Karwar memoirs

By Sindhu Dubhashi

I spent my childhood in a small town of Karwar which lays between the narrow strip between the foot of Sahyadri hills and Arabian Sea. I was brought up in a two- storied house surrounded by garden where there were trees of mangoes, grape-fruit, coconut trees and consisted of other fruits like Chiku, bread-fruit, Amla. Many flowers like Jasmine, Champak, merry-gold, roses were grown and a number of other flower trees decorated the garden. Road going from market place to nearby village passed from the front of our house and vast fields of lush green paddy lay beyond the road. In rainy season the green fields of paddy looked like a green carpet spread across. During the rainy season it rained cats and dogs and the fields would be full of frogs which cracked continuously. Four months of rainy season would be dark without any sunshine and with continuous raining. During rainy season very few vegetables were available and the food would consist of rice and dry fish curry. Fresh fish was scarce as fishermen would not venture out in the rough sea for catching the fish.

As month of Shravan (August) approached, the sun would make its appearance occasionally and the green fields of paddy would shine in golden sun-rays. As the rains recede, the festivities started. Nagpanchami was the festival for worshipping snakes. After the rains snakes would come out in the open. Women would offer lahya(puffed rice flakes) and milk to the stone-carved statues of snakes That is the symbolic way of making friendship with reptile and praying to it not to harm any one. Next comes Narali-pornima. On full moon day the coconuts were thrown in the sea as a symbol that the sea should calm down and let fishermen go in the sea for fishing. Narali-bhat ( rice cooked with coconut and jaggery) was the special dish of the day.

Then comes the month of Bhadrapada (September) and the rains would still recede. Festival of Ganapati is celebrated in this month. Small mud idols of Lord Ganesh ( Elephant God ) were brought home and worshipped. Preparations for the festival would start many days before. The place where the Ganesh idols would be kept was decorated with buntings, paper flowers, colorful artificial fruits. On Ganesn-Chaturthi day the idols were brought with great enthusiasm and were worshipped singing Aratis ( prayers) for two days. Rice, Dal (varan) spread with spoonful of ghee ( melted butter) and little of lemon juice added to it was delightful. Special sweet of Patoli ( pancake made of rice flour stuffed with coconut and jaggery and folded in leaves of termeric ) added with ghee was a treat. Second day the sweet would be Modak ( tarts stuffed with jaggery and coconut mixture and deep fried) On second day in the evening the idols were immerged in the sea bidding farewell to Lord Ganesh with a promise to come back next year.

By now the paddy fields would turn yellow in colour as the rains still recede and the ripe paddy would hussle with the wind and the air would be filled with aroma of ripe paddy. In the month of October Dassara would be celebrated in the joy of having a good crop of the season. The main entrance of the house was decorated with the cuttings of the newly cut paddy special sweet of Chibud-phov ( flattened rice mixed with coconut milk and jaggerry to which small cut pieces of Chibud ( a special water melon ) were added. Sweet smell of Chibud would bring flavour to the dish.

Twenty days after Dassara came the festival of Diwali ( the festival of lights) the preparation for which start ten days in advance. A number of sweets and savouries are prepared. While women were busy preparing eatables children made paper lanterns and buntings.

Diwali was celebrated for full four days. First day in the early morning all members of the family would have bath after having oil massage. Then all members would assemble together and would have faral ( eating goodies) that the women had prepared specially for Diwali. Ladoos (sweet balls) of different varieties, karanji ( pancakes stuffed and fried) chavade ( another sweet preparation) Chibud phov, Chakali(savoury) chivado (salty flattened rice fried and mixed with spices) and many other sweets were served. In the evening the house and its surroundings were lighted up with oil-lamps and children would burn crackers.

Next day in the evening Lakshmi-puja ( Goddess of wealth is worshipped) mostly business community worship their account books and pray for prosperity.

Third day was Bhaubij. The day is special for sister and her brother. Sister offers sweets mostly Shrikhand-puri ( sweetened and saffron-flavoured yogurt) to her brother and in exchange brother gives her some gift. This festival strengthens the bond between sister and brother.

After Diwali there was lull and people were busy with their daily chores. Winter sets in and with the month of January came the festival of Makarsankranti. The sun enters into the northern hemisphere and the journey of the sun from southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere is celebrated as makarsankranti. Makarsankranti falls on 14th of January every year. On that day Tilgul ( sugar-coated sesame seeds ) were exchanged. Ten days earlier started the process of making Tilgul. First sugar syrup was prepared and kept aside. Sesame seeds were washed and dried. Then very early morning the coal stove was lighted. A spoonful of sugar syrup was poured on seeds spread in a flat plate put on slow fire and continuously stirred with hand so that syrup equally covered the seeds. It was stirred till the syrup got dried up. Again little syrup was poured and stirred giving it some heat. In the process sugar coated seeds became bigger and bigger in shape with small thorny spreads all over. The process went on till the seeds were of the size of the small beads. Some seeds were given different colours mixed in syrup. White and coloured seeds mixed together looked attractive.

