Navigating the busy Pune streets in the hot sun is a challenge. No wonder they say if you can drive in Pune you can drive anywhere in the world. As you avoid hawkers in the narrow lanes near Moti Chowk, an orange flag captures your attention. The legend ‘Murudkar Jhendawale’ inscribed in Devanagiri is noticeable.
Owner Girish Murudkar welcomes every political and non-political enthusiast with the same smile and zeal. “This shop was opened by my great-grandfather,” he says with evident pride. “Murudkar is one of the oldest shops in the city that sells paraphernalia for different occasions and festivals.”
All kinds of political merchandise like flags, pluck-cards, caps, badges, uparnas (shawl-like strips of satin), banners, tags, you name it and it is available at Murudkar’s. With Pune’s polling day (April 17) approaching, the shop has witnessed a spike in sales.
Cutting open a small package, Murudkar says, “This is an innovative type of merchandise created by Murudkar’s — aromatic tags with party symbols and names. One can hang these in one’s house or car; the fragrance lasts for up to 25 days.”
With the growing popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party, the Gandhi cap has again become a fashion statement at political rallies. “The demand for different colours and designs has risen more than for normal caps,” he says. “Now every political party wants its own Gandhi topi.” Not surprisingly, the caps, priced between Rs 2 and Rs 5, constitute the single most sold item at Murudkar’s.
One can get various combinations at the shop. “Puneri phetas or pagdis are known across India,” says Murudkar. “We have designed phetas according to every party’s need.” Uparnas are sold for Rs 15-20; phetas start at Rs 800. Prices of party flags vary according to size.
Murudkar’s is not an outlet for the sale of only political paraphernalia. The shop also sells products for specific religious and cultural occasions. But right now, it’s the festival of democracy that is driving sales.
Ask Girish Murudkar about his favourite politician and he refuses to commit himself. All he wants, he says, is “development of the city”. Why, he’s speaking like a politician himself.
Photo: Deepa Venkatesan