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Marika Straw, an undergraduate anthropology student at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA greets her audience in a heavily Americanised version of Marathi "Namaskar, mazha naav Marika Straw aahe, mee tumha saglyan samor presentation karnar aahe, mee Yuva Vadya pathak madhlya saglyanna khoop khoop dhanyvaad dete, amhi saglyani kalla kela!" (Hello everyone my name is Marika straw, I am going to give a presentation in front of all of you, I deeply thank everyone from the Yuva vadhya pathak, all of us played it loud!).
Dressed in a maroon punjabi suit, Marika almost pulls off the whole traditional Indian girl look -- quite an accomplishment in a span of just about four months. She came to live in Pune in August this year and lived with Pune-based couple the Karvandes, whom she addressed as aai and baba.
After becoming a part of the Yuva Dhol Pathak, a drumming band, shortly before the Ganapati festival, she decided to conduct a study on the pathaks of Pune. Straw used the Yuva Dhol Pathak as a case study of Pune pathaks by attending daily rehearsals for half a month, playing dhol in ten processions and interviewing several pathak members/leaders, a parent of a youngster in Yuva, a member of another pathak, and an international student in a different pathak.
She found that the Yuva Dhol Pathak changes and reflects important changes in Pune's society — like the traditional 'Pathak culture' replacing the 'Pub culture'.
Other changes she observed include a steep increase in the number of women in the pathaks as compared to the past, reduced class and caste discrimination within the pathaks and enhanced individual growth of the pathak members. "My study also highlights the importance of traditional moral values which are deeply imbibed in Pune's youth even in this dynamic era of globalisation," says Straw, a 21-year-old, who remembers the national song of India Vande Mataram, word by word.