Sweet khichadi ( sweet mixture of rice cooked with green gram lentils and jaggery) was served with ghee and coconut scrapping on top)

With the month of Falgun( end of February or early March) came the spring festival, Shigamo as it is called in Coastal Karnataka and Goa. On full moon day People assemble around the bon-fire. Many days earlier the wood was collected by the children from various sources. Children dance around the fire till mid-night. Next day small children would visit every house wearing various kind of masks and would sing asking for money. Sometimes animal masks of bear, lion and tiger were used. The person wearing the tiger mask had spots or stripes all over his body and he danced to the tune of drums and music accompanying him. Some came wearing the costumes of Radha-Krishna or Ram-Sita, the characters of our epics Ramayana. Special dish on the Shigmo was Ghavan (pancakes made of rice and soaked in the coconut milk mixed with jaggery.)

With the month of April came summer Chaitra ( Hindu New Year) started with Gudhi-Padava ( the day after new moon) The day started after testing the paste of bitter neem leaves ground together with other herbs. Special dish of the day was madgane &vade. Madgane is the pudding made of rice flour cooked with coconut milk and jaggery and added with cashuenuts and fine coconut chips.Vade are deep fried buiskits made out of mixture of rice flour and black-gram flour. Crisp vades were eaten dipping them in madgane. In the evening people visited temples and were served with panak-pachadi and seasonal fruits. Panak is a drink made of raw mango and sugar and pachadi is savoury made of different lentils, coconut and raw mango ground together with other spices.

With summer the mango trees were full with red blossom. The air was filled with its aroma. Slowly the flowers disappeared and small raw mangoes made their appearance. .Jackfruit trees were full with huge jackfruits. Cashew trees looked pictureous with red and yellow cashew fruits.

Ten days after the New Year Rama navami was celebrated. It is the day on which Lord Rama was born. At noon on that day Rama’s birthday was celebrated. Panak and pachadi was distributed.

In the month of May, at the height of the summer ripe mangoes made their presence felt. The kakoo bird also made its appearance felt with its sweet voice. Bazaar or market was full with various kinds of mangoes. Every variety had its own flavour. Being the holiday season people preferred to celebrate marriages in the month of May so that all relatives and friends found it convenient to attend the festivities and have time together. The special dish of course was amras-puri, which was appreciated by all. Amras is mango puree, added to it is cardamom and the mixture is just delicious. Puri is deep-fried bread which is eaten with amras.

May was the month for making pickles, papads, vadya and preserving for consumption during the long rainy months. Even fish was dried in the sun and preserved as fresh fish would become scarce during rains. ‘mudo’ was used for storing rice. ‘Mudo’ was round shaped basket made of dried paddy grass in which rice was stored. Whenever rice was required to be taken out, a hole was made at the side by cutting some grass and rice taken through it. ‘Kakvi’ or god ( jaggery in liquid form ) was stored in huge mud pot. This jaggery was used while making sweet dishes..

By the end of May pre-monsoon rains started with thundering and lightening and storm and from June onwards monsoon started in full swing for which farmers would look forward eagerly.

Life-style : - Like other Konkan people Karwaris also ate four times during the day. Early in the morning for breakfast every day a different dish was served. Idli, pole, phov, thalipeeth and many other different dishes were made. At midday at about twelve in the afternoon, ‘pej’ ( rice gruel) was served accompanied by ghalni ghalli shyak.( local vegetable seasoned with dried fish ) Every day the vegetable would be different.

The lunch would consist of steamed rice served with fish curry. Fried fish and ‘suke’ ( fish preparation ) would be the side dishes.

The dinner too would be the same as lunch, but with different fresh fish brought from the market. After lunch and dinner a fruit usually a banana was eaten and during summer mangoes were cut and served.

During those days there was no tap water. Water would be drawn from the well which used to be close to the kitchen. Only boiled water was used for drinking. Once a week children would be given ‘kosha’ ( a bitter drink of ‘kosha’ sticks soaked overnight.) For de-worming germ-medicine would be given along with castor oil. Once in three months. Drinking castor-oil would be nauseating experience but could not be avoided.

Such were the sweet and bitter memories of my childhood which now have remained only printed in my mind.