone – I mean everyone – comes out to the main markets in the evening to see the lights. The festivities end with kids being dragged into midnight mass.”

Nandwani believes that the people are what he loves most about India. “ I think everything around us is changing so fast but the people are still warm and everyone is an individual, you still see people dressed differently, talking in different accents on the streets. That diversity is, however, disappearing very fast and probably the next generation will all dress and talk alike.”

The Jeep taxi used to ferry families and produce in the village

The Jeep taxi used to ferry families and produce in the village


About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!


  1. “He has done many caricatures to support the Save the Tiger Fund and is now embarking on a new venture called Verry India, a caricature series…..” – from your text on Dec 25, 2009 Christmas in Pune.

    When and what kind of support did he provide to the Save the Tiger Fund? I am curious to know. Is he still engaged in support related to tiger conservation?