Revisiting Karwar

By Sindhu and Padmakar Dubhashi

After many years, we revisited our native place, Karwar, last December 2005. In the environment of Karwar, we had learnt had come up new projects like Sea Bird for the construction of ambitious naval port by the side of protected sea of Karwar and the Kaiga, Atomic Energy project and the Kokan railway from Mumbai to Mangalore on which Karwar for the first time got its railway station. We had expected that these projects might have helped to tone up the infrastructure of Karwar, but we were in for disappointment. As we left Goa border, along the Western National Highway and entered into the environment of Karwar, we looked for the signs of progress and development, but there were hardly any. There was only the roadside hotel and the District office both constructed some years ago. We soon realized that though Karwar has bountiful natural environment with hills and wonderful seashore it has yet to develop a kind of infrastructure developed in Goa to attract tourists from all over the world. Karwar has few modern hotels. We stayed in one new hotel Premiere, which was just constructed owned by a local businessman. It has the facilities of three star hotel but the services were hardly up to the mark.

Our first visit was to the seashore. Karwar is blessed with a long beach of white sand stretching over several miles towards the point where the Kali River pours into the ocean. Ravindranath Tagore who visited Karwar in his youth as a guest of his brother who was a district Judge walked the whole distance in moonlit night. He was so impressed by the little harbour ringed round with hills that in his poetic words he said "Its crescent-shaped beach throws out its arms to the shoreless open seas like the very image of an eager striving to embrace the infinite." He also referred to forest of casurinas, which fringed the broad sandy beach. To our horror we found that this image, which was also in our minds for years, was destroyed by thoughtless and uncouth efforts of the ruling authorities to beatify the beach in name of Tagore. A park is sought to be developed at the beach itself removing the beautiful sand and replacing it by tiles at the cost of Rs. One Crore out of the local MP's development fund. The benches in the park do not face the sea but have the back to it. A fountain is built but does not work. The structure has become rusty. Do we need a non-functioning fountain when the waves of the sea are bursting with white foam? A board pompously announces that Rs 3 lacks were spent on the structure. In the name of development nature is destroyed and resources wasted. What would Tagore have felt at this extravagant waste? Karwar was a city planned by the British as a neat District headquarters. It had a broad road running from the entrance to the town from Hubli side right up to Kodibag on the bank of the Kali River. The side of the road located important buildings like the Civil Hospital and a high School. Now the Western highway runs by the seashore. Fast moving vehicles on this road destroy the serene tranquility of the seashore.

Karwar seems to have suffered from the neglect. The roads are not well maintained and are dug up at various places. The drain is choked up spreading bad odor. We remembered better days when roads were well maintained with gutters by the roadside all through the city so that the water did not stagnate. Why is the Municipality not attending to its responsibility and instead venturing on projects that destroy the seashore in the name of beatification? We got so disturbed that I shot up a letter to Deccan Herald. But does anybody listen?

Konkani is the local language. It is the language of friendship and intimacy. It is still heard in the bazaar and on the roads. But the Government of Karnataka apparently does not want to take any notice and insists that all boards are in Kannada. Linguistic chauvinisms hurts.

Karwar was famous for its delicious cuisine. I remembered the varieties of many delicious dishes, which I had tasted in my childhood. We would finish bunpuri and misul of white peas in no time. Fresh hot jilebees just melted in our mouths. The taste of freshly cooked hot rice with pungent pedhi ambat with tepal still lingers on the tongue. We searched for these delicacies in different eating-places but were disappointed. Where all those food delicacies have gone? Food, language, culture and nature define a place. Karwar had all these, but today Karwar seems to have lost its distinct touch.