TO A VISITOR IN PUNE, the city’s ubiquitous Marathi signboards might not look particularly remarkable. But ask a local to translate a few, and it becomes clear that, although these signs are instructions to the public, they also express a particular Puneri trait: rudeness. An example of their unsmiling tone can be found in this sign outside a house on Tilak Road: “Our children are not well brought up. They deflate your tyres.”
Srinivas Bhanage, a writer and director of Marathi films, assured me that the warnings contained in these signs were not to be taken lightly. “Make no mistake about it, they deflate your tyres,” he said. Bhanage might be considered something of an authority on Puneri traits, having made in 1996 a humorous fictional television series for Doordarshan called Puneri Punekar, which ran for 13 episodes, each telling a story that revolved around a quirk of Puneri character; he even featured the city’s rude signboards in one of the episodes.
Bhanage’s justification for these biting messages was to the point. “When you put up a signboard, you don’t have to explain the same thing over and over again,” he said.