Going to Karwar

By Medha Dubhashi

Whether it was Delhi or Pune,  when  school  would close, my mother would pack our bags to go to Karwar, my maternal grandparents place. While coming from Delhi, the journey would be much longer;  first coming to  Bombay (Mumbai) where my paternal grandparents ,  uncles , aunts  and cousins stayed  in the shady lanes of  Santacruz. After spending about a week , we would board the train to Hubli, the nearest railhead. There  Baba my grandfather, would come to receive us  in his white khadi kurta, dhoti and the Gandhi cap perched on his head. Since my mother would be holding my younger brother, she would tell me to look out of the window and wave  to him on spotting him from the passing train as the train would chug into the station., so that he would come to our coach. Next around noon,  we would board the  red state transport bus to cover the last part of the journey. By the time the bus climbed the dusty ghats with a stop at Yellapur  for a much relieving cup of kasai,  I would be sleeping , only to be nudged by my mother as we came round the last bend and the salty wind blew in my face. Looking out of the window ,it was complete darkness, save a few  burning wick lamps of the fishermen at sea At the small bus stop we would get down , put our luggage in the taxi and drive home where  aai my grandmother, would be waiting patiently for us. A nice cool wash, another cup of kasai, and the evening dinner and being very tired,  we would soon  fall asleep .

The next day I would be woken up by the  cool breeze voice of the girl who would bring freshly  sqeezed  milk , and the tiny meows of kittens. So even before I brushed my teeth , I wanted to know how many new kittens were born and start counting them.  But Karwar and the memories that come to me even now are of the mid morning tea with bun poories paij or parboiled rice with accompanying dish of walibhaji, or tesariya ikshipi,  post noon lunch of rice and fish preparations depending on the fish got home bangda, pomfret, lady fish, crabs, sea shells, oysters, prawns, . An endless variety of fresh fish of the day and the equally  mouth watering aroma of   coconut paste and curries. A heavy meal would definitely make me drowsy and I would sleep off on the jhopala or the joola till 5 in the evening . Fresh from the sleep ,  we would walk to the beach. There we would be invariably be joined by other acquaintances .  While the adults sat  in a round circle , I would be busy making sand castles (literally) and in between listen to some interesting piece of conversation  or story that would catch my ear. At about nine ,  the elders would announce that it was time to go home , and dusting off the sand, we would walk down the market road and go home. There was total safety and security even that late and there was no chain snatching then, but a couple of years later I   thief tried to snatch my chain and only our presence of mind saved us.

There were also bonus days, that is days when there would be an invitation for a thread ceremony, a marriage, or a pooja (hoam)  at the Ramkrishna  ashram. On these days there would be the excitement of  pulling out the paithani sarees of my grandmother from her tin trunk and accompanying her to the function. The food would be served on a banana leaf . Mainly vegetarian fare, it would consist of  purries,  special vegetables of watana, and pineapple,  a kind of dal called toya,  or moog curry nicely seasoned with curry leaves and paais or sweet pudding .
On quite days I would stroll in the huge garden eyeing ripe mangoes, and jackfruit when my grand father would have them plucked by our faithful  neighbourly boy.  He would climb the trees and from atop throw the mangoes down which I learnt to  catch them as they were thrown in a sack. It was fun for me. The ripe mangoes were cleaned and spread on  straw , under the bed in the house. The mango variety eshad were   extremely tasty, and we used to eat atleast  a dozen a day!

So also the ripe jackfruit with its sweet smell was either eaten as fruit if it was a or if it was a rasaal, my grandmother  would make paatoli or pancake, which eaten with fresh ghee would be lip smacking!

An occasional outing to the jatra would mean going to Ankola, a nearby town  , see the rides , the crowd and eat fresh jagerry sticks or khaji

The hot  days of Chaitra are ideal for the  making of papads. On these days about 5-6 women would come home with their belans and role out the papads. I would feel important too, as they would call out to me to spread the papads on the mattress in the hot sun. Amidst the sweet smells of mangoes ,jackfruit and mogra, the  spicy taste of  Saraswat fish preparations , the friendly chatter of people would satisfy all my senses of taste , smell ,sight, audio and touch. There was never a day of monotony or boredom. It was paradise!