Karwar in my heart

By Dr. P.R.Dubhashi

Although Karwar is my native place, all through my life, I have been a non-resident Karwari (NRK) However, Karwar has always dwelt in my heart and I cannot wright about Karwar without a great deal of emotional attachment.

My tender memories of Karwar go back to my childhood. My father the late Ramachandra Sarvottam Dubhashi was working in Poona (now Pune) and we children were studying in school there. But both my grandparents, my paternal grandfather, the late S.M.Dubhashi and the maternal grandfather, the late Dr. R.G.Pikle had settled down in Karwar after retirement. While the Dubhashi house was on Murlidhar Math road, Dr. Pikle had built his new house in a locality by the side of the government high school and nearby Kannada school. We jocularly called the colony”tranceval” because it was across the stream for which the Kokani word is “val” Come summer holidays and we would start looking forward spending them in Karwar in my mother’s “kular’ The journey from Pune to Karwar was long and arduous. Only once did we go by boat from Bombay to Karwar but then during the World War II the boat service terminated and the only way was to travel by SMS train from Pune. But train journey could not take us to Karwar since Karwar was not on the rail route. One had to get down at Hubli or Belguam and take the bus to Karwar. In those days there was no state transport but the private bus service ran. We took our seat in the crowded train at night at Poona station and woke up next day morning at Belguam to catch the bus to Karwar. In those days the road to Karwar was not tarred and ran on roads with red surface which was fascinating to look at but soon raised clouds of dust as the bus sped. It was a day long bus journey no doubt very tiring. For many miles the road ran through thick jungles with fascinating greenery. At the end of an exhausting day and long winding roads over ghats suddenly we glimpsed the vast surface of the sea as if on picture card and we knew we were at the outskirts of Karwar and our hearts beat at the first sight of our native place Karwar. We did not mind the tiring journey because we knew that we are going to have a joyous holiday in Karwar. There were many things in Karwar that we did not have in Pune. First of course the sea with its blue magic and of course second the sumptuous feast of mangoes, jackfruit and cashewnuts which were abundant during summer but a rarity in Pune, and of course wide variety of fish, viswan, bangada, tarla tisrya and kalav. .And above all, we were under the protective umbrella of our grandparents who showered us with affection from the time of our arrival. Our Mamas (Madhu and Shripad) and Mavshis (Sharad and Kumud) who were school going had also their holidays and we had plenty of company to play and laugh around.

Our daily routine began with a morning visit to the sea-shore which was comparatively quiet at that hour. By the time we returned a lovely breakfast was awaiting us consisting of pole and chutney or isle phone with plenty of cocoanuts. Breakfast over, we could either have a game of cards – invariably 304 while listening to songs of Saigal and Pankaj Mallic which was then very popular. Or we could simply loudly read books in the wellstocked home library. Late mid-morning would be the time for pej with ghalni shaak, something which we missed in Pune. Late in the afternoon would be the time for lunch, where we would have curries of choiced fish of the day. After meal, plenty of cuts of Ishad and Musrad as desert. Such heavy meal and languid weather induced an afternoon nap. At five in the evening would be tea time with chavda and kare to accompany tea or kashaya as the case may be. Six in the evening and it would be time to move slowly across the church towards the sea-shore through gently crossing casurina grove. In the evening the vast stretch of white sand of the Karwar beach was simply facinating with Devgad, Madlinggad and Kurmgad standing like gems across the horizon. Goa beaches are world famous but I always felt that our Karwar beach very favourably compared with them. My childhood mind was particularly bewitched by the revolving searchlight of Devgad. The evening atmosphere on the beach was electrifying. Guests would come in large number from Mumbai and Pune and their laughing and conversation would fill the air with happiness.

Such a wonderful scenery in Karwar inspired my brother Ratnakar and Madhumama to draw water colour paintings of various fascinating sights of Karwar sea shore. Often we would take long walks towards the Kinkaid seat named after an ICS officer who was also a historian. On some bright day we would take an excursion on the Coal Bunder visible across the sea enclave.

