On popular demand (= request from (possibly) the only reader of this blog), we interrupt the broadcast of the
to post about the short work-vacation trip to . For those interested and waiting
with bated breath (!) for the last instalment of the Belgaum diaries, it shall be broadcast
after this post…I promise ! UK
is a sleepy
little town that is reminiscent of Pune about 20-odd years ago – small, shaded
lanes, quaint stone bungalows, waadaas and a general laid-back speed. Also,
as told to me by several Belgaum-kars and noticed by me too, Belgaum ends at about 5 kilometres in any
direction…it is that small. Travelling times are typically 5-7 minutes and 15
minutes in extreme traffic…believe me, I've experienced one horrendous traffic
jam at an intersection called RPD Cross. Traffic in this town is even more
chaotic than in Pune – something I never thought I'd be saying about ANY city
in the world ! Policemen are present here and there but I haven't seen them do
anything about the traffic…this is just like Pune :) Belgaum
I am currently on a short trip to
to conduct a theatre workshop for kids aged 8 to 15 years. I had never been to Belgaum before. So this
has been a very interesting experience. Belgaum
Here are some (word, not photograph) snapshots from the trip.
The first thing that struck me as I reached here was the very different way in which everybody spoke Marathi. The accent is distinctly Kannada and the words and sounds are very well rounded. In Pune-Mumbai we speak in quite a sharp manner…crisply cut sounds et al. Also, there is a fun way of combining the last two words (usually the verbs, in Marathi) of a sentence.
I learnt that almost 80% of the population of
is Marathi-speaking, and proud of it. The Maharashtra-Karnataka dispute about Belgaum is very much
present at the back of everybody's minds though nobody refers to it. It
surfaces in choices and preferences. Almost all the kids in my workshop do not
like learning Kannada, which is a compulsory subject in schools here. Belgaum
This morning there was a procession of some deity and as is usual in such processions, there was loud music accompanying it. All the songs in the procession were either Hindi (few) or Marathi (most). The Marathi songs were mostly praises about
Maharashtra (Jay Jay Maharashtra Maza for example)
or about Shivaji and his sardars.
Here almost everybody with a basic education knows at least 4 languages – Marathi, Hindi, English and Kannada and a few even know Konkani. I've always believed that being multi-lingual is wonderful. (Aside: I had read somewhere that the brain centre that controls / facilitates the learning of languages is also responsible for Mathematics ! Amazing, isn't it ?) Fed by zealous politicians' propaganda however, sharp divides are forming in people here – those who are pro-learning Kannada and those who are anti. It is rather unfortunate. In my opinion, each language has its own beauty and charm. The more you know, the richer you are. It is all very well to be proud of your mother tongue and insist on knowing it well and using it everywhere, but this doesn’t mean that other languages are inferior. However, I believe I am a part of a pathetic minority who hold this opinion.
As is the destiny of all sweet little towns everywhere in this changing world,
too is changing…striving to embrace
modernism, which, in my opinion, is mistaken by many to be consumerism. There
are new apartments being built by demolishing old stone bungalows. There is Big
Bazar and Café Coffee Day and many other such establishments that offer the
feeling of being modern…of being a big city. Belgaum
The prices of some things in this town are unbelievable !
The other day I was reading the newspapers (Tarun Bharat and Sakal, for those interested in knowing) and read the classifieds for sale and rental of houses and was blown away by the prices.
Most notably (since I had it thrice in the last 10 days) is the difference in the price of ice-cream. A single scoop of ice-cream (same size as in Pune) costs Rs. 13, three scoops for Rs. 40 and a humungous sized Sundae just Rs. 60 !!! Not just that, when you order even just a single scoop, it comes garnished with fruit pulp and dry-fruits or tutti-frutti ! Royal ! :)
The people of
, all those that I
interacted with, are very friendly, welcoming, very very hospitable and quite
proud of their town. There is much more of a sense of community living here
than in Pune. There is much more sharing of their lives. Nearly everybody knows
everybody. For somebody so thoroughly city-bred like me, it is a slight
adjustment but also a very interesting experience. Belgaum
The kids in my workshop are so much more innocent than the kids in Pune that initially I thought them to be naïve. Later, on reflection I realised that actually, this is how childhood ought to be – innocent. Pune-Mumbai kids have way too much exposure and I wonder if that doesn't make them too hardened before their time.
The two people that I spent the most time with in
are S-tai and SK. Belgaum
I have been put up in a separate room in S-tai's home. She has a home-based small catering business and also holds a senior position in an educational institution. She has come up the hard way and is a very simple person. She is an amazing lady who has a history of misfortune. But S-tai is a fighter and she has overcome her share of problems with amazing good grace, courage and humour. You'll never find her complaining. She has a wicked sense of humour and is always cracking me up. She is very intelligent and sharp, practical and a lady with very strong principles. S-tai is a big inspiration to me.
SK became TH's friend first and I only met her a day before I came to
She was in Pune and returned to Belgaum
on the fourth day of my workshop. Since then I have come to know about her
myriad activities and skills – she is a dancer and a singer, an excellent
organiser who puts up music-dance-drama programmes of a very large proportion
for a charitable organisation. Her circle of friends is so large and so varied
that she always enjoys help and support in practically ANYthing that she takes
up. The reason for this beautiful and huge sphere of friends and well-wishers
is that SK truly loves all her friends and does everything in her power (which,
believe me, is considerably extensive) to help them. Don't be misled…this
petite lady packs quite a punch. Belgaum
The people of
Belgaum are truly the most wonderful part of my experience. Belgaum
No matter how much fun you have with family abroad, no matter how good the people are in a particular place, no matter how well you spend your time in meeting new people, seeing new places and learning new things, after all, home is home. I've been away for two months now and getting very homesick. But it's just another three days and I'll be home.
The next update will be from HOME :)