On Sundays we accompanied the grandfather to sate-bazaar where he brought Ishad ( Kaalo and Dhavo) and Musrad in shekado whereas in Pune we bought the mangoes in dozen. Sate-bazaar shopping was a great pleasure.

Karwar in those days lacked basic facilities. There was no electricity. Lanterns were in use. Filling them up with kerosene, cleaning the glass chimanies and fitting them and litting the flame was a daily boring chore which Sharadmavashi performed. However I enjoyed watching it. There was no running tap water. Every household has a well of its own. Water had to be drawn from the well through kalashis tied to rope moving on the wheel. Kalashis after kalashis had to be poured in the huge bhan in which water was heated with the fire fed by cocoanut choir and other such fuel. This job was performed by the housemaid taking hot water from the bhan and pouring it abundantly on the body was an experience which I greatly liked. Toilet was not a part of the house but was some distance away. All this change in the style of living was itself a diversion.

Milk used to be in short supply and dairy arrangements were not developed. So my grandmother had kept a number of milch cows with her village background she greatly loved the milch cows and calves and herself pulled the udders to milk the cows and I enjoyed seeing the spray of milk filling the pales. Often Putu from her village a tenant on her family land in the village would come. He was dark and rough but fell instantly into intimate conversation with my grandmother who was fair as Saraswati. They talked about the village matters. We were in awe of Putu because he was reputed to have killed tigers attacking the village household. A young man from Chandiya, a nearby village would come and climb the cocoanut tree like a monkey to draw the ripe cocoanuts. On the varanda would sit Hari the cobbler. He would produce the household supply of beautiful chappals which he stitched while chatting with us. He was very proud of the smooth leather that he used. These Karwar chappals served us well in Pune.

The 1946 year visit to Karwar turned out to be memorable. That year I appeared for the matriculation examination of Bombay University. A few months earlier my grandfather suddenly passed away leaving a big void. Under the shadow of the sorrow of loss of father Shripad had to appear for the examination. On the days the results were announced he was declared as passed with good marks but I knew nothing about my own results because results of the Poona school could be known only from the full mark sheet of the entire province which could be available in due course. I had done well and was confident that I could be even rank holder. When on the third day when I heard that the sheet had arrived and went to the government high school where my grandmother’s brother Mr. Kamat was the Principal. He went through the Poona Centre list and suddenly looked up from the mark sheet at my face and said that I stood first in the entire Bombay Province. My father came later at night from Poona. He had not wired about the results because he was not sure how Shripad might have done in the sad environment. Soon my standing first was known in Karwar and Mitra Samaj arranged a function to publicly honour me. I felt privileged to be a son of Karwar which always held a very good academic tradition. Karwar boys like Ramakant Muzumdar and Prabhakar Kasbekar had stood first in the Matriculation examination and I was glad that I followed them though I was not a student of Karwar. Kasbekar was the product of Hindu High School which had an excellent academic reputation. It was founded by Waman Mangesh Dubhashi the elder brother of my grandfather. Years later I was glad to be invited to participate in the School Centenary function.

Both my Mamas completed their medical education from Bombay. Madhumama, dynamic and debonair established the new nursing home whose design he entrusted to my elder brother Ratnakar who was an engineer. I joined the IAS cadre of Karnataka in the year 1953. Karwar district which was a part of Bombay Province came to Karnataka. While I was serving in Dharwar as Administrator of Malaprabha and Ghataprabha projects, my father decided to come to Poona from Karwar via Goa where he stopped at our temple Mangeshi from where he wrote that he got great peace of mind in the presence of Lord Mangesh. He proceeded to Karwar for a short stay before leaving for Dharwar to join me. He dearly loved Karwar. But suddenly he had a heart attack which proved fetal. I rushed from Dharwar to Karwar. That was indeed a very tragic visit.

Between 1974-77 I was Divisional Commissioner, Belgaum. Karwar was one of the four districts. I felt immensely happy that I had the opportunity to serve the people of my district during my administrative career. During this period I visited Karwar sevaral times. My wife Sindhu who hails from Karwar and spent her childhood there, my daughter Medha who very much likes Karwar and son Devdatt were always happy to accompany me during these visits which were greatly cherished.